Most of the time, when we think of floods, we imagine a natural disaster, and that the people impacted live in a 100 year flood plain. On the east coast, basements are the part of the home usually impacted by floods. Interior floods in the home can happen to anyone with plumbing, though. Today I want to share what happened to us in mid December 2012 and hope it can help others to avoid our experience.
Interior floods in the home – our story (late 2012)
A few years back we had a large amount of water intrusion due to a refrigerator water line that broke. One surprise lead to another.
First, the apparent cause may have been a different plumbing issue: dissimilar metals, copper and galvanized steel, not properly separated. It was on one of the to-do lists that just didn’t get done fast enough. We see things like that on home inspection reports and don’t always understand the risks.
I first discovered the water on December 9th, 2012, when I noticed that our dining room’s carpeting didn’t look quite right – and found it damp. My initial thought was that our elderly dog had had an accident, but there was far too much liquid and it all seemed to be up against the wall backing to the kitchen, so it didn’t take long to realize that the pooch was not to blame.
The first job was finding what was wet so that it could be dried out ASAP, before mold got a foothold. The dining room was carpeted, so it was easy to simply pull the carpet back and check the underlayment. (In this image, the kitchen is to the left, and the pantry and half bath are behind the wall straight ahead.) I had a lot of calls to make to flood remediation companies, to our insurance company, etc. I was concerned about mold as I’d taken a 3 hour class in that subject at a real estate conference, so I wanted the leak stopped and the water removed immediately.
Interior floods in the home built pre-1978
Back to that first task of figuring out what was wet – the dining room was easy due to carpet. The kitchen and other nearby areas were a different story.
From 10:30am to 2:30pm on Friday August 7 2015, stop by the Los Gatos Public Library to pick up your free water saving devices courtesy of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. If that date doesn’t work for you, you can go to the Gilroy Public Library on Thursday, August 6 or the Mitchell Park Libary in Palo Alto on Wednesday Aug 6 during the same hours.
The SCVWD is giving away shower timers, aerators, low flow shower heads, hose nozzles, moisture meters, buckets to collect shower water, and more. It’s free, so stop by and increase your water savings!
Los Gatos Public Library is located at 100 Villa Avenue, Los Gatos, adjacent to the Civic Center and close to Los Gatos High School. Beat the drought, conserve water, and get a helping hand from the water district!
Surrey Farm is located just off of Kennedy Road on a few streets behind a horse fence and gate: Longmeadow Drive, Blueberry Hill Drive, Clover Way, Olde Drive and Twin Oaks Drive. A number of real estate sites incorrectly include nearby streets, reaching as far as Short Road and including part of Marchmont and the Stoneybrook neighborhood. This is not correct.
Is it Surrey Farm or Surrey Farms?
Locally, people refer to this gated looking community as Surrey Farms. But a look at the county records reveals that local custom has morphed the name. The subdivision was originally dubbed in the singular: Surrey Farm, not Surrey Farms. It seems to have been one ranch or farm to start with – so the singular makes more sense. Either way – same neighborhood.
When were the homes built, how big are they, and how large are the lots in Surrey Farm?
Originally a horse ranch, Surrey Farm was built out with homes between about 1955 and 1960, and most began as ranch style homes between about 2000 and 3000 square feet, on lots of about 1/4 to 1/3 of an acre in most cases, though there are some homes larger than 4000 SF situated on parcels of more than oen acre now. And over the years, many houses have been remodeled, expanded, or fully rebuilt.
What makes the Surrey Farm or Surrey Farms neighborhood so special?
Part of what is unique about Surrey Farm is the more rural feeling that the neighborhood has. Here you don’t find sidewalks or street lamps. But you do find that a number of the yards continue to use the horse fence as at least part of the landscaping. That’s very refreshing in Silicon Valley, where so many of the residential areas just feel like suburban sprawl. You can look around and imagine it being horse country not so long ago.
Also special is the fact that this area is actually close to downtown Los Gatos but only feels farther away. It’s incredibly quiet in most of the neighborhood. One area does back up to Hillbrook School, so of course the sounds of kids at play or school bells ringing will not reinforce the “out in the country” feel. Overall, though, you look around and see open space and the hills nearby – so you do not feel like this is any kind of urban setting.
What are some of the things to know if interested in Surrey Farm (or the Kennedy-Marchmont area of Los Gatos)?
In this area, you are close to a lot of open space and forested land, and that means wildlife is nearby: possums, skunks, racoons, deer, bobcats, and mountain lions all make their home not too far away. And with the forested land there’s also the danger of wildfire, so it’s important to have a plan and be ready — though quite honestly I have never heard of a fire in this “Kennedy Road area.” A bigger issue than fire is water…..
Water issues in and near Los Gatos
Throughout Los Gatos, Almaden, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, anytime you’re near or in a hilly area, water is an issue. Surrey Farm and the Kennedy Road and Marchmont area is no exception. This area is adjacent to larger hills but is a gently sloped area itself. Water flows down off of the hills, but at times it also flows under the hills, following some sort of impervious rock level, and when the ground flattens out, the water may pop up. Sometimes it’s a spring situation. Other times it’s a “high water table” that may come up during heavy rains, such as we have in an El Niño year. In some cases, the water can emerge under a house (like having it come off of downspouts isn’t a big enough challenge).
In winter, it is not at all unusual to find a wet or muddy crawl space if your home is on or near a hill. Less common, but perhaps more worrisome, is finding it in the middle of summer in a drought year.
Water issues can be mitigated with drainage work, so don’t let a little mud put you off – you just need to know about it going into home buying so that you are prepared and budget it in. It is important to not be surprised, and when house hunting, to be on the lookout for drainage work (and appreciate it when you see it) or the need for it if you see a slope.
