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Tips for Winterizing Your Beach House

Tips for Winterizing Your Beach House

alt="An oceanfront beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina covered in snow during winter"
Photo: A historic oceanfront cottage in Nags Head, North Carolina. Image courtesy of Fine Art America.

 

Whether your seaside sanctuary is a second home primarily used for summer vacations—so you plan to batten down the hatches and secure it for the season—or your coastal cottage is your family’s primary residence and you will be riding out the winter there, owning a home in a seaside community means taking the time to start winterizing your beach house properly. Failing to perform the proper preventative measures before snow, ice and freezing temperatures arrive could cause your home to incur major damage over the cold winter months—the effects of which can be both time-consuming and costly to repair or replace. When you’re preparing to winterize your beach house this season, make sure the following items are on your to-do list.

PROTECT YOUR PLUMBING SYSTEM

alt="Water is shooting out of several places in a broken pipe"
Photo: George Herald

When it comes to winterizing your beach house, few tasks are more important to take care of than properly protecting your plumbing from the potential devastation that can be caused by freezing temperatures. Because the vast majority of beach houses were originally built as vacation homes that would primarily be occupied during the warm spring and summer months, many homeowners find that their property’s plumbing lacks the appropriate amount of insulation to protect the pipes from becoming frozen and ultimately bursting open. If you’re a year-round resident and will be residing at your property during the winter, perform a thorough examination of the insulation surrounding the interior and exterior pipes throughout your beach house—including those in attics, utility rooms and crawl spaces—to check for missing, damaged or insufficient insulation that could put the pipes at a higher risk of freezing up when cold weather strikes.  

alt="A man wraps insulation around a pipe to prevent it from freezing as part of the winterizing process"
Photo: Pinterest

If you don’t plan on spending any time at your beach house yourself this winter—and you also don’t intend to make the property available for potential vacationers to rent out for a week or two—winterizing your beach house is a relatively quick and easy process. While you should always make a habit of routinely examining your home’s pipes each winter to ensure that anything exposed to the elements is adequately covered by insulation, the only surefire way to protect your pipes from bursting when the temperature dips below freezing is to prevent any water from traveling through them in the first place. Before you vacate your home for the season, simply switch off the property’s main water supply, then open all interior and exterior faucets—including showers and bathtub faucets—to completely drain any remaining water out of the pipes.

alt="A home's kitchen and living room are filled with several feet of water from flooding"
Photo: Specialty Restoration of Texas

Neglecting to properly prepare your plumbing system when winterizing your beach house for the cold months to come could result in catastrophic damage if water inside a pipe freezes to the point of expansion—causing the pipe to burst and potentially costing you thousands of dollars in water damage (not to mention an extremely high water bill), particularly if the leak goes undetected for an extended period of time.

ADD INSULATION TO WINDOWS, DOORS & OTHER SUSCEPTIBLE AREAS

alt="Looking out of a beach house window covered in snow on the Outer Banks of North Carolina"
Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Regardless of whether you are staying at your residence throughout the winter months this year or you’re closing it up and heading out of town until spring, checking to make sure windows, doors and other susceptible spots are properly insulated is a key component of winterizing your beach house. When doors and windows lack proper insulation, drafts of cold air are permitted to penetrate your property through small gaps or leaks along their edges—and the warm air inside your house is allowed to escape, causing costly energy bills that can easily be avoided by taking a few preventative measures.

alt="A person adds gray insulation to the interior edges of a window while winterizing their residence"
Photo: Amazon

 

Although many homeowners assume the insulation found around their doors and windows is sufficient as is, it’s imperative to examine the condition of your home’s insulation and weatherstripping every season to ensure it isn’t damaged. Keep in mind that older homes that have not been maintained properly—as well as homes that are used as vacation rental properties and therefore experience more use and higher rates of wear and tear—are much more likely to sustain damage to doors and windows than gently used primary residences. No matter which type of property you own, the first step to winterizing your beach house is a thorough examination of all at-risk areas, which range from windows and doors to attics and chimneys.

