Posted on Nov 14, 2012 @ 16:26 by Nick Domino
As a homeowner or landlord, when your roof needs to be replaced, you are in for a major expense. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding it. So, just how much could it cost? Well, a number of factors drive this amount, including some items that might not necessarily be obvious at first. The good news is that you can ultimately control the overall cost to a certain extent, since you have a number of choices to make – on things like material type and labor quality.
Unfortunately though, you may not have much flexibility on timing: when a roof needs to be replaced it cannot be put off! Roof damage can lead to serious water damage in your home, potentially causing structural issues. So, if you are considering a roof replacement project, how do you estimate its impact on your wallet?
As you begin to assess your roof’s condition, it is always worthwhile to reach out to roofing professionals and get their opinions on your roof. They can tell you whether the damage to your roof requires replacement, or if simple repairs could suffice instead. Later on, if you decide to use a contractor, check out the best practices we highlighted in our article on hiring a contractor.
The Basics of Roofing Costs
In general, the costs for shingles, labor, and other roofing materials will be quoted in terms of “squares,” each comprising 100 square feet. In other words, a 10 foot by 10 foot patch of your roof makes 1 square. Although roofs certainly come in many different shapes and sizes, an “average” roof in the U.S. often totals between 22 and 26 squares, or 2200 to 2600 square feet.
To keep costs low, do-it-yourself homeowners can usually install a roof on an average American ranch house for between $1,000 and $4,000, depending on the material quality used. In contrast, a professional roofer would probably cost between $2,000 and $8,500 for the same roof. Keep in mind, though, most homeowners do not have the ability to replace their own roof properly, and unless you know exactly what you are doing, it makes sense to pay a professional to ensure quality work.
Removing the Old Roof
The first major cost you will encounter when replacing your roof is the removal of the current roofing material. The magnitude of this expense will vary depending on several factors: the size of your roof, its height from the ground, its steepness, the material type, and finally the number of layers in it. A one-story, single-layer roof of minimal steepness will cost between $100 and $150 per square to remove. A double-layer roof at the same height would cost more like $115 to $165, while a triple-layer roof would reach $125 to $175 per square.
A steeper roof will increase these estimates, of course, as will a roof that is high off the ground. The materials being removed will also play a role. Asphalt shingles are the cheapest to remove, while metal, wood, or slate will all cost more. Additionally, there is a cost for hauling away the debris, which may or may not be included in a roofer’s price, depending on the contractor.
Removal costs can be entirely avoided if you overlay a new layer of roofing onto the existing one, instead of fully replacing the roof. However, this practice comes with a downside. An overlay is estimated to cut as much as 20% from the lifespan of your new roof and might actually violate the warranty of the roofing materials. Additionally, many cities have building codes that specify how many layers a roof can have before it needs to be completely replaced. Your local roofer will know these codes and can check to see whether your roof has too many layers already.
When you are ready to replace your roof, you will be faced with a variety of materials from which to choose. The most common are: asphalt shingles, which generally cost between $120 – $140 per square, slate tiles at $125 – $145 per square, wooden shakes at $150 – $230 per square, clay tiles at $170 – $260 per square, and metal roofing at $350 – $1,100 per square.
Obviously, a roof’s cost increases along with the quality of its materials and the labor required in its installation. However, keep in mind that higher quality materials can both last longer and look much better than lower grade materials. If your roof’s appearance is highly important to you, your final decision on roofing material may hinge on its aesthetic appeal.
Beyond the roofing type, there are other costs to bear in mind as well. For example, if you uncovered any evidence of water damage while removing your previous roof, you may need to replace the plywood decking underneath it. Also, roofs in northern areas with cold winters and frequent snowfall will usually need an additional layer of ice protection.
You also need to make sure that your roof has sufficient flashing to ensure watertight seals around things that penetrate the roof, like chimneys or vent pipes. In spots where the roof’s surface meets a vertical wall, specific “step flashing” will be required. Proper flashing installation will require a roofing expert, so unfortunately this step will not be eligible for DIY savings on your part.
One final cost to plug into your estimate is the construction permit that your municipality will likely require for the project.
Putting It All Together
Keeping all of these expenses in mind, you can estimate the total cost of your roof replacement. The absolute cheapest way to do the job would be to use asphalt shingles, overlay the new layer on top of your current roof, and perform the work yourself.
However, there are hidden costs associated with that approach. First, consider the chunk of time you will need to invest in the project. It has to be done quickly, since leaving your roof half-finished and exposed to the weather is dangerous. So, you will need to devote a continual block of time to it and finish it fast, rather than simply working on it gradually for a couple of hours per day in your spare time. Additionally, you need to be skilled enough to perform the work safely. You would need to rent or own the tools necessary and be able to dispose of the debris yourself. Finally, although the DIY method seems cheaper upfront, you will likely experience higher costs down the road because of the overlaid roof’s reduced lifespan and any workmanship quality issues stemming from your DIY labor.
