Our homes have taken a beating in the last few weeks: snow, wind, rain and even a tree limb or two. “It’s enough of a nightmare trying to maintain your home without all of this,” says Rob Shabazian.
He’s not just speaking as a homeowner, though he has lived in Verona since 1993. As the head of Shabazian Construction, he is part of the army of contractors who call Verona home. So we decided to marshal some of the troops to help us understand how to ready our houses for the next, inevitable, storm.
The first line of defense is the roof. “Visually inspect your roof,” says Shabazian, whose work ranges from kitchens and baths to full-blown additions. “If you can’t get up on a ladder or you’re not comfortable doing that, borrow a pair of binoculars.” Check to make sure the shingles are lying flat and not discolored, and that the flashing around the chimney is secure.
And if binoculars aren’t close at hand, check the lawn around your house. “When the shingles start falling on your yard, you need a new roof yesterday,” says Kevin Toscano, a Verona native who has been a roofer for 27 years. His Kevin Toscano Contruction just put new roof on the Verona Rescue Squad building on Church Street, donating most of his labor and securing a full donation of materials.
Toscano says water coming through a ceiling is an equally urgent call to action. “If your roof is leaking, it means it has already been leaking for a while. And some of the wood can begin rotting.” Proper attic insulation and ventilation will prolong the life of a roof, he says, and avert damaging ice dams in the winter. Make sure your gutters and leaders are still connected (to each other and the house) and that they empty away from the house. Get them cleaned as soon as the trees stop blooming this spring, Toscano says, and again in the fall.
Once you’ve secured your house from above, go below. Many of us now have finished basements that we use as playrooms, home offices and media centers, all of which can be expensive to replace when water gets in, as it did in the March 12 weekend storm. “Some of the neighbors on my street lost everything,” says Giancarlo “John” Visentin, whose home on Woodland Avenue is also the headquarters of Visentin Plumbing & Heating.
He recommends several steps to keep the water at bay, starting with a sump pump. Replace yours if it’s more than 5 years old, and consider getting a backup pump that runs on a marine battery so it will keep working even when the power goes out. Batteries only last 6 to 8 hours, though, and some houses in Verona were without power for 4 days after the weekend storm. A gasoline-powered generators can provide electricity to refrigerators as well as the pump, but Visentin notes they are limited by your ability to start them and keep them stoked with fuel.
Another solution: A back-up generator powered by natural gas. It turns on automatically if the power goes out and shuts off when the juice is flowing again. Visentin concedes this kind of system can be expensive: How much depends on several variables, including how much of your electricity you want the generator to replace. He has installed several of these systems recently, working with Woodland neighbor George Anderson, who conveniently runs Anderson Electric. “The money that you have to put out may be a large amount,” says Visentin, “but you will get it back. If you’re away from your home you can’t be home to start a gasoline generator, you could lose your computer files, TV and furniture. It’s frightening.”
If you’re not ready to make that kind of leap, then consider installing a sentry on your sump. If you already have a home alarm system, Visentin says, call the company and ask if it can install a monitor that will issue an alert when the water around the pump reaches a certain level. No central alarm? Visentin recommends a device that installs in a phone jack that can automatically dial your cell or office number when the water gets too high.
One last point, says Shabazian. “Check your trees. If the limbs didn’t come down in the storm maybe there are loose ones just waiting to fall.”