CLEAN AND INSPECT YOUR CHIMNEY

alt="Flames shoot out of the roof and windows as fire rips through a beach house in Nags Head, North Carolina"
Photo: The Coastland Times

One item that is often overlooked by homeowners who are in the process of winterizing their beach house is cleaning and inspecting their chimney—a task that is extremely important to undertake at least once each year, particularly if a proper examination wasn’t performed before it was first used in the fall. According to the National Fire Protection Association, failure to clean chimneys is a leading cause of home heating house fires. From leaves, twigs and pine cones to bird nests and tree branches, a wide array of debris can easily make its way inside your chimney and begin to obstruct the airflow. In addition to these types of blockages, the buildup of flammable material caused by incomplete combustion can also create dangerous conditions and fire hazards that need to be taken care of before the chimney can be used to keep your family warm during cold weather.

alt="A stylish fireplace is the focal point of a beautifully decorated living room in this beach house"
Photo: The Spruce

Although it’s possible to perform a quick look inside your chimney yourself to check for debris, deterioration and damage, experts say a chimney check shouldn’t be considered a do-it-yourself job. In order to ensure your chimney is cleaned correctly and that the system is in good working order, contact a professional to handle this winterization task for you. Hiring an experienced professional will not only prevent you from overlooking damage or debris that could result in a catastrophe once the chimney is used to heat your home; it will also provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing this important beach house winterization chore was performed correctly.

EXAMINE YOUR ROOF AND GUTTERS

alt="A man wearing a glove pulls a wad of mud and wet leaves out of a clogged gutter"
Photo: All American Gutter Protection

When it comes to the massive amount of water damage that can occur along the roof if you don’t know how to winterize your beach house properly, prevention is a key component of protecting your property. Check the entire length of your gutters to ensure they are clean and free of any leaves, branches or other types of debris, which can create potentially dangerous clogs. If debris—particularly wet leaves—is left unchecked and permitted to build up inside your gutters, it can add a considerable amount of weight and cause them to leak, crack or even tear loose from the roof.

alt="The ceiling of this home is destroyed due to water damage after an ice dam caused flooding to occur from the roof"
Photo: The Ice Dam Company

Likewise, when water is prevented from draining properly due to clogs in your gutters, it can lead to the formation of ice dams when temperatures drop below freezing. Once an ice dam has formed, it can have devastating effects on a residence—ranging from broken gutters and missing shingles to destroyed roofing and major flooding inside the attic or top-level living space—if the problem isn’t remedied immediately because the water trapped behind an ice dam can flow under the shingles on your roof and leak into the house, potentially damaging the ceilings, walls, floors and insulation. Water damage can be catastrophic and costly, so if you own a home along the coast, your best bet is to prevent it from occurring in the first place by properly winterizing your beach house this season.

alt="The flashing on a roof around the chimney is shown before and after repairs were completed"
Photo: Wilcox Roofing

In addition to checking for clogs inside your downspouts and gutters, be sure to inspect the rest of the roof for any damaged or missing shingles, which can lead to leaks in those locations during rain showers or snowstorms. While you’re winterizing your beach house by performing your roof check, don’t forget to examine the flashing—the thin, weatherproof pieces of metal that are installed around windows, doors, gutters, chimneys and other exterior joints—to ensure it is functioning correctly and diverting runoff away from vulnerable areas of the roof.

SECURE YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE

alt="When winterizing your beach house, deck chairs like these on the Outer Banks of North Carolina should be stored inside"
Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Once you’ve wrapped up the to-do list of tasks inside your home, the last step you need to take when winterizing your beach house is to secure the items in your outdoor space. Bring patio and deck furniture indoors to prevent it from being damaged during inclement weather and to avoid it being blown about in high winds. If you are unable to move outdoor furniture inside your home, a garage or shed, be sure to secure it sufficiently in a safe spot so that it doesn’t come loose and get lost—or cause damage to other parts of your property during winter snowstorms or nor’easters.

TIP: WINTERIZING YOUR BEACH HOUSE WITH THE HELP OF A FRIEND OR NEIGHBOR

alt="An oceanfront beach house sits just beyond snow covered rocks and sand dunes during the sunset"
Photo: Flickr

If you own a beach house but won’t be riding out the winter at the property, consider finding a friend, a neighbor or someone located nearby who can periodically check on your home upon request to check for damage and report any necessary repairs back to you. You can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that comes with knowing someone is ready and willing to keep a watchful eye on your home away from home this winter until you can finally return to your slice of paradise in the springtime.

Preparing a Hurricane Kit: Supplies You Should Stock This Season

Photo: Nature.com

Hurricane season has officially begun, and forecasters are anticipating a significant amount of storm activity during the 2018 season in the Atlantic Ocean, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. According to Weather.com, 13 named storms are projected for this season, in addition to Tropical Storm Alberta, which formed in May before the season had officially begun and made landfall near Laguna Beach, Florida.