A professional roofer will be much more efficient and knowledgeable than the average DIY homeowner and will be able to complete the job much faster and with higher quality work. Ideally, they should remove the current roof layer(s) to ensure a longer lifespan for your roof. The downside, of course, is that they will cost significantly more than a DIY job. Ultimately, the time saved and the assurance of a job well done are usually worth the extra cost.
Having a solid roof over our heads is something we easily take for granted, but when that roof needs to be fixed or replaced, the costs can add up. By considering your available options and priorities ahead of time, you will avoid mistakes and keep your roof replacement costs from spiraling out of control.
Posted on Aug 28, 2012 @ 17:12 by Nick Domino
We all spend a good amount of time and energy maintaining our houses and yards. Amid all the household repair tasks, one item that is easy to overlook is the driveway. However, a good looking, well maintained driveway adds a lot of curb appeal to your home, while a neglected driveway can be an obvious eyesore. Fortunately it is reasonably easy to keep your driveway in good condition by repairing cracks and sealing it periodically. Read on for some helpful driveway sealing tips.
The initial paving job is actually often responsible for cracks that develop later. The paving may have taken place on a cold day, causing the asphalt to not set properly, for example. Also, the area under the driveway may have not been packed down sufficiently before the paving took place, allowing some areas below the driveway to shift or settle later. In the case of re-paving, the surface of the old driveway may have not been cleaned well enough before the new asphalt was laid down, preventing the new surface from bonding properly.
Aside from the original paving job, weather and temperature also cause cracks. In areas with cold winters, the continual freezing and thawing, combined with moisture that has seeped into the driveway surface can cause asphalt to expand and contract, eventually resulting in cracks. Additionally, asphalt can be damaged from contact with oil, gasoline, or ice-melting compounds.
Driveway Sealing Tips
You should seal your asphalt driveway regularly, every 2 to 4 years. One way to gauge whether your driveway is in need of a fresh coat of sealant, is to pour water onto the driveway and watch to see if it forms into beads on the surface or seeps into the asphalt. If it does make its way into the asphalt, then you should go ahead and seal the driveway.
Here are some basic driveway sealing steps to follow. Since every situation is different, consult a driveway or asphalt professional for specific advice for your particular driveway, and be sure to follow the instructions of the driveway sealant products that you buy. Also, follow common sense safety measures, such as wearing gloves, avoiding skin contact with the sealant, and keeping from breathing in the smell of the sealant, as well as any safety precautions listed on the driveway products you buy.
- First, clean the driveway thoroughly. This is imperative, since the sealer needs to be able to adhere to a clean surface. Ideally, pressure wash your driveway to clean it completely. If you do not own a pressure washer, they are easy to rent from an equipment rental company. Also, completely remove all weeds (including roots), debris, dirt, and other loose items from the cracks in the driveway. Use weed killer if necessary to ensure that weeds are completely gone from the cracks.
- Fill any small, narrow driveway cracks with asphalt patching compound. Press the compound into the crack with a trowel, and smooth its surface. Wider cracks, where the ground below the driveway is visible, present a larger challenge since they could prevent the driveway sealer from working properly. For these wide cracks, fill the crack partially with sand, before filling the remaining space with crack sealer. Repairing cracks immediately as you notice them, while they are still small, is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your driveway.
- Apply asphalt sealer to the driveway, in a side-to-side motion, instead of applying it up and down (the long way). Be sure to do this on a reasonably hot day, with low humidity, so that the sealer sets properly. Of course, keep off the driveway while the sealer is drying. Products vary, but they often require around 24 hours to set.
Although you may not feel like spending a summer day laboring over hot pavement, sealing your driveway really is not that arduous of a process, for most driveways. If you regularly maintain your driveway, not only will you keep it in good condition, but you will also be rewarded with a smooth, clean looking driveway, which adds a surprising amount of visual appeal to your property.
The Driveway Sealing Tips by Water Damage Defense, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted on May 30, 2012 @ 5:02 by Nick Domino
Your home’s roof protects you, your family, and your entire house from nature’s elements. Like anything else, a roof requires regular care and maintenance in order to function properly and last as long as possible. Of course, wear and tear is inevitable. Even the best constructed roof will wear out eventually.
Some signs that you need to replace your roof are obvious, like water leaking through multiple places in your ceiling! Other signs are not as apparent and require a more thorough inspection to diagnose. Here are some telltale warning signs that you may need a new roof.
Curling or Cupping Shingles
Curling is a common problem on roof shingles and typical causes include: improper shingle storage prior to installation, incorrect installation, excessively dry asphalt shingle bases, poor quality materials, or just natural wear. When shingles curl, they are no longer able to keep water from seeping through your roof, which could potentially cause serious structural damage.
If your roof’s shingles are curled, do not attempt to walk on them, as this will only cause them to break off. Once shingles have gotten to this point, there is no way to halt or reverse the process, unfortunately. It is best to just replace them all. After you install new shingles on your roof, diligent care will help them last. Make sure you inspect them at least once per year for signs of damage or wear and replace them as necessary. It is also a good idea to check shingles for damage after strong wind storms or extreme temperature shifts.
