How to protect a waterfront home from storm damage

For Chesapeake Home + Living
Waterfront homes come with breathtaking views, but they also come with risks. Here's how to protect them.

Most waterfront homes in Maryland come with breathtaking views. But they also come with risk during severe weather.

Strong wind, rain and flooding can destroy waterfront homes inside and out if they are not protected.

Matt Long, co-owner of Gate One Builders in Annapolis, says there are several ways to equip waterfront homes to withstand severe weather, all while keeping their curb (and lake, river or bay) appeal.

What are some common storm protection issues for waterfront homes?

The most common problem is leaking associated with improper flashing. The flashing is the bent metal and taping that surrounds the windows, doors and other penetrations through the structure’s exterior. Those areas are where you will usually see the leaking occurring, and it’s usually caused by wind-driven rain or the pooling of water.

Does weatherproofing affect a home’s curb appeal?

I don’t think you have to make any compromises with design or aesthetics to properly protect your home from the weather. It starts at the very beginning of the project. If you have the right products and processes, then there’s no limitation of what you can do to the home and still keep it protected. … The building science is properly layering your waterproofing product behind all your finishes so that you protect the core of your house.

What are some protective steps waterfront homeowners can take on their own?

If you have a little drip in the corner of your window, you might be able to put a dab of caulk on the outside and stop that drip for a year or two. But if things are done properly on the outside of the house, the caulk shouldn’t even really be needed. The waterproofing should be layered and taped so that the water wouldn’t get into your home [whether] that caulk was there or not. The current building science is to actually plan for the water to get behind the siding and give it a way to get out so that it doesn’t get trapped. Trapped water is what creates rot and mold and mildew and decay.

What about flood vents?

They’re a necessary evil. There’s not a real attractive way to dress up a flood vent. You can hide them to a certain degree with landscaping or some sort of trim element that maybe masks them. But the reason for a flood vent is you live in a certain elevation, and it’s a way to allow the water to get out of your house or in your house. … It’s not something I would install unless it was a [code] requirement. … They’re there so that if you have a hurricane, the water can actually flow through your house and then drain out rather than pounding up against the outside wall of your house and making the wall fall down.

Do certain exterior materials work and look better than others?

You could put any traditional building product on the outside of the house. It’s more driven by the maintenance component than it is the waterproofing component. … If it’s a natural wood product, you’re going to have to deal with it every four to five years with caulk and paint. If it’s a man-made product, like a concrete board or a vinyl or aluminum, then they have a lot longer life span between having to deal with them. … All those natural products expand and contract with the weather. In the winter, they get cold and shrink up. In the summer, with the humidity, they expand. That movement will open up caulk joints and move things. If you have the proper waterproofing behind it, the water should still shed away. But you still want to maintain that outer shell and keep as much water away from the house as you can.

How can homeowners incorporate grounds and landscaping into their home’s protection?

The grade of the soil around your house is the most critical part. Everything has to drain away from your house. Having the proper size gutters and downspouts that can handle the surface volume of the water coming off the roof [is important]. If you have improperly sized gutters and downspouts, they can’t keep up with a heavy rain. That’s where you can really get some damage. The water sheets overtop of your gutters and downspouts and then starts saturating your walls. … It doesn’t matter if you plant azaleas next to your house or dogwoods. As long as the water that hits the ground is moving away from your house, that’s the most important thing.

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