Gerri Willis Commentary:
Top Tips by Gerri Willis Column archive

Safeguard your home from flooding

The weekend storm in the Northeast left many homes flooded. Gerri Willis looks at how your can stay dry.

By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Some parts of the Northeast are still swimming in water from the weekend storm. We're going to tell you what you can do to protect your home from flooding.

1: Clean your gutters

The most important step you can take to prevent flood damage to your home is to make sure your gutters are free of leaves and dirt and sticks.

Poor roof drainage is the No. 1 cause of basement leaks. A clogged gutter can cause even bigger problems by concentrating roof runoff water at your house's corners close to the foundation, which can seep through your walls and cause flooding. In fact, clogged gutters may be responsible for cracks in your home's foundation, according to Tom Kraeutler of the Money Pit.

To prevent this, make sure your gutters are tightly secured to your home. You may need to replace the spikes that secure your gutter with gutter screws. To clean clogged gutters, you'll need a ladder and a hose. To clear out debris, you can cut off the bottom half of a gallon milk jug and use it as a scoop to get rid of leaves or sticks.

Or consider gutter guards, which generally cost $3 to $7 a foot. Gutter protection products are available at any home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe's.

2: Pay attention to downspouts

Downspouts carry water from your gutters and away from your home. As a rule, they should be pointed away from your home and dump the water at least three to four feet from your home's perimeter.

You can check your downspouts by putting a hose in your gutters and running the water for 10-15 minutes. If you have access to the top of the downspouts, run the water directly into them. Make sure water runs through them freely and that they do not back-up. The rule is you want one downspout for every 600 feet to 800 feet of roofing, says Kraeutler.

If you find that your downspouts are dumping too close to the foundation, you can add extensions to your downspout. Extensions are available at home improvement stores for generally less than $10.

3: Watch your grading

After the first four feet of your home's perimeter, the ground should slope about six inches away from your house. If you're grading needs improvement, use clean fill dirt, not top soil, to build up a slope around your house. Top soil is organic and will hold water against your home's foundation.

To get clean fill dirt, consider calling a landscape supplier. It may cost you about $100 for a small truckload. Once you've finished your slope, you can finish with a layer of top soil and grass seed to prevent erosion. Or, just use stone or mulch.

4. Give gardens some breathing room

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to create these wonderful gardens close to their home, says Pete Duncanson of ServiceMaster Clean. Gardens retain water and this will simply let water seep into your walls.

Don't encase your garden without leaving some room for the water to escape. Use rocks as a border and make sure that your gutter doesn't run directly into your garden. Trim heavy growths of shrubbery so that soil gets more sunlight and dries more quickly.

5. Waterproof it

A simple way to keep rainwater out of your house is to waterproof your walls. You can apply special waterproofing coating to the interior or exterior walls in your basement. These waterproofing coatings can be water or oil based. The coating will penetrate several inches into concrete and close off chinks or minor cracks by forming crystals when water appears.

Keep in mind that waterproofing paint is most effective if you put it right on the cement, and not on painted areas. You can generally get a good waterproofing product for about $18 a gallon at your hardware or home improvement store. Tom Silva of "This Old House" recommends that you pay special attention to roof leaks.

Cleaning up in the aftermath of a disaster

Insurance and tornados - are you covered?

Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send e-mails to toptips@cnn.com or click here - each week, we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com. Top of page

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.