Unfortunately, some roof problems simply result from poor craftsmanship. If the roof was installed by an unscrupulous contractor or an inexperienced homeowner, it will often show. Ultimately, an incorrectly installed roof will dramatically shorten its useful life and could even invite serious water damage to your home.
Telltale signs of poor-quality workmanship include obvious and excessive patching on the roof or shingles that fit together awkwardly. Multiple layers of shingles also signal that corners were cut in a previous roof job. Years ago, it was common practice to install new shingles directly on top of the old ones to save money and time. However, this actually damages the top layer of new shingles, which essentially end up getting baked by heat from the layer(s) below. This practice is no longer considered acceptable and will probably void the warranty on your new shingles.
Shingles only protect your roof if they are all intact. Missing shingles create convenient openings, through which water can enter your home. Shingles can be pulled off your roof by strong winds or falling tree branches and can also be broken by repeated freezing and thawing. However, take special note if your shingles come off without any real provocation – if this happens they are definitely worn out.
Missing shingles must be replaced as soon as possible, whereas loose shingles should be sealed with flashing cement. Make sure this cement conforms to the ASTM D4586 asbestos-free standards. If you plan to handle this cement yourself, you should know that some types still contain hazardous substances. Make sure that you thoroughly read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions and wear the appropriate safety gear before using flashing cement on your roof.
All roofing materials will eventually deteriorate. Often, shingles on a roof will not all go bad at once. Deteriorating shingles are actually fairly easy to notice. Look for any splitting, cracking, chipping, peeling, curling, or blistering and replace the affected shingles as necessary.
When moisture or gas builds up inside of a shingle, it can cause the surface to bubble outward in places. This is known as blistering. Conditions that cause blistering can include a poorly ventilated attic, leaf or debris buildup, or just natural roof aging. Additionally, intense sunlight exposure can cause or exacerbate a blistering problem.
Blistered shingles are not necessarily a death sentence for your roof. As long as the blisters stay smaller than one-quarter of an inch and do not break open, they should not affect the useful lifespan of your roof. It is a good idea to check your roof regularly for signs of blistering and to make sure that any existing blisters have remained closed.
Flashing is a layer of metal sheeting, usually made from copper, tin, or aluminum, installed at an angle or joint in your roof, which prevents water from breaching the roof. The most common place to find flashing is around your chimney or sewer vent pipe.
Asphalt roof shingles require “step flashing,” which are individual pieces of flashing covering each shingle and overlapping onto the shingle down slope. This application is usually needed where a sloping roof passes a vertical surface like a chimney. By using an individual piece of flashing for each shingle or row of shingles, a water tight seal can be maintained over time, despite daily shingle expansion and contraction from temperature swings. A larger, single piece of metal would crack apart from this expansion and contraction, letting water into the structure.
Flashing can also be damaged by forces like wind, snow, ice, hail, or falling tree branches. Of course, improper installation is also a common culprit. Many people prefer to caulk their flashing back into place to make it look better, but this is not always a reliable repair method. To ensure optimal protection for your roof, it is important to properly repair any damaged flashing. If you are unsure whether your flashing is in proper condition, consult a roofing expert to make sure it is not a weak point on your roof.
If your roof is rotting, the problem should be fairly obvious and must be remedied immediately. Rot is most common in wooden shingles, but can also occur in the asphalt variety. If the shingle absorbs excessive moisture over time, rot can result. Of course, rotten shingles tend to occur most often in geographic areas with significant humidity or rainfall.
If some shingles are rotting, the rest could follow soon. Rather than wasting time and energy replacing many individual shingles and prolonging the inevitable, you should bite the bullet and replace them all.
Algae growth is worth mentioning here as well. Fortunately, however, it is NOT a sign that something is wrong with your roof or that you need to replace shingles. Although algae does discolor shingles, causing an eyesore, the algae buildup itself is not harmful to your roof. This problem is typical in humid geographic regions, especially for homeowners with shake roofs.
Algae is fairly simple to control. If you spray it forcefully with a garden hose, you should be able to remove a good amount of it. If the buildup is extremely thick, you may want to consider replacing your existing shingles with algae-resistant ones. You can also use a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide, mixed with water to deal with persistent algae.
A healthy roof on your home is important. It keeps you and the structure safe. Stay vigilant and monitor your roof for signs of wear or damage, and take early action to correct problems before they get worse. Finally, it is always a good idea to consult a roof expert before embarking on a maintenance project, or if you are unsure of your roof’s condition. To help your roof last a long time, see our article on avoiding roof problems.
The How to Tell if You Need a New Roof by Water Damage Defense, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted on Apr 27, 2012 @ 9:43 by Nick Domino
This is a 3-article series, containing a total of 11 important house painting tips and tricks from professional painter Bruce Scofield. See the first 2 installments here: painting techniques, part 1, and DIY painting tips part 2. Continuing on in our final article, we come to mistake #9…
Mistake #9: Using the wrong paint finish or the wrong roller cover.
Why it’s bad: You will end up with a compromised finished product or spend extra time and money painting an additional coat.
