Green Architrends

How to protect your house from water damage

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PROTECTING your home from water damage starts with providing enough roof overhang. photo: Architect Amado de Jesus & Associates

Singaporeans readily acknowledge that they have three kinds of weather: hot, hotter and tropical. In the Philippines, we have only two kinds: dry and wet. During the dry season, temperatures and humidity go up. During the wet season, people deal with torrential rains and destructive floods.

These two conditions, dry and wet, put a considerable pressure on the building envelope of your house. The building envelope consists of the roof, the external walls, the windows and exterior doors.

As the dry season ends, now is the best time to prepare for the coming typhoons and heavy rains that may damage your house. Water damage from rain can have a devastating effect on your house. Water seepage into a house can cause a lot of headaches that include structural damage, mold, mildew and unhealthy conditions that may breed insects and other pests.

A thorough inspection of your house should be done to see if there are signs of water damage and to take precautions in preventing problems.

Here is a basic checklist of the areas in your house that you should check:

1. Rooftop. The rooftop is the main structure that keeps rainwater from entering your house. Check the area thoroughly to ensure that all materials are not damaged in any way. Whether your roof is metal, asphalt shingle, clay tiles or cement tiles, nothing beats a thorough ocular inspection.

For metal roofs, check if the screws are in place and the flashings fit snugly. Roof shingles that are missing, broken, cracked or curled should be taken care of right away. Clay and cement tiles may also become cracked or loose. These conditions mean that the roof is not waterproofed, which may allow rain to penetrate, thus causing damage to the ceiling below.

Most leaks happen around penetrations through the roof like plumbing vent exhaust fans or skylight. Flashings and sealant joints around these penetrations can crack, fail and leak. Flashing is a metal strip placed in spaces where two different building surfaces meet to prevent water seepage. Intersections of roof surfaces with parapet walls are also common leakage points.

2. Doors and windows. Check for leaks around your doors and windows especially near the corners.  Check for peeling paint or paint discoloration or swelling of frames.

Exterior doors should be protected from the rain (and sun).  The best way to do this is by providing an overhang. This design strategy may seem common sense but many houses today violate this basic principle for aesthetic reasons.

Another commonly violated rule for protecting your house from water damage is exposing your windows to the elements. By keeping the windows flushed to the wall without an overhang, rainwater is most likely to penetrate the joints in your window. One design strategy is to make cavity walls. These are walls that are recessed even by a few inches from the external wall to allow rainwater to be diverted away from the openings.

3. Gutters. Many people hate roof gutters because they are hard to maintain and costly to repair. So they opt not to put it. What they do not know is that properly maintained gutters help protect your landscaping.

Roof gutters are meant to channel water away from the house into the drainage system. With this system, gutters prevent rainwater from seeping into the sides of the house and damaging the foundation. The uncontrolled flow of water may also damage the lawn and home garden including pavements that will be costly to repair.

The best option is to properly maintain roof gutters by providing metal screens to prevent dead leaves, twigs, silt and other debris that may clog the drainage holes.

4. Exterior walls.  Exterior walls should be sealed and well-painted. Shrubs and other landscaping features should not be placed along the walls.

Avoid placing vines directly on the wall because they may help open cracks which may allow moisture or insects to enter the house.

When irrigating the garden, avoid spraying water directly on the house to prevent excessive water near the foundation.

5. Maintenance. Future leaks and water seepage can be prevented by regularly inspecting your house.

For comments or inquiries, e-mail amadodejesus@gmail.com

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