After weathering many months of extreme drought in the Western Cape, it may seem like wishful thinking to start prepping your home for heavy winter rains. Climatologists, however, are predicting a likely transition from the currently weak La Niña conditions (bringing rainfall to the central parts of SA) to an ENSO-neutral state. This could bring heavier winter rainfall to the Western Cape than has been seen in several years.
“Climate change means weather extremes, which is certainly what we’ve been experiencing in the Cape over the last decade,” says Schalk van der Merwe, franchisee of the Rawson Properties Helderberg Group. “Back in 2013 we had severe flooding, and then the next five years were plagued with drought. If the climatologists are right and we are swinging back towards a high rainfall pattern, it’s very important that homeowners prepare their properties to handle the likelihood of very wet and stormy weather to come.”
The most obvious area to check before the rains hit is the roof.
“Loose tiles or roof sheets can be very dangerous in the high winds we get with our winter rains,” says van der Merwe, “not only because they leak and cause water damage, but also because they can blow off and cause damage to other parts or your or your neighbours’ property. Over a long, hot summer, things can get loose, crack, shift or suffer other damage that needs to be put right before the rains come.”
Gutters are also an important pre-winter check, playing a vital role in directing water away from foundations and other structures that could be damaged. Van der Merwe recommends cleaning out any leaf litter or debris that has collected over summer, and fixing any leaky joints, sagging sections or wobbly downpipes.
“Also check your stormwater channels and curbside drains to make sure they’re unobstructed,” he says. “The last thing you want is rainwater collecting and causing flood damage to your property or that of a neighbour.”
Flooding isn’t the only damage high volumes of water can cause, however. Van der Merwe cautions property owners with rainwater storage tanks to make sure they’re on solid foundations and have effective overflows into stormwater outlets.
“Water weighs a huge amount, and full tanks require structurally sound foundations to remain safe and stable,” he explains. “If they aren’t on a proper base yet, do yourself a favour and get on that quickly before they start sinking or tilting on the waterlogged ground and cause damage to surrounding structures.”
Don’t neglect your patio furniture when winter-proofing your home, either. High winds, heavy rains and hail can easily damage expensive outdoor accessories.
“If you can, store your outdoor furniture indoors or undercover,” van der Merwe suggests. “Alternatively, consider getting waterproof covers that tie on securely, and tuck lighter items in a sheltered section of your garden so they don’t get knocked over or blown away.”
Of course, even the best preparations can’t always protect us against extreme conditions, so van der Merwe recommends double checking your insurance coverage for storm damage and flooding.
“Most policies don’t cover flooding from overflowing rivers, lakes or other bodies of water,” he says, “so if you live near something like this, you may want to take out separate cover for overland flooding. Also check that your belongings are insured against water damage, and not just the main structure of your home.”