Do this instead: Choose the finish of your paint according to the surface being covered. There are six paint finishes, covering a spectrum from most shiny to least: gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, matte, and flat. Generally speaking when painting interior spaces, Bruce recommends eggshell finish for walls (it can be cleaned easier than flat, yet is not too shiny) and semi-gloss for trim. Using semi-gloss on the walls of your home will give it an industrial feel. Of course, there is a lot of leeway for specific situations, and your local paint supplier is usually a wealth of information on what type of paint to use. Remember, shinier paint will cause more surface imperfections will show. However, a glossy finish can be perfect for a nice book shelf or piece of furniture.
The length of the nap on a roller has to fit the surface being painted, as well as the paint finish. Use a ½ inch roller cover for flat paint and 3/8 inch for semi-gloss and small foam rollers are great for a smooth glossy paint finish. Also keep in mind you will need a longer nap to paint a rougher surface texture, for instance a textured ceiling.
Mistake #10: Incorrect use of primer.
Do this instead: The purpose of primer is to seal porous surfaces and create a uniform layer, to which your finish paint will evenly absorb and readily adhere. Always use primer when painting over the following surfaces: raw or unfinished material, latex paint with a sheen finish (only latex flat finish doesn’t need primer), oil-based paint, and joint compound. You may need to sand wood very lightly with fine grit sandpaper (#150 or finer) if the wood grain lifts up from the surface after the first coat of primer is applied. Patches of joint compound will show through a finished coat by displaying a different sheen if you don’t prime them. Bruce recommends dabbing two coats of primer on patches, allowing drying time in between while working on other tasks. When appropriate, use a small roller for this job and have the roller texture match the rest of the wall.
If you are covering a surface permeated with smoke, oil primer is necessary; be sure to use a quality respirator when applying any oil based product. Also, take advantage of specialty primers made to accommodate various surface applications, for instance to block stains or resist mildew potentially found in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms.
Mistake #11: Expecting more color coverage than is realistic for bold colors.
Do this instead: If painting a pastel color over a dark color, paint at least one, or if necessary, two coats of white first. This is the only way to get your true color. If painting an intense color such as red or orange, first paint a base coat of neutral gray. Many bright colors have little covering power so you may need to experiment a little to get the effect you want.
That’s the last of our 11 tips from painter Bruce Scofield. He has a lot of tricks in his painter’s cap; pull some out and put them to good use on your next DIY project. They are tried and true methods that will improve your painting proficiency.
Bruce: Please accept our sincere appreciation for sharing this excellent painting advice from the wealth of experience you have accumulated over your long professional career. We have seen your work firsthand and attest to the fine finished surfaces that are the result of your knowledge and capability!
Image source quirky
Posted on Mar 13, 2012 @ 11:06 by Nick Domino
This is a 3-article series, containing a total of 11 DIY painting tips from professional painter Bruce Scofield. Read the whole series to learn how to paint a room like a pro! See the first installment here, painting techniques, part 1. Continuing on, we come to mistake #5…
Mistake #5: Using the wrong amount of paint for the situation.
Why it’s bad: Whether evidenced in blotches, streaks, drips, or ridges – unevenness in paint application is noticeable and never looks good.
Do this instead: Plan on using two coats of finish paint to reach an attractive, even effect. When doing touch-up, it’s always better to paint multiple thin coats than one heavy one, which will leave a ridge. A raw, unfinished surface will absorb more paint than a finished one, so adjust the amount you use accordingly. It takes experience to load your roller or brush with the right amount of paint; too much will cause drips, too little is difficult to spread evenly. Keep your roller wet with paint; do not let it run dry, stretching the paint too far. Add to your efficiency and neatness by keeping your paint supply close by. Never use a larger than quart size container to brush from; it is easy to overload your brush when using a large paint bucket. When masking, make sure you achieve a very good seal with quality painter’s tape and then apply paint sparingly to the tape; otherwise paint is apt to seep under your masking job.
Mistake #6: Not preparing your brush or roller cover for use.
Why it’s bad: The brush or roller will not accept the proper amount of paint. Paint will tend to wick upward toward the top of your brush where it you do not want it, making the brush hard to clean. New rollers fresh from the package may leave a trail of fuzz on the painted surface.
Do this instead: Dampen your brush then shake out the excess. Wet your roller cover in a sink, run the edge of a putty knife over it to squeeze out the majority of excess water, and then spin the roller, leaving it damp.
Mistake #7: Careless ladder use
Why it’s bad: Misuse of a ladder is a frequent cause of DIY accidents.
Do this instead: Climb a ladder only as far as you are comfortable. Don’t reach out too far. Take the time to make sure the ladder is stable and move it as often as necessary.
Mistake #8: Believing all the advertising in the paint industry.
Why it’s bad: You can needlessly spend extra money for a designer name or the promise of one-coat product.
Do this instead: Keep in mind that the number of coats necessary for the job completely depends on the surface you are painting. Most paints on the market are very similar and any good paint store can mix whatever color you want.
Continue reading in the third and final installment of DIY painting tips from Bruce!
Image source: perspicacious
Posted on Feb 27, 2012 @ 7:15 by Nick Domino
This is a 3-article series, containing a total of 11 important painting tips from a professional painter.
