Protecting your home from flooding

From August of 2017 to spring of 2018 we saw more groundwater damage on the Cape than ever before. Most of the homes and businesses were unprepared for the events that happened making property losses devastating to owners. Now that it has happened it is very real to the local owners that even if their basements never flooded before it doesn’t mean they won’t, and severe damage can happen within a matter of minutes. We hope the information below helps more people prepare for that possibility, minimize damage and protect their belongings.

Flood facts to keep in mind:

  • Groundwater can cover a variety of actual sources like rain, storm/ocean surge or high water tables.
  • Damage caused by groundwater is often not covered by a typical homeowners insurance policy.
  • Flood policies often exclude personal items stored in the basement. If you have a flood policy make sure to double check the exclusions and have them clarified by your agent.
  • If your basement floods because the water tables are very high you may not be able to do much about the water until the levels have subsided. If you pump the water out into your yard it will probably seep right back in unless the pumping is continuous.
  • You do have options! Just because you take on groundwater under severe conditions doesn’t mean you have to sell and move on. You may have to invest in waterproofing solutions but it can be maintained.

Recommendations for properties in flood-prone areas

  • Raise basement appliances and contents up off the ground. Put them up on blocks, shelves or pallets. You could even install a false floor over the slab to allow for water to drain below to a sump pump.
  • Install a sump pump! Some basements may need more than one. Regardless of how many you install make sure you set up a battery back-up or generator. Last year some owners had pumps but they needed electricity to run and the storms knocked out the power for days so the areas flooded. Odds are that when the flooding is bad so isn’t the weather and power outages will be likely.
  • Properly grade your landscaping. You’re bound to see problems if you have a yard that directs water towards your basement. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that the soil around the foundation slopes 4-6 inches for a distance of 3′ from the foundation walls.
  • Check your downspouts. Just like with the landscaping you want to make sure your down spouts are directing the water away from the house. Water should be directed at least 3′ from the foundation.
  • Install an interior drainage system to give the water a place to go. There are several different kinds to suit different types of foundations.
  • Seal your basement walls. This and many of the other options listed here can be taken care of by basement waterproofing professionals. Do your research, read reviews and get quotes from a few places before deciding on the company to help you with your unique waterproofing needs.
  • Make sure you dehumidify. This is important whether you sustain flooding or not, but certainly a necessity if you do. Anything that gets wet needs to be properly dried to avoid mold growth.
  • For more severe cases like properties that take on storm surges that cause feet of water to quickly collect you may want to look into more drastic measures such as raising the entire house.

Spring Cleaning – Going Green

Signs of spring burst all around the Cape back in February. Although it may not be time to start packing away your winter clothes just yet it is a great time to start on your annual cleaning & organizing. This year why not go a little greener with it?

Spring_Flower_CleanYour Air
Nix the air fresheners and open up those windows! Toss the scented aerosols and freshen things up with fresh cut flowers instead. Forget chemicals and use mixes of baking soda and essential oils for deodorizing. Use low-VOC paints.

Your Papers
Register an address and you start getting paper solicitations and direct marketing cards. Open a line of credit and you get loads of other offers. On average the amount of paper waste we make every year adds up to over 2000 pounds! What can you you do to go green here? Of course you can recycle the paper but start lessening the amount delivered in the first place. Call the sources of all of the unwanted mail and opt out. You can also sign up for paperless billing invoices and save your receipts digitally. Not only will you be saving the environment you’ll be saving yourself the time you would normally spend filing it all away!

Your Water
Use less and keep it clean! If you’ve been putting off fixing that running toilet do it now! Check all of your faucets for drips and adjust them accordingly. A faucet that drips 1 drip per minute actually wastes up to 34 gallons a year and you’re paying for it. Consider swapping out your shower heads for low-flow models. Be conscious of how much water you’re using when you’re brushing your teeth and doing dishes (turn it off while you scrub!).

Your Stuff
Recycle and donate. Old tattered clothes can be used as rags or kept for messy projects like painting the ceiling. Donate clothes in good condition to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, church group or homeless shelter. Donate old pillows and towels to your local animal shelter. Buy a trash can that helps you sort out your plastics and bottles from your trash, and sort and recycle all of your boxes.

Your Energy
Vampires are everywhere! Think of how many things are still plugged in at your home right now. The coffee pot? TV? Phone chargers? Computer? All of these things are still slowly using electricity. Put a stake in it and unplug any electrical devices when you’re not using them. For areas with multiple devices use a power strip so you only have to pull one plug from the outlet.
Have you had a home energy assessment done yet? Mass Save offers them for Massachusetts residence. They gave homeowners all new energy efficient light bulbs and power strips for their entertainment centers (for FREE!).

Share with us how you are going green in your home!

Leave your shoes at the door

Leave your shoes at the door

Whether they’re strict about it or not we all know someone with the “no shoes in the house” rule. Although some may find that policy annoying or even sometimes odd for guests you may want to consider adopting the practice for your own home.