Photo: Pinterest

Of the 13 storms projected to develop into named storms in 2018, six are expected to attain hurricane strength—and two are expected to become major hurricanes, reaching an intensity of Category 3 or higher. When it comes to tropical storms and hurricanes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and there’s no better time than the present to go over your hurricane preparation checklist and make sure your hurricane kit is well-stocked and ready to go should a storm strike where you live this season.

 

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Unlike storms such as tornados—which tend to strike without much, if any, warning—hurricanes typically develop slowly over a period of several days as they strengthen from a tropical disturbance to a tropical depression to a tropical storm to a hurricane of varying intensities. But just because a storm is still hundreds of miles off the coastline and its path is not projected to affect you for a few more days doesn’t mean you should kick back and relax while you wait to figure out exactly where it’s going to hit.

Photo: RVA News

Storms can intensify rapidly—sometimes going from a tropical system to a strong hurricane in a matter of only a few hours—and their course can change drastically depending on factors ranging from ocean water temperatures to land masses they encounter along the way. To ensure you’re properly prepared to ride out a storm that hits your area and to care for yourself, your family and your pets for several days if roads become inaccessible and facilities remain closed, it’s imperative to build your hurricane kit in advance and to stock up on supplies well ahead of time. According to Ready.gov, at the minimum, your hurricane kit should include the following basic items:

  • Water (1 gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days, for drinking and sanitation purposes)
  • Food (3-day supply of nonperishable food per person/pet)
  • Medications (1-week supply of prescription medications per person/pet)
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Manual can opener for food items
  • Wrench and/or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Trash bags, plastic ties and moist towelettes for personal sanitation
  • Local maps
  • Dust mask to filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to cover holes in walls and the roof and protect you from the elements as you shelter in place)
  • Cell phone with charger (and an extra battery pack/portable power bank that is fully charged)
  • Whistle (to signal that you need assistance in the event that you need to be rescued)
Photo: WTVR

Remember that many people residing in coastal regions will wait until a storm is projected to make landfall before they head to the store to grab supplies. Stock your hurricane kit with supplies in advance to avoid running the risk of stores running out of necessary supplies—and to avoid the chaos that comes with trying to gather everything you need at the last minute along with everyone else in town. With the 2018 hurricane season in full swing, it’s more important than ever to keep a watchful eye on the weather, and when you discover that a storm is forecast to hit your area, you can rest assured in knowing that your hurricane kit is fully stocked and you are well-prepared to protect yourself and your loved ones when its wind and waves collide with the coastline.

Furring strips are vertical pieces of wood that create a ventilation cavity when placed between the insulation and siding. They are part of an overall rainscreen system preventing moisture from damaging a home.

The Importance of Rainscreen Systems

While we all want a home that is comfortable and beautiful, we also want a solid structure made of durable materials that will last for years to come.  But the durability of our homes is threatened by environmental factors, especially wind, rain, heat, and humidity.  Incorporating a high-performance rainscreen system will help protect your home from the damaging effects of moisture.

What is a rainscreen?

A rainscreen is not actually an individual product, but part of a wall construction system.  Its overall purpose is to protect the wall sheathing from moisture that gets past the siding.   Rainscreen systems typically consist of the following components:

  • Exterior cladding (siding)
  • Ventilation and drainage cavity
  • Insulation
  • House wrap (drainage-plane material)
  • Air barrier
Rainscreen is an wall construction system that prevents moisture from damaging a home's wall sheathing.
Diagram of rainscreen system. Image by Tom Diamond and Garland Industries 

Perhaps the most important component is the ventilation and drainage cavity which provides space between the siding and the house wrap. This space is typically created by applying vertical furring strips (called strapping) over the drainage-plane material. The siding is then nailed to these wood strips.  

Furring strips are vertical pieces of wood that create a ventilation cavity when placed between the insulation and siding.  They are part of an overall rainscreen system preventing moisture from damaging a home.
Furring strips. Image by Ryan McCoon and Habitat for Humanity

Newer rainscreen products, such as Slicker, achieve the same effect by using a three-dimensional matrix with vertical channels.  These products come in a roll and are laid over the entire surface of the wall, providing a continuous space for drainage and drying.  When compared to a product like Slicker, wood strapping is generally less expensive from a material cost but is more expensive to install from a labor standpoint. Other drawbacks of strapping include the creation of hot spots along studs and trapped moisture from wood-to-wood contact, which can lead to reduced air movement and a greater potential for mold.