Bruce Scofield has over 50 years of experience as a professional painter. Name any type of surface and he has most likely painted it! We recently asked him to share his tips for those of us who lack his expertise. In this series of articles, we highlight some common mistakes he has observed over the years, along with his advice on what to do instead. Want to find out how to paint a wall before you embark on your first painting project? Read on…
Mistake #1: Skimping on surface prep.
Why it’s bad: Paint is just a thin covering; there is a limit to what it will hide. In order to achieve the full visual benefit of a fresh coat of paint, the imperfections of a surface must be corrected as much as possible before you ever touch the paint bucket. Some surfaces will need special treatment.
Do this instead: Replace any sheetrock or wood that is damaged. Wood may need sanding if it is not smooth. If there is mold on the surface to be painted, wash it off with a 2 to 1 solution of water to bleach, or the new paint will peel. Always wash a dirty surface or any outside surface before painting. Otherwise the paint will not adhere properly. Lightly sanding previously painted surfaces will also help with surface adhesion. Scrape off any old globs or peeling paint with a stiff putty knife. Apply joint compound over small holes or depressions with a flexible putty knife. Use one stroke to apply it, then another stroke at a 90 degree angle to the first stroke to wipe away any excess. Do not overwork the joint compound. If you are inexperienced, you may need to very gently sand this area first, before painting, using fine grit sandpaper (refer to upcoming tip # 10 on the use of primer).
Another professional tip is to neatly apply paintable caulk to fill any gaps between trim and your wall surface. Gently smooth the bead of caulk with your finger, removing any excess; you may want to dampen your finger. If you are not experienced with caulking, Bruce recommends these steps to avoid a messy trim surface: mask the trim, apply the caulk, smooth the caulk into the gap, then pull off the masking tape, leaving a neat edge along the caulking.
Mistake #2: Buying poor quality brushes and roller covers.
Why it’s bad: Inferior painting tools make painting more difficult than it needs to be. It is hard to produce a good result when your brushes and rollers do not perform well. Inexpensive brushes may be stiff, shed bristles, and make it difficult to paint a crisp line. Poor quality roller covers will leave ragged edges.
Do this instead: Buy good quality brushes and rollers. As with most trades, good tools can make the difference between a well-executed painting project or one that is aggravating to accomplish and has a poor result. Good brushes hold paint well, which makes it easier to paint with smooth strokes and as few brush marks as possible. A good quality roller cover will apply paint consistently, helping you avoid roller marks. Thoroughly clean these tools immediately after use, and you will be able to use them many times.
Mistake #3: Leaving hardware in place.
Why it’s bad: Carefully painting around hardware is difficult and time consuming. Anything that detracts from the uniform painted surface is noticeable and should be avoided. A small gap or ridge in the new paint or, even worse, a dab of misplaced paint does look surprisingly unsightly.
Do this instead: Remove switch plates, curtain hardware, cabinet handles and anything you do not want to paint that is reasonably easy to remove. You can mask around door knobs and light fixtures. This will be worth your time in the long run and will give you a superior, uniformly finished look.
Mistake #4: Being ill-prepared for accidents.
Why it’s bad: Paint can easily end up where it’s not supposed to be – for example, tracked across your floor!
Do this instead: Cover all floors with drop cloths, card board, craft paper, or even old sheets. Keep a damp cloth handy to quickly wipe any stray strokes or splatters. Avoid spills by never setting your paint container on a ladder. Make your job easier by using these tools: a hook to hang a paint bucket on a ladder, a handy paint cup to hold a small amount of paint (some even have a magnet to hold your brush), and a long handle attachment for rolling on high spaces.
We’ll continue this series in our next installment, with 4 more DIY painting tips from Bruce.
Posted on Jan 29, 2012 @ 12:15 by Nick Domino
Although we hope you never need it, it is important to spend the time to make a home emergency kit. If a sudden disaster, like a hurricane, flood, or long term power outage, strikes, your everyday lifestyle could be turned upside down. It does not take long to craft a plan for emergency situations, and gathering necessary supplies is actually fairly easy to do (it becomes hard, though, once the crisis hits!).
In general, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends being ready for emergencies in these basic areas: water, food, first aid supplies, sanitation / clothing / bedding, tools, and special items.
Water – Have a 3 to 7 day supply on hand. Estimate your needs at approximately a gallon per person per day, with half of the water being used for drinking and half for hygiene. You may need water purification tablets as well.
Food – Have at least a 3 day supply of non-perishable, easy to prepare foods. Try avoiding salty foods in order to limit thirst. Freeze-dried food like dried fruits, granola bars, beef jerky, or non-perishable high energy foods work well. Canned items like condensed meats and soups, canned fruits and vegetables, and fruit juices are also good choices. Make sure you have a hand can opener to access them. Also, items like peanut butter and jelly, hard candy, canned nuts, and vitamins are good to have on hand, and can be comforting during disasters. Of course, periodically check to make sure that your supply’s expiration dates have not passed.
