Home Care at High Altitude

Altitude is, once again, not the factor that affects home care. It is the other factors which accompany high altitude – Cold, intense sunlight, wind, low humidity, and radical temperature shifts.

Taking those factors one at a time, I’ll cover some of the issues you’ll have to deal with:

Extreme cold means your home will need to be well insulated, and that drafts will have to be regularly sealed. Good storm windows are also a plus, in helping to lower heating bills. Since many high altitude areas are also fairly isolated, energy costs tend to be higher than average, so insulation can really pay for itself.

Intense sunlight causes carpets, drapes, and paint to fade and deteriorate more rapidly. Choosing paints that are more durable for the exterior, or good quality vinyl siding can help to reduce exterior damage. UV protective window glass can help to reduce damage to interior components.

Low humidity means that woods dry out more if left exposed. Damp rot is not a problem, but dry rot is, if attics and basements do not have good air circulation.

Wind can really do damage, both in the short term during a hard storm, and over the long term as it just gradually worries something to bits. T-Lock roofing shingles hold together in winds better than Three Tab shingles, but if they are placed on wrong, you can lose a lot of your roofing all at once! If the shingles do not seal down well, they’ll break in the next wind storm also.

Gutters need to be anchored on well, or they will shift and come loose in high winds. Drafts need to be sealed, because otherwise they will allow winds in, and they will open your home to far more dust than you’d have thought possible to have enter through tiny cracks. Wind chimes and other movable decorations should never be placed near windows, because strong winds can push them right through glass. If windows face the wind, stronger glass is needed on larger windows.

High altitude temperatures tend to fluctuate a greater amount during the day – 40 to 60 degrees is not that unusual. This means that driveways, roofs, windows, and other materials will expand and contract a great deal just during a single day. Summers also can be pretty hot, and winters extremely cold, so expansion and contraction seasonally is also greater than usual. That places extra wear on some materials, and results in rapid damage if cracks occur. If water seeps into existing cracks, that will also expand during freezing, and widen cracks even more. You can start out with a tiny leak in the roof, and end up with a waterfall within just a short time, or start with a little crack in the driveway, which expands to a chasm. Basement walls will also experience some damage from pressure from the surrounding soil due to temperature changes.

Because of the expansion and contraction, and the dry air, roofing tar turns solid and cracks more rapidly than elsewhere. Patching leaks with tar is not very effective. Mobile home roofs do best with white elasomeric roof coating – it is easier to put on if the weather is cool as well. The best help we have found for troublesome roofs is rubberized adhesive flashing – sometimes called Ice Dam, or Leak Barrier. It will last upwards of 5 years, even if it is in a surface area. It flexes in the wind, and does not crack or tear from ice build up or the expansion and contraction from freezing and thawing water.

Mostly, you just have to be aware that in a harsh climate, damage can worsen rather quickly. So make repairs when things first show a sign of loosening or other potential damage. If you ignore them, they not only won’t get better, they can cause further damage that is avoidable.