Home Repair and Weatherization: Critical to a Growing Philadelphia

By Rocky Font-Soloway

Our Weatherization and Home Repair Program (WHRP) reached its latest milestone in January, completing its second round of projects in North Philadelphia!  And what exactly is the WHRP, you might ask?  It’s all in the name!  This is a unique program of Habitat Philadelphia that works with homeowners to make their homes more energy-efficient through weatherization practices, and to complete home repairs that are critical for the maintenance and longevity of the home.

WHRP projects take far less time and money than building a house from scratch, so the program expands the Habitat family to new communities beyond our traditional homeownership program.  As in the larger Habitat model, families partnering with WHRP pay for improvements through low- or no-interest loans, and put in sweat equity hours on the project with volunteers and staff.  Through this, partner families learn about general home maintenance skills and weatherization techniques.

Our second round of projects served 15 families in North Philadelphia, and after completing the work we conducted energy audits on every home.  An energy audit is a set of tests on a building that measure its overall energy efficiency—a comprehensive snapshot of its efficiency.  We audit each home before we start work, then again when we finish, and we can compare the results to determine how successful we’ve been in increasing the overall efficiency of the home.  We look for tightly sealed doors and windows, gas lines that don’t leak, a warmer second floor (as a result of better attic insulation), and up-to-date and properly functioning furnaces and hot water heaters. And after a few months, we check in with homeowners again about the changes in their utility bills to see just how much money they are saving every month.  We’ve already seen great results—an average 24% increase in efficiency!  That’s a huge leap, and something to be proud of!

But why does it really matter?  Weatherization is a hot topic these days—we’re all working to save our environment through green, energy-saving practices.  Home weatherization can also save a significant amount of money by decreasing utility usage (i.e. gas/oil, electric, and water).  Here are some of the standard improvements we make to home utility systems:

-replacing old light bulbs with CFL bulbs

-installing rubber gaskets around doors and windows to stop air drafts

-cleaning out and air-sealing vents to help hot air travel through the house more efficiently

-installing low-flow shower-heads and faucet aerators that decrease water volume but maintain water pressure

-increasing/improving insulation

…and the list goes on!  Another common WHRP project is basement wall “parging”.  If the inside walls of a basement are disintegrating because of moisture and age (as so many basement walls in Philadelphia are), we can slather the walls with mortar and apply a water-proof paint on top.

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Drexel University’s Habitat Campus Chapter parging the basement walls.

Wheatherization and Home Repair Work

Sharon parging her basement–next comes water-proof paint.

This reinforces the walls and impedes moisture, giving homeowners a dryer, longer-lasting, and ultimately healthier basement.  In this last group of projects, we had a number of very successful volunteer workdays parging with homeowners in their basements (and getting very messy with mortar!).

Critical home repairs are another huge part of WHRP.  This where the more advanced construction skills come into play, and we’re very lucky to work with skilled volunteers who come out to help.  On our most recent projects we replaced several old, drafty or broken windows with new vinyl double-paned windows with help from Tom Macintosh, a volunteer and former AmeriCorps member at Habitat who got lots of practice installing windows during his two years of service with us.

We also invite volunteer teams to help with repair projects!  We recently replaced an old concrete patio in a homeowner’s backyard, which was pitched toward the house and funneled water into the basement during storms. We got out the pickaxes and sledgehammers, tore up the concrete, and replaced it with an appropriately graded concrete slab and drain.

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Volunteer Paul and Homeowner Eric taking charge of the demolition!

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Freshly-poured cement! It’s a beautiful thing.

The finished product:  a new patio that drains water away from the house and helps the basement stay dry!

The finished product: a new patio guides rainwater away from the house and helps the basement stay dry!

It was a fantastic volunteer-powered project—a few days of hard work made a huge difference, and the homeowner was thrilled to finally have a dry basement!

Finally, WHRP updates and installs new safety equipment throughout the houses we work on.  These include smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor and a kitchen fire extinguisher.  We also conduct a radon test and a lead paint test (if needed) to ensure that the homeowner is aware of any hazardous materials in their home.  Besides reducing utility bills and making repairs, it’s crucial that families stay (and feel) safe in their homes.

As per the usual fast-paced Habitat schedule, we’re already accepting applications from homeowners for our next round of projects this Spring!  Keep WHRP in mind as you’re looking for volunteer days, and please contact us directly at WHRP@habitatphiladelphia.org if you are skilled in electrical, plumbing, masonry, roofing, or carpentry work.  We look forward to seeing you!

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About Habitat Philadelphia

Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia is an independently chartered affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), the largest nonprofit homebuilder worldwide. Locally, Habitat Philadelphia is on a mission to transform lives and our city by building and repairing quality homes in partnership with families in need, and uniting all Philadelphians around the cause of affordable housing. Our Vision is a city where all Philadelphians live in safe, affordable homes.
This entry was posted in Habitat Families, Sustainability, Weatherization/Home Repair and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Home Repair and Weatherization: Critical to a Growing Philadelphia

  1. Desiree Ganier says:

    How can I apply for help. I need heater help. Please call contact me

  2. Carol Bailey says:

    I am low income and on disability I am struggling to stay in my own home my hot water heater has started leaking and I can’t afford a new one seeking help!

  3. Tawanna says:

    Hello,

    I’m a purchasing my first home, I wanted to know how do I get into Habitat’s Weatherization Program?

  4. Tawanna says:

    I called several times and left messages and no one has contacted me back yet.

  5. Hi Tawanna, we respond to all messages as quickly as we can, but it can sometimes take time because of the high number that we receive. Please give us a name/number that we can use to contact you so that we can make sure we get back to you ASAP.

  6. Apply to get help with my home

  7. Shenika Ayala says:

    Hi, I am interested in information on how to get assistance on repairing my home. I am a mother of 4 and could use some help on my exterior and interior of my home In my basement due to water damage and mold now growing. Please contact me if you would be able to help.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Hi habits for humanity, our basement is in need of you our home was in a explosions in 2003 and it was not enough insurance money to fix our basement, the wall are bare with mold, the sewage pipe is not all the way in the ground, electric sockets are not covered, I’m renting this h ok me from my mother and she is 86 and is on a fixed income she does not have the money to fix this house and neither do i, can you help us re finished our basement, we really need your help,

  9. sandra says:

    HI I would like to know if somebody can help me get my main roof repair i had my roof done in 2010 and my roof starting leaking in 2014 I had to take the company to small claim court ,the company did not respond the court entered a money judgment in my favor.I had to go to the office of the sheriff to file a writ of execution procedures, to this day I have not received any money or have my roof repaired and the roofing companies that come out say difference amounts .I don’t know who to trust. Please can somebody help me to find somebody I can trust .I am disable

    • Hi Sandra,

      Thanks for the message. Can you please let us know where you found the blog? Also, you can call us at 215 765 6000 x18 for more information about our Home Repair program and to learn about the application process.

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