Regarding food choices, FEMA suggests (PDF), “As you stock food, take into account your family’s unique needs and tastes. Familiar foods are important. They lift morale and give a feeling of security in times of stress. Try to include foods they will enjoy and that are also high in calories and nutrition. Foods that do not require refrigeration, water, special preparation or cooking are best.”
Red Cross advises, that individuals with special diets will need particular attention, as will babies, toddlers, and the elderly. (Baby supplies could include bottles, formula, baby food and diapers.) Canned dietetic foods may be helpful for ill or elderly people.
Kitchen supplies to have on hand, besides a manual can opener, include: aluminum foil, utensils for eating and cooking, disposable plates and bowls, re-sealable plastic bags, household bleach, paper towels, and garbage bags for trash storage.
First Aid Kit – To treat cuts and prevent infections, have peroxide or antibiotic cream available. Also, include bandages of various sizes and gauze, with medical tape for fastening. Other necessities include tweezers, gloves, burn ointment, scissors, a first aid manual, and pain relievers. Dust masks are a good idea as well, since you may have to protect yourself from dust or debris in the air. Finally, moistened towelettes are always helpful to have on hand to make it easier to stay clean.
Medications – Have a 7 day supply of essential medicine that your family needs, along with backups of necessities like eye glasses, contact lenses with cleaning solution, or hearing aids with extra batteries.
Sanitation / Clothing / Bedding – Basics to have on hand include: toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, moist towelettes (also mentioned above), feminine supplies, and any other personal hygiene items you regularly need.
Anticipate your climate requirements, and have the following for each person: blankets or sleeping bags, a complete change of extra clothing, a hat, and sturdy shoes. Rain gear, insect repellant, and sun screen are also beneficial to pack.
Tools and Equipment – It is a good idea to have a battery powered or hand crank radio in your kit. You should also have a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone alert. Of course, keep a supply of extra batteries for both. Actually, it is best to have a model that has both battery and solar power supply options. Some models can even be used to charge cell phones when the power is off.
Flashlights and extra batteries are a fundamental requirement for your supply kit. Lights are comforting as well as vital for safety. It is best to avoid candles or open flames, which could prove dangerous if unknown flammable leaks are present on your property. A wrench or pliers are also helpful, since you may have to turn off your utilities. Always useful in everyday life, duct tape is a must during an emergency. Also, have a roll of plastic sheeting, which can be used to construct an instant temporary shelter or seal window openings.
Matches in a water-proof container are worth having on hand, especially if you have a fireplace or wood stove that you can operate safely. Make sure you have a supply of firewood as well.
Specialty Items –Keep copies of personal documents (medication lists, medical information, deed or lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies), photocopies of identification and credit cards, bank and investment account information, family photos, passports, and contact information for friends, relatives, doctors, and emergency numbers. All of this information should be in a water-proof, portable container.
You may need the following miscellaneous items:
Cell phone and chargers. Have a solar power source if possible.
Whistle to signal for help.
Extra car and house keys.
Pet needs – food, medicine, and extra water.
Entertainment items like books, games, puzzles, paper, and pens.
Camera so you can document damage to your property.
Map of your area.
Full tank of gas in your vehicle.
Tel: 1-866-GET-INFO will also access the American Red Cross’ “Be Red Cross Ready” checklists. They are very helpful and free.
FEMA – The Federal Emergency Management Agency, offers a helpful list on its website, called “Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Kit.”
Individual states and local communities often have their own dedicated websites on this topic, with specifics on local climates, challenges, and needs.
Whether you have experienced serious emergencies in the past or have been fortunate enough to avoid this type of situation, it is important to be prepared for such an event in the future. These situations can be exceedingly stressful and can change people’s lives, long after the event. It is absolutely worth taking an hour or two during your free time to put together an emergency supply kit.
The How to Make a Home Emergency Kit by Water Damage Defense, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted on Mar 12, 2011 @ 14:33 by Nick Domino
Keep Your Roof In Good Condition
It is import to monitor the physical condition of your home’s roof regularly, so that you spot problems early, before they compound into serious issues. Do not wait until a leak occurs. Instead, be proactive – inspect your roof at least twice per year and also after heavy storms. When you see signs of roof damage, have a professional repair them immediately.
You can probably accomplish a portion of your visual roof inspection from the ground, using binoculars. However, it is necessary to go up on the roof for a close-up view from time to time as well. Be sure to exercise caution when on your roof or climbing on ladders to avoid injury, and stay off your roof during slippery conditions. Alternatively, you can have a roofing professional help you inspect your roof.
In general, to maintain a healthy roof, ensure that your roofing material and flashing are water tight and in good shape. Also make sure your attic has good ventilation and insulation. If one of these basic elements of your roofing system is deficient, your roof’s integrity is compromised, which will lead to problems.
Keep in mind that the climate conditions in your area will have a dramatic effect on your roof’s longevity. Harsh precipitation, such as hail, will cause significant wear to your roof over time, as will air that has a high salt or pollutant content. Wind is another important factor. High winds push and tug at the edges and top of your roof. Over time this can cause your shingles, and the roof frame itself, to loosen.
