While the Israeli winter is certainly not as harsh and stormy as in Europe or North America, property owners should still carry out a series of precautionary measures in October to prevent water damage and other unpleasant issues come January. These preparations are especially important for those who own private homes or penthouses. Beyond protecting your property from the upcoming rains, find out how to keep your garden green and thriving throughout the winter. Buyitinisrael has spoken to leading professionals in the field to get you the top tips on how to prepare your home and garden for the winter.
Israel’s rainy season, which usually begins around December, can lead to a variety of issues related to sealing, drainage, and garden maintenance, especially for those who own private homes and penthouses. Although the Israeli winter doesn’t compare with the harsh, cold, stormy winters of Europe and North America, that also means that local construction methods often fail to take into account the potential toll that this season of rain in Israel can take on homes in Israel.
In conversations with leading professionals, we put together a checklist of essential precautionary measures that every homeowner should know in order to enjoy a dry, warm, and cozy winter. When it comes to sealing work, issues must be taken care of in October, before the rains begin, because once moisture has already seeped into the roof or walls, it is too late to deal with them until the following fall.
1. Make sure your roof is properly sealed
Let’s start from the top — the roof. “When it comes to apartment buildings or shared homes in Israel, I recommend that one of the tenants go up to the roof to do a visual scan for cracks in the sealant before the rain season begins,” says Eran Sib, Chairman of the Association of Renovation Contractors. “Even an untrained eye can easily identify these issues. You should also check for cracks in the bituminous sheets – the sheets that are designed to seal the roof. If there are tiles or shingles on the roof, make sure that the sealing material between them isn’t crumbling.”
In the event that there are issues with the sealing, consult with a professional roofing or sealing expert. According to Barbara Berzin, founder of the Barbara Berzin Interior Design School, “As with any renovation job, it is important to enlist the help of first-rate professionals. Even if you’re using top quality materials, if you don’t have professional experience, it’s just a waste of energy and money. Remember that water is sneaky and elusive; it goes in one place and comes out from another!”
According to Berzin, sealing the roof costs approximately NIS 105 per square meter, and it usually comes with a 10-year warranty. “People tend to forget that Israel sits on the Syrian-African Rift. The underground plates are always shifting, and even if we can’t see the effects of these movements with the naked eye, the buildings definitely feel them. The seams begin to crack and crumble, and ultimately they fall apart all together. A quick inspection each year can save us from a disaster in the future.”
2. Keep your gutters clean
Especially when it comes to private homes and penthouse apartments, Sib emphasizes the importance of cleaning gutters at the beginning of each winter. “Sometimes, leaves and dirt get stuck in the gutter, blocking the passage of the water, which ultimately causes flooding on the roof. Clean away the dirt, and then pour water into the gutter to make sure it drains properly. If there is a blockage in an area of the gutter that cannot be reached without special tools, call a plumber.”
Penthouse owners in Israel should make sure that there are no objects on the rooftop or balcony that could fly away in strong winds, such as empty pools, flower pots, or planters. You should also double check that your solar water heaters are securely connected to the roof.
3. Protect walls from moisture damage
Building walls are also susceptible to damage from rain and moisture. According to Berzin, south and west facing walls are particularly prone to issues in Israel, as they absorb the most direct rain. “If you have large windows or doors in your home, there is a good chance that the water will leak through these openings. Apply sealants every year to the openings, and make sure your awnings are in good condition in order to help protect your home from heavy rain.”
According to Sib, it is important to scan all interior walls for signs of moisture damage caused by the previous winter’s rain, and then the corresponding exterior wall should be properly sealed. “However, it is not always simple to find the crack in the exterior wall that caused moisture damage on the interior wall because the external crack is often nowhere near where the issues appear indoors.”
“There are some walls that are not naturally water-resistant. They can be treated using materials called ‘sealers’, a liquid substance that can be sprayed on or applied with a brush. Sealers are absorbed into the wall, sealing it from water. You must also clean the tracks of sliding doors and windows, as well as the drainage openings from the tracks, in order to ensure that rainwater does not accumulate in them and begin to seep into your home.”
4. Keep your garden green and safe
In addition to the actual building, your garden and yard also need maintenance work in preparation for the rain season in Israel. According to gardener Dudu Goldfarb, one of the best ways to keep your garden green all winter is “winter sowing,” which is actually done in October-November. Winter sowing “infuses new blood” into the lawn by adding fresh green grass seeds that will give your grass a boost for the upcoming months, when most of the grasses used in Israel turn yellow.
Goldfarb also recommends an intensive pruning of the entire garden in October. “Israeli vegetation requires a process of regeneration. Large trees and small shrubs all enter the winter weak and depleted from a hot, dry summer. Deep pruning gives the plants the opportunity to renew themselves, trimming them down in order for them to grow in a healthier and stronger manner.” He also recommends turning and cultivating the soil after each major garden treatment.
Remember to update any automatic irrigation systems in your garden, reducing the water consumption by 50% during the winter months. From the end of October, you can give your garden a splash of color and utilize rainwater by planting seasonal flowers, such as petunias, impatiens, and angelonia.
Sib reminds private homeowners in Israel to check the safety of their electrical enclosure, if it is located in the yard, before the rain starts. “Make sure the cabinet is adequately covered and that there are no trees located nearby. If there are, prune large branches that may cause damage. If the tree is old and at risk of falling down, it is better to cut it down proactively so it does not fall on the electrical cabinet during a storm.”