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Protect your house from flooding
5 Tips: Check your gutters and make sure you're not taking on water.
October 14, 2005: 2:48 PM EDT
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist
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CNN's Gerri Willis shares five tips on flood protection. (October 14)
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The Northeast is still swimming in floodwater. And it doesn't look like all this wet weather is going to dry up anytime soon.

In today's top 5 tips 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 preventing floods is to make sure your gutters are free of leaves and dirt and sticks. Poor roof drainage is the number one cause of basement leaks.

A clogged gutter will cause massive problems by concentrating roof runoff water at your house's corners close to the foundation. And this pooling of water will seep through your walls causing flooding. In fact, clogged gutters may even be responsible for cracks in your home's foundation, according to Tom Kraeutler of the Money Pit.

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 the bottom half of a gallon milk jug and use it as a scoop to get rid of leaves or sticks. Gutter guards generally cost $3 to $7 a foot. You can get gutter protection products at any home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowes'.

2. Pay attention to downspouts

These are tubes connected to your gutters that extend from your house. Downspouts 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 or 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 to 800 feet of roofing, according to 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

Soil should slope away from your house. After the first four feet of your home's perimeter, the ground should slope about six inches. 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 wonderful gardens too 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. If you live in an area that is more prone to heavy wind and rain, and you're thinking about replacing your roof, you should think about investing in an "Ice and Water Shield" by Grace Construction Products, according to Silva.

This is a self-sealing, rubbery membrane that goes under your shingles. "If you puncture it, the membrane seals around that nail and doesn't let anything get through," he says.

It doesn't come cheap though. It will cost you $.75 to $1.25 more per square foot if you decide to put on this protection.

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to  Top of page

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