Inspecting Your Roof
Check your roof for damaged or missing shingles. When shingles deteriorate or are missing, the roofing material below is exposed to the elements, causing water damage. Watch for pieces of shingles in your gutters or in the yard around your house.
Look at the metal flashing that is attached to your chimneys, vent pipes, and roof joints. Leaks can occur when this flashing is damaged. On large, complex roofs, look at the valleys connecting your roof’s different surfaces. These valleys serve as primary pathways for water, funneling it to a particular spot as it exits the roof. Because of their importance, these valleys are often reinforced by an extra “snow and ice shield” protective layer underneath the roofing. Make sure that all of the roofing materials in these valleys are in good shape, since a puncture here could quickly lead to serious water damage.
Hail can be especially damaging to a roof. After a big hail storm, once your roof is no longer slippery, look for signs of damage to your roof. On your shingles, check for a repeating pattern of dents or broken edges and corners. If you have asphalt shingles, look for eroded asphalt particles in your gutters. Also, be on the lookout for leaks after a hailstorm, as the hail could have actually punctured your roof.
Inside Your House
Walk through your house, and look for any signs of water leaking through your roof, including water-stained ceilings or walls, as well as peeling wallpaper.
One common problem in areas with cold winters is “ice damming.” This takes place when snow or ice melts and then freezes again as temperatures drop, creating a dam of ice. As some of the ice then melts, water gets trapped by the dam, resulting in standing water on your roof. If there happens to be faulty roofing material where that water collects, water can end up entering your house, causing a serious problem. Additionally, the ice itself can damage your roofing material by freezing and thawing while attached to your shingles. Because of this, try to verify whether the lowest sections of your roof are protected by a “snow and ice shield” layer.
Ventilation and Insulation
The root cause of ice damming is usually insufficient attic ventilation or insulation, which allows the attic, and subsequently the roof, to get too warm. Generally, winter attic temperatures should only be a few degrees warmer than the outside temperature. People often do not realize this and allow their attics to get too warm. Heat then passes through the attic to the roof, causing ice dams and standing water problems.
Attic condensation and moisture also affect your roof. Condensation is the unavoidable byproduct of “hot meeting cold.” Similar to the way a cold drink in a hot room produces moisture on the outside of the glass, condensation is continuously occurring inside your attic insulation layer, since the insulation is the barrier between hot and cold temperatures. This moisture needs to be carried away from your attic by a well-functioning air circulation system. If it is not removed, then during warm months, heat and moisture will break down your roofing material, causing it to wear out prematurely. Additionally, in the wintertime, condensation will saturate your insulation, reducing its ability to insulate and leading to high attic temperature problems.
To protect your attic and roof from heat and condensation, check to make sure your soffit intake vents and ridge vents are not blocked. A soffit is the underside of your roof’s overhang. Vents are usually located there, because it is a natural place from which to draw cool air into your attic. It is essential to your roof’s health that these vents are open, because if they do not vent properly, heat and condensation problems will likely occur. Since warm air rises naturally, it will seek to exit out of your roof’s ridge vent, located at the highest point in your roof. This subsequently causes fresh, cooler air to be drawn into your attic through the soffit vents. This basic air circulation pattern should operate continuously to keep your attic and roof from getting too hot, while also carrying away excess moisture and keeping your insulation dry, so it insulates properly.
Remove anything that might be blocking your soffit and ridge vents, such as insulation stuffed against them or possibly wood that was installed in front of them, in a misguided attempt to keep the attic warm. Additionally, consider adding an attic fan to dispel excess heat from your attic in the summer. An attic fan is minimal expense, but it can greatly increase the effectiveness of your soffit and ridge vent system. Also, consider adding insulation baffles between each rafter or roof truss, if they are not already installed, as this is another inexpensive way to promote air flow through your soffit vents.
Proper attic insulation is another important component of a healthy roof. As mentioned above, you actually want the unused attic portion of your house to be cold during the winter, like the outside air. Many people try to keep their attics warm as a way to keep heating costs down, but this is actually counterproductive.
A simple way to tell if your attic floor has enough insulation, and if your attic vents are working properly, is to look at your roof during cold weather when snow covers it. Monitor the amount of snow on the roof for a few days. If the snow stays on your roof, it is likely that your ventilation and insulation are sufficient, but if the snow melts quickly on certain parts of your roof, you can tell that either your insulation or venting is lacking in those spots. Also, it is important to make sure your attic insulation is of an appropriate thickness, or “R value” for your geographic location. Consult your local building codes or a home construction professional to make this determination.
Perform Regular Maintenance and Fix Problems Quickly
Finally, make sure you continually monitor your roof’s condition and perform regular maintenance. One simple step you can take is to just keep your roof clean. This is especially important for homes with minimally sloped roofs. Sweep debris off your roof, while taking care not to damage your shingles in the process. Also, keep your gutters well maintained. Properly functioning gutter drainage is very important to your roof’s health and also helps to prevent basement water damage by leading rain water away from your foundation (read gutter cleaning). Most importantly, when you do spot roof damage, get it fixed as soon as you can, so it does not turn into a more serious issue in the future.
