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Monday, October 3, 2011

Prepare Your Property 
For Winter Storms

By Barbara Landrith
Storms cause extensive damage to homes each year in California and the best time to prepare is now.  The California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) recommends the following steps.

First - clean your gutters, including downspouts and drains.  Extensive water damage can be caused by blocked gutters and drains which force the water to find another path. Check to make sure they are clear and working properly.   Also, consider putting covers on your roof gutters to prevent leaves and other debris from clogging them. Rake your yard and remove any fallen leaves before a storm.

Remove damaged trees with cracked branches as well as healthy trees’ branches that overhang homes, driveways etc.  Likewise - trees that have shifted in the soil due to wind or burn damage and those with burned roots. Now unstable, these trees could fall or be blown against your home or windows.

Pick up branches, toys, furniture, patio umbrellas, bicycles and other items around the yard before storms arrive.  These items can be a hazard in high winds if picked up and thrown.  Cover and tie down patio furniture that needs to remain outside by anchoring it to something solid. 
Trees close to the home need to be trimmed or cut back.  Strong winds can cause gutter, roof and exterior home damage by forcibly whipping trees up against your home.

Check flowerbeds located against your home.  Do these flowerbeds have adequate drainage away from the house? Downspouts that empty into flowerbeds can cause the structure to flood in heavy rains. Consider adding channel drains to direct water away from the foundation.  Also, adding a layer of mulch will help prevent erosion by helping to break up rain drops before they hit the soil.
If you use a sump pump during excessive rain, consider what could happen in a power outage.  It may be time to add another drain to help water exit your property quickly.
Large trees can help protect your home and property from wind and rain. It is important however to trim them so that some wind can pass through thereby preventing high winds from pushing them over.  Large trees too close to a home, with shallow roots or which are unhealthy can cause serious damage and even loss of life if they fall on your home.  Do you have a tree that could be a possible danger in high winds?  If you are not sure, talk to an expert and/or consider getting it removed.

Last year many areas in California experienced weeks of heavy rains.  Examine how your house sits on your property.  Are you at the top of a hill or at the bottom?  Are you at risk for soil slippage underneath your house or a neighbor›s?   Is water or earth going to flow towards your home or away from it?  Now is the time to proactively prepare for excessive rain. Add an additional drain or get help if you are at risk for landslides or erosion.

In areas where protective plants are removed or destroyed, soil becomes vulnerable to erosion.  Soil erosion can happen very quickly in a heavy rain.  The most effective protective measures needed for your property are based on your soil type, slope grade, home location, weather, etc.  In some areas erosion control materials or mechanical control measures may need to be applied.  Contact your local CalTrans office or that of the forest service for guidelines.
Water flow is an important factor of any erosion plan.  Never underestimate the power of storm water and debris.  Evaluating the area and planning is a critical first step to protecting your property while improper or inadequate measures can aggravate potential problems.  If your home or business is on a slope, plan to capture and drain water to help prevent erosion.  Get help with erosion control or fire prevention landscaping by hiring a licensed professional specialized to that area.  Ask for references, insurance certificates and request to see their license.

Finally, be sure to check with your insurance company to make sure that your property is covered for storm damage and flood.  We recommend checking annually to assure that your home is covered for full replacement cost.  (Actual cash value is considered to be replacement cost minus depreciation.)

Proactive steps now can help prevent property damage later. For more information, call the CLCA (916 830-2780), e-mail ( or visit us online (

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