Deal with the worst possible problems first. If you have a leaky shower, then check the wood underneath. Constant leaking from showers or other water appliances can destroy and rot the structural wood and cause mold growth. If water is getting into the basement, use an epoxy crack sealant or a rubberized spray to seal the walls. Check drainage and gutter downspouts regularly to ensure water is not accidentally getting to the foundation.
A home's “structural integrity” refers to the strength of the “skeleton” of the house. Rafters, beams, foundations and walls are doing the bulk of the load bearing. These should be looked after with special care -- because serious structural issues, such as foundation problems, can damage a home beyond reasonable repair. Getting started right now to forestall future problems will save both money and time.
Waterproof your foundation. Even if you're not seeing any leaks right now, the foundation is the very base of the integrity of the house. One of the best and cost-effective methods is the rubberized polymer-spray membranes. This is a liquid spray that coats the entire exterior of the foundation wall. After about 10 minutes, the liquid dries to become a flexible rubber membrane that completely seals the foundation from leaks, radon and termites.
Install tie rafters and floor connectors. The process here is called “continuous load pathing.” The basic issue is to reinforce those metal parts that connect the “pieces” of the house together. The tie rafter bolts the roof rafters to the horizontal wood trusses. Then, the strap ties, or floor connectors, should be installed vertically between floors. Finally, reinforce anchor bolts that connect the lower part of the house to the top of the foundation wall. The point is to create a single load-bearing structure, strengthened as a single unit. Most of these connectors are fairly small, simple and cheap to install. The only real work is to get to the wood within the walls and floors to connect the straps and bolts.
Dig or maintain drains. If water is a problem, rubberize waterproofing will not be enough. You might have to dig a trench drain that grades away from the house. This grade should be about 5 percent, or about 1.25 feet over 25 feet away from the foundation border. A good graded drain — or a single soil grade away from the house — can improve the structural quality by redirecting water. If you already have drains, ensure they're clean and free of debris. Do the same for gutters.
Replace all roof shingles as they come loose. Check your roof at least weekly, especially after a storm, to ensure no shingles are missing. Missing shingles can begin a leak problem that not only lets water into the house, but can rot the wood trusses and rafter frame. While expensive, consider the eventual replacement of a single roof with a metal one. These are generally more durable than shingles, and last the lifetime of the house. Shingle roofs need to be replaced every 20 years or so. When this time comes around, do not delay, but go for the well-insulated metal alternative.
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