At some point every roof does reach the end of its life span. For further reading, check out our article on how to tell if you need a new roof.
Image source: aidanmorgan
The Avoiding Roof Problems by Water Damage Defense, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted on Jan 6, 2011 @ 8:43 by Nick Domino
Hiring the right contractor for a construction project can be surprisingly difficult. Since your choice of contractor will directly impact your satisfaction with the completed project, it is important to be as thorough as possible in your search process.
Figure Out What You Want
While your project is still in the planning stage, before speaking to contractors, take the time to map out what you want to accomplish, in as much detail as you can. This will make your discussions with contractors much easier and help avoid misunderstandings down the road.
Figure out things like: your budget for the project, the material type and quality you want to use, and the completion time you need. As you do your research, consult designers, architects, and material suppliers, as needed, so that you understand your options and preferences.
After your planning is done and you begin your search for a contractor, take the time to conduct thorough due diligence. This becomes especially important for larger jobs.
Compile a large list of possible contractors, and then work to narrow it down to at least 3 candidates to request bids from. During your research, be sure to use your friends and acquaintances as resources, since word of mouth is often a good way to find candidates.
As you research the contractors on your list, try to get a feel for how reputable and established they are. Do an online search. Read reviews that are available, and also look for any complaints (search contractor names along with words like “review” or “complaint”).
Check with the Better Business Bureau. Find out what information they have on the contractors. Have any complaints been lodged? If so, what was done to address them?
Find out whether the contractors are licensed in your location, and do not hesitate to confirm this by calling the licensing organization.
Additionally, check to make sure they have the proper liability insurance. Get written proof of insurance, as this is often required to obtain a building permit. Take the extra step of calling their insurance agent, to make sure the policy is current and in force. While you are on the phone, ask the agent whether the policy has consistently been in place or if it has frequently lapsed or been cancelled.
Finally, get multiple references from those contractors that you seriously consider. Call each one and find out if the project was completed to their satisfaction. Did the contractor stay within budget and finish on time? If problems came up, how were they handled? Was there any damage done to the property? If possible, go take a look at the contractor’s work for yourself.
Discussions with Contractors
Sit down and talk at length with the contractors on your short list. Ask a lot of questions. Find out about their experience. How long have they been in business? What type and scale of project do they typically take on? What do they consider to be their specialty?
As you discuss your project, keep in mind that a good contractor will have a wealth of experience and can provide you with a lot of helpful advice. It is unlikely that they will simply agree with all your ideas about the best way to handle the project. Actually, if they do, it could be a warning sign – that they are simply trying to sign you up as a customer without helping you consider the best, most feasible ways to accomplish your project.
Finally, find out how busy they are, and whether they have the capacity for additional work. If it sounds like they already have too much on their plate, be careful. On the other hand, if they seem to have no work at all, that could be a warning sign too.
In order to gain negotiating power and the ability to compare, solicit bids from at least 3 contractors. Get the bids in writing, and make sure they address specific detail. You will want to be able to make “apples to apples” comparisons across the bids you receive. To accomplish this, be as specific as possible about the scope of the project when requesting bids, so that all the contractors bid on similar work, time-frame, and material quality.
Keep in mind that simply choosing the lowest bidder is not necessarily the best course of action. There could be a good reason that they seem so cheap. Find the reasons for any major price differences in the quotes you receive. Be cautious if a particular bidder uses extremely low estimates for materials or labor. Find out why.
Be sure to take intangible factors into account as well. Interpersonal interaction, for example, can be extremely important. You will need to get along with the contractor and work with them to make decisions and handle problems that come up. If your personalities conflict badly, the project will suffer.
Get Everything in Writing
Before the contractor starts work, sign a written contract that clearly lays out all important details. Of course, the contract should include major elements like: the exact scope of the work to be performed, expected time line, types of materials to be used, contractor’s responsibilities, budget, and schedule of payment.
Beyond these basics, however, there are many additional details that should be agreed upon. The contract should also include things like: who is responsible for trash and materials removal (including proper removal of hazardous materials), how to handle bathroom facilities, what happens if the project goes over budget, how to resolve disputes, who will handle permits and inspections, what responsibilities the homeowner has, and the names of any subcontractors. Also, make sure the contract is clear on what happens if an outside event, like a storm or material shortage, disturbs the project’s completion.
There likely will be many additional details that you will want to include in your contract as well. Make sure that there are no grey areas. In fact, if it seems like a contractor is trying to be vague, you probably do not want to work with them anyway.
It is a good idea to have a lawyer review the contract before you sign. Read it thoroughly yourself as well, since you need to fully understand what the contract contains before you finalize anything.
Worth the Effort
Although the contractor search process can require some work on your end, it is worth the effort. By taking the time to hire a contractor you are comfortable with and confident in, you greatly reduce the likelihood of ending up dissatisfied once your project is complete.
Image source: nicgep114
The Tips on Hiring a Contractor by Water Damage Defense, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
This Water Damage Defense article is intended to provide information of general interest to the public and is not intended to offer legal advice about specific situations or problems. You should consult a lawyer if you have a legal matter requiring attention.