Hurricanes cause millions of dollars in property damage every year. While even the most well-built homes might not be able to stand up to the strongest of tropical storms, there’s plenty you can do to protect your property from natural disasters.
When it comes to hurricanes, the biggest risk factors are wind, rain and flooding. Wind is the big one, here — category 5 storms can have gusts over 160 mph. If you live in a storm-prone area in the U.S., local building codes require structures to be able to withstand wind speeds up to 180 mph.
Your home’s most susceptible spots are the windows and roof. Taking care to protect these parts of your home and looking after the safety of your family is your top priority during hurricane season.
1. Get A Roof Inspection
Your roof is one of the most vulnerable spots on your home. Just a single loose shingle or crack in the surface can let gallons of water into your home during a storm. One little weak point can let the wind in your home and cause massive structural damage. Ideally, you should get your roof inspected once per year.
2. Secure Loose Roof Shingles
Shingles could be the first thing to fly away when your home starts getting hit by heavy winds. You can use roofing cement, available at home improvement stores, to glue down the loose shingles. Roofing cement can also be used to patch up any small holes or cracks you might find while inspecting your roof.
3. Look Into Hurricane Straps
Hurricane straps are galvanized steel supports that help secure your roof to the frame of your house. Most newly constructed homes in hurricane-prone areas will already have these installed, but if you live in an older home, you may not have them.
If you find out that your roof doesn’t have hurricane straps, having them installed on an already built home is an expensive job. Shop around with some local contractors and determine if you think it’s worth the cost. Keep in mind that if you ever plan on selling your home, local codes might require you to have the straps installed.
4. Pay Attention To Your Landscaping
All those lovely trees around your house can become your worst nightmare during hurricane winds. Trees with limbs that hang over the roof of your home can shed leaves, pine needles and other debris onto your roof, clogging up your gutters and absorbing water. Another thing to pay attention to is the health of your trees. Dead, dying or diseased trees have dry, weak limbs that can snap off and become flying projectiles during storms.
5. Board Up Your Windows
Windows are your home’s biggest weakness during a hurricane. One of the dangers during hurricanes are flying objects and debris that can shatter your windows. That’s why protecting your windows is so important before the storm hits.
For a temporary fix, you can board up your windows with plywood. Take measurements of all your windows, from top to bottom and side to side. Once you’ve taken down all your measurements, head off to the hardware store. At the hardware store, ask for plywood that is at least ⅝ of an inch thick. That’s the minimum thickness you’ll need to protect your windows from flying debris.
If your windows are recessed, you won’t be able to nail the plywood into your walls. Instead, you’ll want to pick up some tension clips to secure the sides of the plywood to the inside of your window casings.
6. Install Hurricane Window Shutters
If you don’t want to board your windows up with plywood, you should consider investing in hurricane window shutters. These shutters can withstand high winds and debris and can be reused year after year. There are a few different types of window shutters, and each serves the same purpose.
Track shutters involve installing tracks along the top and bottom of your windows. The shutters slide into the tracks on either side and can be easily installed or removed as needed. Direct mount shutters are bolted directly into the side of the house. Accordion shutters are permanently installed on your home and can be opened and closed as needed. They also work over sliding glass doors. Rolling shutters are mounted above the window and can be rolled down to protect the pane as a storm approaches.
7. Secure Lawn Furniture and Other Outdoor Items
If you have outdoor chairs, tables or other lawn furniture, you’re going to want to protect those, too. Bringing them inside the house will not only keep them safe from the elements but doing so will also protect your home as these objects might become airborne and hit your house during high winds.
8. Prepare a “Safe Room” in Your Home
If you’re planning on weathering the storm in your home, it’s important to identify and prepare the optimal location in your home where your family can safely stay. Go with the most interior room in your home, with few or no windows. It could be a bathroom or a walk-in closet.
Stock this room with all the essentials:
• First aid kit
• Medication (if needed)
• Battery-operated fan
• Battery-operated radio
• Portable chargers and power packs to recharge devices
• Extra batteries
If you use something like a walk-in closet for your safe room, you can reinforce the room with extra plywood secured with anchor bolts for extra wind and impact protection.
9. Get Surge Protectors
When you prepare your home for hurricane season, you should also consider the safety of your belongings inside your home. Power surges happen frequently during heavy storms. Power surges can kill your favorite appliances like your air conditioner, refrigerator and television. Having surge protectors and power strips in your home will keep all your gadgets safe.
10. Get Flood Insurance
Most, if not all, homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover flood damage. While some of the damage that occurs during tropical storms might fall under your coverage policy, if you have a massive flood due to a storm surge, you could be out of luck. Look into flood insurance rates in your area. Water damage can cause thousands of dollars in damage, while a flood insurance policy might run you less than $1,000 per year.
Making sure your windows and roof are secure and removing any possible projectiles and debris from your property are good first steps in protecting your home from hurricanes. Use surge protectors and power strips to protect your appliances and have a designated safe room in your home if you decide not to evacuate. Having flood insurance can be a good idea if you live in a storm surge area.