Original article on the “old” Live in Los Gatos blog can be found here:
Although a lot of my work is in Los Gatos, Cambrian Park, Saratoga, and Almaden Valley, I do have buyer and seller clients all over San Jose and Silicon Valley. One of my buyers is interested in neighborhoods close to downtown San Jose such as Japantown, the Vendome area, and Naglee Park.
This week we saw a classic, historic Spanish style home that offered a lot of “old San Jose” charm. It was partially updated and remodeled but there were a few red flags and odd things about the home.
One of the oddities involved the roof, downspouts and gutters. Here’s a view of the back end of that home. Please note the downspout in the center of the photo (it meanders around the window with a large catch-basin at the top).
Do you see anything amiss? If not, have a look again with my annotated version:
The home was re-roofed a number of years ago, with permits and finals – but without gutters.
Silicon Valley is not alone in being pounded by a fierce Alaskan storm this weekend. The Friday rains – which we desperately need – came in a short period of time, together with strong winds which apparently gusted close to 100mph in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
It’s a mess out there, and it’s not over yet. The roads are filled with fallen leaves and branches. In the Almond Grove District of downtown Los Gatos, a bough actually blocked off an entire street and damaged a car. This is not an uncommon story from one end of the state to the other. Fences are down all over. Emergency personnel are working overtime to handle the accidents and weather related problems. In Southern California, they face mudslides after the fires a few months ago – homes are truly at risk there.
Not surprisingly, power was lost to over a million P, G & E customers in northern California alone. Additionally, cable and internet services are out for many of us too. At our house in the Belwood area of east Los Gatos, we have Comcast cable for high speed internet and television. But they are both out. (The town of Los Gatos requires the cable boxes to be below ground, at least where we live, and every time we get a heavy rainfall, the boxes flood and those services go out. Our neighbors used a sump pump on theirs, and helped us use it on ours, to no avail. We keep dialup as a backup here since my husband and I both work from home and can’t afford to not have internet access.)
The end is in sight. By Monday, the rain should have stopped. Then it will be time to do the cleanup.
Once you take care of the immediately obvious items, let me suggest a few others to protect your home while they are on the top of your mind.
(1) Water Against Your Home: Get It Away
Did the water pool up against your house, or come very close to doing so, during these storms? If so, it’s imperative to get the water away from the house. If you live in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Almaden Valley, or any of the regions close to the coastal foothills, you may be getting hillside runoff. Or you may have a very high water table – both which are much more serious and will require expert help. (Call or email me if you’d like a recommendation for an inspector.)
Often water pools for two very simple, and easy to remedy, reasons. Fist, it may be there because the downspouts don’t extend away from the house and/or secondly because the dirt around the soil is not properly graded.
If your downspouts don’t have extenders, go get them! They are ugly but functionally very important. They are cheap. Ace Hardware in Los Gatos carries them and the folks there are friendly and will assist you. Next, see if you need to work on the grading around your home to carry the water away from your home’s foundation. (If you lay a marble 1′ away from your house, would it roll toward or away from it? You want it to go away from your house.)
Here in Santa Clara County, in the San Jose area generally, we have clay soil. It expands when wet and is extremely strong – much more powerful than the concrete and rebar in most homes’ foundations. Foundations can be very costly to repair, and a moving foundation can put your home out of level and cause other problems too – most of which are not easy or inexpensive to fix. So if you care about your real estate as an investment, protect your house’s foundation: get the water away from it.
(2) Leaves On Your Roof and In Your Gutters: Get Them Off
We love our trees, especially here in the west valley communities. When they are too close to our residences, though, they can be an issue. (In the photo here, the house has a shake roof, which is dark gray. But there are so many leaves on the roof that it’s almost not visible at all.)
Overhanging branches can be a superhighway for rodents to get onto your roof. Depending on your roof type, from there it may not be a whole lot of effort for them to get into your attic, and then down into your walls, too. Rats munching on electrical wires can spark a fire. The list of why you don’t want your home to be a habitrail go on and on.
But the leaves themselves are a problem too if they pile up on your roof and in your gutters. On the roof, they can trap moisture and cause accelerating aging to the shingles, or encourage the growth of moss (also ages the roof faster). Perhaps worse, when the roof and gutters fill with tree debris, it can cause actual roof leakage as the water does not drain properly but instead backs up into your home from between the shingles or tiles.
Meanwhile, though, we need to wait out this series of storms. Our total rainfall has been off by about half of last year’s, and last year’s was low too. (Not unlike the real estate market…) If we don’t get more rainfall, the folks at San Jose Water are saying we may have a full on drought and rationing next summer. So we are thankful for the precipitation – just wish it wouldn’t all come at once!
We’ve had more than a decade without a drought in Silicon Valley, but this year, it did return. Our rainfall was off by about a third, and now the delta water has been interrupted due to an endangered smelt, so water is an even bigger issue.
If you’ve lived here 15 or more years, you know that this is mild. In the past, we’ve had actual water rationing and it involved lots of rules (and fines and penalties for using too much H2O), including when you could water your yard (time of day, days of week), how much water you could use in a month and so on.
What can the average Los Gatos resident do to save on the water bill? First, only water your lawn and garden at night (at least NOT between 10am and 5pm). Use a timer – buy one if need be. Second, shut the water off except when really needed for washing your dishes, face, hands or teeth (and don’t take excessively long showers). Third, only run a full load of dishes or clothes in those machines.
A few small measures can easily cut the water useage by 10%. Let’s do it now, and avoid rationing in the near future!