Slicker rainscreen provides three-dimensional matrix with vertical channels to provide a continuous space for drainage and drying.
The Slicker matrix provides airspace and vertical drainage channels across the entire wall. Image by Benjamin Obdyke/Slicker

Why would you want a rainscreen?

A rainscreen is important because the ventilation cavity promotes residual water drainage and airflow.  Any moisture held in the siding, or that seeps underneath due to wind-driven rain, will diffuse and evaporate.  If there are ventilation openings at the top (as opposed to only a weep holes at the bottom), the rainscreen provides a path for rising air.  According to homebuilder Martin Holladay, research shows that this type of ventilation is a powerful drying mechanism.   Because airflow is promoted, rainscreens have the added benefit of keeping your siding cool which prevents premature failure.

Homebuilder Mark Averill Snyde suggests the airspace provided by a ventilation cavity is especially important to prevent “capillary action.”  He compares this process to a grade-school science experiment during which a stalk of celery is placed into a glass of colored water and the water is observed to move quickly upwards. The same thing can happen to homes without proper ventilation and house wrapping. 

An example of capillary action, where water is drawn quickly upwards. Rainscreens help to prevent this.
An example of capillary action, where water is drawn quickly upwards. Image from Wikipedia.

Isn’t house wrap sufficient?

Some builders and homeowners believe house wrap (such as Tyvek, Typar, and #15 or #30 felt) provides a sufficient barrier.  But for many homes, especially those in wetter climates, it’s not enough.  The primary function of house wrap is to drain water that penetrates the siding through leaky joints or capillary action.  However, house wraps lose their water repellency over time and do very little to reduce air infiltration due to heavy winds.  Once water penetrates the house wrap into a wall, peeling paint and rotten siding often follow.  According to Joseph Lstiburekis from Building Science Corporation, back-priming wood cladding and trim and adding a ventilation cavity reduce the impact of moisture.

In addition to a rainscreen system, other methods to protect your home from water damage include:

While a rainscreen system is important for most homes, it is especially vital in climates that are wet and hot.  Some experts advise rainscreen installations for all houses in areas with an average annual rainfall of 50 inches or more.  Many coastal areas get that much rain each year, so if you’re planning to build a beach home make sure you discuss rainscreens with your contractor.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

V-zone

Laying Concrete in V-Zones

During a hurricane, Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with.  The intense precipitation, flooding, and high winds strip materials from buildings, including siding, roof shingles, doors, and windows.  These airborne debris are a major contributor to home damage and human injury.  Therefore, when building on the coast, it’s imperative that your home is compliant with V-zone building codes.  One building material to be very careful with is concrete.  

V-zone
Large pieces of broken concrete can damage buildings and harm people. Image by Mark Wolfe, courtesy of FEMA

Forceful waters and high velocity winds can cause concrete slabs to hydroplane, flip, or break into large chunks that could damage buildings and injure, even kill, people.  As a result, building codes require such slabs be of frangible concrete.  This means they are designed to break into smaller pieces which will sink rather than travel.  So when constructing driveways, pool decks, and patios, it’s important your contractor follows these guidelines:

  • No reinforcement should be used
  • Slabs should not be thicker than four inches
  • Slabs must remain structurally independent of the building
  • Control joints must be spaced at 4-foot squares to encourage even breaking

When laying cement in V-zone areas, proper control joint spacing and depth are essential.  According to the Portland Cement Association, placing control joints in the concrete surface at strategic locations creates weakened planes allowing the concrete to crack evenly.  Spacing the control joints at 4-foot squares ensures the concrete will break into smaller pieces which will cause less damage during hurricanes.

Control joints may be tooled into the concrete surface at the time of placement or they may be sawed into the hardened concrete.  Regardless, control joints should be cut to a depth of ¼ the slab thickness.

V-zone
Control joint. Image courtesy of Portland Cement Association.

Not only is this control joint approach safer, it also produces a more aesthetically pleasing appearance since the crack forms below the finished concrete surface. This method can reduce the amount of hairline cracks on the surface of the cement.

So, when building your vacation home or remodeling to add a backyard oasis, make sure you only work with licensed contractors who are familiar with V-zone construction and the importance of cement control joints.  If you’d like to learn more about concrete, check out our post about reducing surface cracking.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

hurricane fabric

Boarding Up with Hurricane Fabric

HURRICANE FABRIC: THE FUTURE OF STORM PROTECTION 


hurricane-fabric-astroguard-outerbanksAs a homeowner in a coastal area prone to Hurricanes, you have probably considered hurricane panels at one time or another.  Hurricane panels or shutters protect your home from damaging winds, driving rain and flying debris often associated with hurricanes and severe storms.

