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Help your old house weather the storm

December 19, 2014

Merwin House
Merwin House, Stockbridge, Mass.


Over the last several years, dramatic weather events have hit New England, destroying property, ruining landscapes, and testing the patience and stamina of millions. We have picked up, fixed up, and carried on after record ice storms, a tornado, unprecedented flooding, and, in 2012, a super-storm rivaling the Great Hurricane of 1938. What does all this mean? Owners of old or historic properties must take an extra-vigilant approach to maintenance and upkeep in order to minimize the damage.

Each year, Historic New England's property care staff and site managers review disaster preparedness at our museum properties. For homeowners, this vigilance means keeping up with standard home-care chores, like cleaning gutters and trimming overhanging limbs, almost on an ongoing, year-round basis. "Normal" time frames for standard seasonal maintenance can be meaningless amidst the kind of freak storms that are becoming more common.

You should periodically check the perimeter of your house to make sure downspouts are connected and directed away from the foundation, loose attachments such as shutters and storm doors are secure, and shingles and flashing are in good condition. Maintain useful supplies close at hand, such as a tank of gasoline for a back-up generator, a large tarp, rope, an extra length of hosing for the sump pump, and a wet-dry vacuum cleaner, along with the standard batteries, flashlights, and radio.

After a storm, it's a good idea to again check the house perimeter to assess any minor damage that might go unnoticed. While no amount of preparation can forestall a true disaster, keeping an eye on some of the smaller chores around the house, like getting the last of this year's leaves out of the gutters, can help your house weather the storm unscathed.

Own an old house? Become a Historic Homeowner member and get access to expert advice.

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Help your old house weather the storm