Maintain your home

Check pipes, walls, ceilings and roof for internal or external water leaks.

A damaged roof, gutter or downwater pipes could result in telltale brown water stains on walls and ceilings. Apart from looking unsightly and being susceptible to mould, these water leaks indicate a gap in your home's external protection, which should be fixed. During torrential rain these small leaks could become significant problems, leading to wall or ceiling collapse.

Think about where you have holes or openings in the roof or walls of your house. Some of these were intentionally made to allow for plumbing, pipes, electrical cabling, or venting and some are due to building movement. In either case, permanently seal any holes, cracks, or gaps and consider temporarily covering vents to minimise water leakage and consequent damage to walls, ceilings and flooring.

In most cases, gaps and cracks are discovered after damage has occurred from water leakage. However, not all leaks produce visible damage immediately. Some leaks can occur for up to a year before showing any signs of damage. To avoid this hidden problem, ask someone qualified to check for gaps and cracks.

Clear gutters and downpipes of branches and leaves.

Gutter cleaning is an essential part of protection your roof and property from extreme weather, debris build up and pest infestation. Unchecked gutters and downpipes can create expensive problems. Your body corporate should schedule regular maintenance in order to avoid unexpected damages. Taking the time to maintain and repair gutters and downpipes can double the life of your roof drainage system and save you money on repair costs. To maintain a free-flowing roof-drainage system, clean out the gutters and downpipes every three months, before the summer storm season and during autumn, when most trees lose their leaves.

Remove the leaves and branches that have blown onto your roof, as gutters rust very quickly when leaves accumulate and then decompose creating a pond. If you have overhanging trees and shrub, keep these well trimmed to reduce the debris that accumulates in the gutters. Wear gloves when digging into gutters, as you could encounter rusty nails and dangerous 'creepy crawlies'. Many companies provide gutter and roof cleaning services - simply check the Yellow Pages or search online for a local business.

Rusted gutters break and you then risk overflow into the ceiling. Install leaf guards (wire mesh) if your roof drainage system is exposed to falling leaves to stop leaves clogging pipes. But some say that gutter guards is not a permanent solution, but simply delay the inevitable. Leaves get caught in the mesh instead of the gutters, eventually decompose, filter through the mesh holes and end up in the gutters.

You can either patch leaks in gutters or replace the damaged section. Aluminium and plastic gutters last longer than galvanized steel. Overlap the patch material in the direction of the water flow and cement the edges together securely.

The eaves linings and soffits should be checked regularly for deterioration because animals can peck and chew their way through these seeking shelter in your roof cavity. Leaking roofs and overflowing gutters are other causes of deterioration. 

Take care when scaling onto rooves, as they can be very slippery. Make sure someone is there to hold the ladder when you get off the roof. Don't be tempted to pain a tile or metal roof to suit a new house colour scheme, as hail will cut through paint on roofs in no time.

During a hailstorm, gutters are even more susceptible to blockage and overflow because hail can't drain away like rainwater, although it will melt over time. Ensure a reputable professional, has installed your gutter, in accordance with Australian Building Codes AS3500. Gutters should be installed so that if they do overflow due to accumulated hail, the overflow is away from the property and not back into the eaves of the property.

Under most insurance policies, property owners are responsible for ensuring that their roof and gutters are correctly maintained. A failure to maintain these critical parts of your house, or repairing any deterioration over time, will allow damage to occur during a storm and may jeopardise your insurance claim, in the event of storm damage.

You can a Queensland plumber who is a member of the Master Plumbers Association by searching online.

Check for any corrosion, rotten timber, or loose fittings.

At any time, rotten timber can pose a serious safety hazard if any weight-bearing materials, such as flooring, decking, joists and stairs are compromised and subject to breakage. Warping weatherboards and vertical cracks to brickwork may indicate subfloor failure. It is important to maintain a good protective paint or stain coating on all exposed timberwork, otherwise deterioration such as splitting and rotting will occur, and again this can compromise the protective perimeter.

Gradually warping weatherboards may result because of their exposure to the elements or the house frame drying and warping. These are not severe problems and but need annual checking because they can compromise the protective perimeter. Seal any significant gaps that develop, in order to prevent damaging water or pests from entering.

Any termite damage to the external walls or footings will compromise structure strength and stability. Call a professional to check for termite infestation, which can cause thousands of dollars damage to timber frames and timer homes. The Building Code of Australia provides a range of termite management measures that can be used, including chemical or physical barriers or a combination of any of these. A qualified termite management contractor should perform annual inspections or more often, in high-risk areas.

External blinds and awnings that protect windows and prevent direct sunlight entering are a great idea. However, awning fixtures can rust and come loose in high winds, so check they're secure at the beginning of summer.

Does your house have a pitched, or gabled roof? If so, the external end wall takes a tremendous beating during severe storms. When a house has a pitched roof, the triangle formed by the upside-down 'V' and the front or back external wall is called the gable end wall. Once the gable end wall is damaged, strong winds, rain or hail can enter the house causing much internal damage.

Gable end walls are easy to strengthen and deserve high priority on your retrofit list. Typically, gable end trusses are directly attached to the top of gable end walls. The bottom of the truss must be securely nailed or screwed to the top of the wall and braced to adjacent trusses. This prevents wind from pushing or pulling the gable end at its critical point, where the gable truss is connected along the gable wall. Without adequate bracing, the end wall may be destroyed during high intensity winds.

Water -tanks -LM

Check hot water system and rainwater tanks are fixed securely.

External hot water systems and rainwater tanks are often located adjacent to your house on levelled ground, but not securely anchored to the ground or wall.

Rainwater tanks are a great addition to any property and enable self-sufficiency whether for all your water needs or just watering the garden. Often the only attachment is the pipes that lead to and from the tanks. A full 2000-litre rainwater tank weighs just over 2000 kg when full.

However heavy these tanks are, a significant flood event could uplift and be driven into your house or garage, or swept downstream, where they could damage other properties. And you don't want the added cost of repairing or replacing and reinstalling tanks and pumps.

Securing the water tanks to the ground or wall by a strap or anchor will ensure they don't tip over and break water and gas pipes, or damage the pressure pump in the event of floods or earthquake.

Ensure your tank overflow is adequate and clear of debris. A locked tank overflow will cause water to flow over from the top of the tank, which may result in erosion of the tank base in heavy downpours. If your tank base is crushed rock or road base, sandbag the base to avoid erosion, which leads to instability.

Protect your tank pressure pump by removing and relocating the pump if necessary. If your pump is submerged, it probably won't work again and your warranty will be void. 

If your tanks are underground, again relocate the pressure pump before bad weather. Contaminated water can be disinfected using a non-chorine food-grade tank water purification agent.