In the past, hurricane panels took the form of plywood, metal and corrugated lexan. The materials used for these panels typically produce heavy, cumbersome panels which require a massive storage area when the panels are not in use. A typical rigid panel is mounted on tracks, protruding anchors or brackets which often remain in place even when the panel is not in use. This hardware is unsightly and detracts from the overall aesthetic of your home. In addition, installation of most rigid panels will require the help of two or more people to position and attach the panels to the openings. Rigid panels such as plywood, metal and lexan can be dangerous if you are installing the panels in a high wind situation. Don’t worry, there are less dangerous alternatives. 

Times and technologies have changed and given rise to a new option in the fight against the storms fury. Introducing hurricane fabric panels, yes fabric! Advancements in fabric technology have given rise to the fabric hurricane panel. Fabric panels are typically made from polypropylene mesh or a layer of woven fabric that is coated with a geo-synthetic PVC material, in some cases, Kevlar. So how do they stack up against their competition? 

plywood-hurricane-shutters-outerbanksCOST: At only $3 – $5 sf installed, plywood is the least expensive storm panel on the market.  Rigid steel corrugated panels, average between  $10-$14 sf installed.  Accordion style storm shutters can be installed in the $18-$28 sf range. The fabric panel is the second least expensive panel on the market at $9 – $12 per square foot professionally installed. 

DEPLOYMENT: Fabric hurricane panels are extremely lightweight and easy to handle. After the initial installation, panel deployment can be handled by one person. On the other hand, rigid panels (i.e. plywood, metal and lexan shutters) are awkward, cumbersome and heavy requiring multiple people to install. Fabric has a clear advantage when it comes time to deploy the panels; they are lightweight and easy to handle. 

corrugated-metal-hurricane-storm-panelIMPACT RESISTANCE: Resistance from flying debris impacts is typically the main deciding factor when choosing a shutter system. Independant tests have proven that some fabric hurricane panels can withstand Category 5 impact testing as well or better than rigid panels. Fabric panels are designed to absorb the impact by deflecting and slowing the projectile. Rigid panels are designed to simply resist the impact by shear strength of the material. Fabric panels have proven they can  match and exceed rigid panels in all impact tests and do it at a lesser cost to the owner. 

INTRUSION: During a hurricane, wind and rain are a major cause of damage to a home. High winds drive rain into small cracks and crevices in and around windows and doors. Fabric panels are both water and wind proof. Fabric panels are available in custom cuts and sizes allowing the installation of one seamless panel across the entire opening. On the other hand, the rigid panel is limited to its size and weight restrictions. The use of multiple rigid panels can create cracks and crevices at panel joints which invite both wind and water leaks.  The fabrics ability to span large openings gives it a slight advantage here. 

lexan-storm-panels-obx-hurricaneAESTHETICS: If you have visited a hurricane prone area, you might have noticed unsightly metal panel anchors or tracks mounted around the windows and doors. Even worse massive roll shutters permanently mounted above and around the door. Some people don’t give it a second glance but if you’re like me, you notice how debilitating it is to the overall architecture of your home. Fabric panels require minimal hardware. Often times the mounting hardware is set flush with the window trim surface and even painted to be virtually invisible. 

GLASS BREAKAGE: Ok, this is where the fabric panel takes a backseat to the rigid panel. A typical storm panel, rigid or fabric, will be installed approximately 1″-2″ outward of the window/door it protects. During an impact from flying debris, the panel deflects inward toward the window. If it deflects too far, the impact will break the window behind the panel. In this scenario, the more rigid the panel the lesser the deflection and the lesser the chance of breaking the window. 

outerbanks-storm-protection-panels-astroguard-fabricSTORAGE-MAINTENANCE: Clearly the fabric panel will prevail here. All rigid panels require a massive amount of space for storage. Storage should be indoors so the elements don’t affect them. Plywood rots and warps, Steel rusts and Lexan degrades from UV rays. Fabric panels will not rot, rust, break or degrade. After use, the fabric panels can be hosed off, folded up like curtains, placed in storage bags and stored in an attic, shed or closet. Fabric shutters are near maintenance free,  require minimal storage space and are easy to store. 

In conclusion, fabric hurricane panels are an inexpensive, lightweight, easy to install, impact resistant, attractive, low maintenance solution to cumbersome, unsightly rigid storm panels on the market today. 


-blog provided by Michael York, The Coastal Cottage Company – www.coastalcottageobx.com

  

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