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Even before Hurricane Harvey began its rampage through the Caribbean and southern US states, federal climate experts agreed that 2017 is going to be a bad year for climate catastrophes in America. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), it is the tenth weather-related event that caused more than $1bn of damage. These events include flooding in California, Missouri and Arkansas, hailstorms in Colorado and Minnesota, and a sudden spring freeze that devastated crops across South Carolina and Georgia.

Costly catastrophes

Such weather incidents are becoming the norm, resulting in huge spikes in property damage insurance claims. In 2016, insured losses due to natural disasters amounted to $23.6 billion, 60% of which was attributed to violent thunderstorms. Moreover, non-disastrous conditions like prolonged temperature extremes can damage your home. We cannot control the weather but we can minimize the impact to our properties. And while there is no complete protection against the elements, these tips will help you control weather-related repair and maintenance costs.

Repair damaged brickwork

Temperature extremes cause building materials to expand and contract, cracking rendering and damaging masonry. A crack that allows damp to settle in will expand once the moisture freezes, giving way to more damp penetration. However, if you use the different mortar mix, it will trap and damp instead allowing it to breathe.

Which mortar to use?

Masonry of older homes can be repaired through brick repointing. It is a process where an inch of old mortar is removed and replaced with new mortar. However, an inexperienced mason may use Portland cement which is very hard and can cause irreparable damage to their structure. Repointing mixture needs to be softer than the existing mortar, so use less Portland cement and more sand and lime.

Fix roof issues

As the part of a house that is most exposed to the weather conditions, the roof is a place where you shouldn’t cut corners. Replace damaged or missing tiles as they won’t just let water in, but also allow the wind to get under and lift remaining tiles. Inspect your gable wall, which is the triangular end of your house. If it is not firmly connected to the roof trusses, even mini tornados can force it to collapse.

Balance insulation and ventilation

Cavity wall insulation is one of the best ways of improving the thermal efficiency of your home. However, a double wall is like a double-edged sword. Your house structure needs to be in perfect condition. Otherwise, heavy rains may lead to water seeping into your wall cavity, where it is trapped by the insulation which acts as a giant sponge. As it wraps your house all around, the insulation can cause even more condensation and eventual water damage. While not all properties are suitable for cavity wall insulation, people still underestimate the importance of ventilation.

Make it earthquake proof

Scientists predict that the number of small magnitude earthquakes in California will decrease. Unfortunately, they also predict that the chance of a major earthquake, stronger than 8.0 will increase. Earthquakes aren’t limited exclusively to California and Alaska. The truth is that anyone living west of the Rockies is in the ‘quake zone’.

Property owners in risky areas are required by local councils to reinforce their homes, so many people became interested in seismic retrofit financing offered within PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program. It is a financing option that allows property owners to undertake energy efficiency and renewable upgrades, and in certain areas, water conservation and storm protection and seismic upgrades. It is incorporated into property taxes and repaid over the long term. With PACE, landlords can access financing for no money upfront, and spread out the cost of a seismic retrofit over decades.

The combination of global climate change and people spreading into vulnerable areas contributes to increased property damage in the last decade. While we cannot prevent disastrous weather systems, and extreme temperatures, we can do a lot to make our homes safer and more resistant to nature’s fury.