Brett J. West, a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates in Washington, writes about housing issues.
Washington has been pounded with rainfall this summer, almost three times the normal amount since June 1.
The rain has certainly put a damper on planned outdoor summer activities, but it has also had a big impact on real estate in the D.C. area. In the five home purchases I managed for clients, we encountered water crises with three of them.
The truth about the bounty of rainfall is that many of the problems it causes can be prevented. Here are some simple and extensive measures to take ahead of time to prevent water intrusion:
• Increase grade: The earth around the home should be sloped away from the house to divert water away. Very simply, borrow earth from three feet away from the structure, and toss it against the side of the house thus creating the slope. $0.
• Clean rain gutters: Schedule a licensed professional to clean gutters annually. A clogged rain gutter can send water cascading down the exterior wall, which can result in water entering the interior walls. $200 annually.
• Divert down spouts: In a quick run to the local hardware store, homeowners can find a black, plastic corrugated 6-inch hose that fits around the base of the downspout. This device carries water away from the house, preventing it from seeping down into the foundation. $12 per down spout
• Roof maintenance: Where rain is concerned, the roof is the first line of defense. One small tear in a rubber membrane or crack in a tin roof, or compromise in the plywood structure of the roof can prove disastrous for the entire interior of the home. But regular maintenance can preserve the life of the roof. Have a roofer check out your home every five years. $200-$500.
• Window repairs: Proper window installation and maintenance is imperative. Modern windows are fitted with wells and drains designed to help direct water outside the house. Improper caulking can prove disastrous by sending water into the house that should be draining away from the window. $300-$800.
• Sweep away debris: Especially during spring and fall seasons, when the area’s great trees emit pollen in tumble weed fashion and drop their leaves en mass, it is critical to diligently sweep outdoor surfaces weekly, especially patios and door wells to prevent the collection of debris clogging exterior drains. $0.
• Expand exterior drains: Expanding the surface area of exterior drain decreases the likelihood of clogging the drain. $1,200.
• Construct a swale ditch: Constructing a ditch and filling with landscaping rock can help divert water away from the house, especially for yards that are extraordinarily flat. $300-$500.
• Exterior French drain: To the contrary, for homes situated on slopes, an exterior French drain, including a subterranean ditch with a black perforated corrugated hose, can be used to divert surface water away from the house. $300-$1,500.
• Install a sump pump: When all else fails, installing a sump pump may be the solution. This includes digging a well through the basement or slab of the home. The well may be up to seven or 10 feet deep. As the water table increases, a sump pump activates and transports water away from the home. $2,500-$7,000.
A couple hundred dollars of prevention and maintenance each year can deter minor problems at the onset. The result of ignoring the problem, however, multiplies costs of repair with each rain incident.
The second most common mistake is hiring a contractor based on the lowest bid, which often means hiring a contractor who isn’t licensed, bonded and insured.
I have nothing against hiring a handyman to do some of this work. But when it comes to keeping the home sealed and operational, I recommend skilled contractors with impeccable references who are licensed to do what is needed, and who are bonded and insured, so if the work results in disaster you know you’re protected.