Shoes

I’m sure you’ve heard “a little dirt never hurt anyone”, but how about pesticides, lawn fertilizer, the flu, E. coli and C. diff? What is C. diff? It’s a dangerous bacterium that causes terrible symptoms from diarrhea and cramping to kidney failure and fatal inflammation. It’s nasty stuff but what’s even scarier is how possible it is that you’re carrying it or something similar around on your daily footwear! Something as simple as propping your feet up on the ottoman after a long day can actually be a bad idea.

Take a look at the numbers.

  • The University of Arizona shared that the bottom of shoes contain on average 421,000 different types of bacteria, 96% detected coliforms (bacteria used to indicate the sanitary quality of water and food), and 27% detected specifically E.Coli.
  • As shared by TODAY, a study by the University of Houston found that 26.4% of shoes carry that awful sounding C. diff.
  • The University of Utah’s study concluded that bacteria on your shoes are transferred into your home at a rate of 90 to 99%!

So leaving your outdoor shoes on in the house is highly likely to carry quite a bit of bacteria throughout your home where you eat, relax, breathe and sleep.  For healthy adults that may only bring a threat of being sick for a few days, but for children, elderly and people with compromised immune systems it can be extremely dangerous.

Still not sold on the daily practice of dropping you shoes at the entry mat? You can keep your home healthier by at least spraying them down with a disinfectant and then thoroughly washing your hands. It’s not as good as taking them off and spraying them down, but it’s certainly heathier than not doing either. And as Mom always said, “no shoes on the table.”

Flooding on Cape Cod

We’ve seen many storms and some pretty nasty winters the last few years here on Cape Cod, but last week was certainly something different for the area. While locals braced themselves for a storm after sustaining a long cold snap they didn’t quite expect to be facing such a major flood situation.

Provincetown’s high tide just after noon measured a whole 4’ higher than the previous tide, hitting a total height of over 10’ and turning Commercial Street into a river. Not only did the tides raise, the groundwater level rose so places like dirt crawlspaces flooded and all of the melting snow didn’t drain completely into the ground. Some areas reported surges that exceeded those of the historic Blizzard of ’78!

Eastham, MA Storm Surge Flooding

Not only were areas of the Cape being devastated with storm surge and groundwater damage, the warmer temperatures thawed homes with frozen pipes causing water damage in other areas.  We can’t stress enough the importance of winterizing your home if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time. Even if it’s just a short while, make sure someone checks in on it, that your water is off and that your heat is on. Open your cabinets under sinks to allow for the warm air to flow to the plumbing. If you’re away often, purchase a water detector for damage prone areas like the basement to alert you as soon as water is detected, and Wi-Fi enabled thermostats so you can monitor the temperature in the house.  These things help you act fast when disaster strikes so you can minimize the amount of damage you sustain.

Complicating matters even further were the power outages. Most heating systems rely on electricity to work so when the storm knocked out power to areas it also knocked out the heat. Later that night temperatures dropped to a deep freeze.  It was a recipe for disaster. Pipes were even freezing in homes that were primary to the residents and the heat was on. It was really that cold, and the wind was that strong that it froze pipes in their exterior walls and ceilings.

Although there are a lot of areas where homeowners are required to purchase flood insurance because of their location on FEMA’s flood maps those policies don’t cover damaged contents. Think of all of the things that people keep in their basements; seasonal clothes, pantry items, extra furniture, etc. Finished basements could be entire bedrooms, offices and TV rooms. Flood insurance at least covers damage to burners and electrical equipment, but the cost to not only replace but dispose of all of the contents can be in the thousands.

“25% of homes with flood claims each year are in low risk zones.”

It has been a real eye opener. As restoration efforts continue and our crews remain available round-the-clock for emergency services we hope that everyone really takes a look at the measures they have in place for such disasters to protect themselves, their business and their homes from future events. It’s obvious the weather patterns continue to change, and the storms seem to be getting stronger, so please, stay safe out there and make sure you prepare for all of the possibilities.

January Home Maintenance

Happy New Year! I love January for the fresh start it brings to mind. Start your year off right by updating your new calendar with your scheduled appointments and tasks, and tackling this month’s list of your home to-do’s early! You’ve got this!

Picture_Lighthouse_Snow

  • Test all of your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Keep an eye out for bargains on discontinued appliances and tools. Before buying, make sure the warranties are still valid.
  • Organize your home improvement files. Review warranties and product manuals for recommenced maintenance for furnaces, equipment, appliances, and tools. Update your calendar to keep everything on schedule.
  • Update your home inventory list. Add new items that you received as holiday gifts. Photographs to go with your room-by-room list will be very helpful in the event of a fire, flood, or other disaster.
  • Review your homeowner’s policy. Make sure you have enough coverage under your contents section (your updated inventory list comes in to play here), and be aware of the different deductibles you may be subject to. For instance, a wind deductible is usually higher than a standard policy deductible, and groundwater is often not a covered loss.
  • Remove drain traps from under your sinks and clean them thoroughly along with the pop-up drain plugs. Test your water heater temperature pressure relief valve by lowering the test lever and allowing some water to flow through the pipe. If no water flows or if it only trickles out, replace the valve.

Here’s your printable January Home Maintenance Checklist