Prepare for Disaster: How to Hurricane Proof Your House

Last year’s hurricane season was so bad that four of the 2017 names were retired due to catastrophic levels of damage. It was the most expensive season on record with more than $200 billion in damages, most of it flood-related.

From August through October the peak of hurricane season arrives, when both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are most likely to churn out storms. Even an “average” hurricane season produces six hurricanes, three of which are above Category 3.

With many storm-prone areas still recovering from last year, is your house ready to ride out a violent windstorm? Before you hunker down this year, make sure you know how to hurricane-proof your house.

Don’t Raise the Roof

While you can keep dancing anyway you like, make sure the roof of your house stays right where it is.

An unsecured roof is the first point of entry for storm rains and winds. Hurricanes often spawn tornadoes, so you want to make sure you have a hurricane and tornado proof roof. If wind finds an opening, it pushes against the house like a balloon and can weaken the structure from all sides.

Replace any loose or lost shingles with nails, not staples, and fix small holes with roofing cement. Check the roof’s sheathing for weak spots. The sheathing helps absorb the force of winds and move it down to the foundation.

Get up in your attic and add roof straps and retrofit clips. These help keep the rafters attached to load-bearing walls. Apply adhesive with a caulk gun to both sides of the rafters. Truss bracing is also important for homes with gabled roofs.

If you’re replacing your roof anyway, it’s the perfect time to add reinforcement. Go layer by layer to triple the effectiveness. Don’t skimp on quality here.

Using ring shank nails, affix the plywood roof deck. Special weather resistant tape helps seal the deck. Finish it off with hurricane-force rated shingles.

Don’t neglect flashing: Install a drip edge wherever the slope of the roof changes.

Evaluate your roof vents for breaches: Install deflectors and flashing where necessary, and replace old vents with stronger new ones if possible.

Secure Doors and Windows

Don’t invite a home disaster by leaving your doors and windows defenseless. The rains of a hurricane are forceful and travel sideways. The pressure from high winds can shoot water eight inches through a crack, where mold can fester.

Make sure all your doors and windows close properly. Check that deadbolts reach well within the strike plate. Doorways are potential gaping holes if the doors aren’t secure.

Install storm shutters, either prefab or slabs of 5/8 inch plywood. Fill gaps with caulk to reduce weak spots.

If you can replace your doors and windows, replace them. Newer doors are built to withstand higher winds, and newer windows use impact-resistant glass. Failure from old windows is one of the main causes of interior damage.

Make sure your garage door is up to the challenge. Garage doors, especially double car doors, are often the most vulnerable point of entry into the home. If the garage door flies off, the wind pressurizes the whole house and increases the risk of losing the roof.

Buy a windowless, single garage door rated to withstand pressure. If you can’t replace the door, install bracing. Kits are available that provide aluminum braces to attach through the header and mount to the floor.

Don’t Put Off Yard Work

Though it might seem menial in the face of a hurricane, cleaning up your yard can minimize damage from debris and flooding. Any object can be a projectile if the wind is determined enough.

Bring in patio furniture and tools, and consider removing your satellite dish in the event of a severe hurricane. Secure equipment like A/C units and pool filters with angle brackets. If you have a shed, make sure it’s anchored to the ground.

Have your trees evaluated for disease every year or so. Trim the branches four feet off the roof to reduce weight and possible debris. Well-trimmed trees can be an added defense against strong winds.

If you’ve been meaning to clean your gutters, get it done now. Clean out debris and make sure there are no clogs. Clogged gutters can saturate your foundation and encourage flooding.

Check Your Coverage

It’s not a bad idea to become familiar with your insurance policies. Make sure your homeowner’s policy includes wind-related damage. Check if there’s a separate, higher hurricane deductible.

Do you have flood insurance? Does it cover structural damage and personal effects? If it doesn’t cover living expenses in the event of displacement, including room and board, increase your coverage.

How to Hurricane Proof Your House for Outages

Weathering the storm is only the beginning. Depending on the severity of damage, you can lose power for days or even months. Gas shortages also spike during natural disasters.

Having no A/C in places like Florida or Texas can be dangerous for members of the at-risk population. Consider getting a generator. Check the wattage against the appliances you consider a necessity.

Do a minor car tune-up. Check tire pressure, fluids, and fill up the gas. Don’t forget to buy gas for your generator. Figure 15 gallons per week.

Assemble an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, and water. Stock up on non-perishables, and get ready to revisit your youth with an abundance of peanut butter and jelly. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Locate your gas, electric, and water shut off valves. The aftermath of devastating storms is unpredictable. Identify your water main cut off valve, too.

Are You Prepared for Hurricane Season?

Now that you know how to hurricane-proof your house, do you feel prepared for the next big storm? Or do you have a list of things to get done now? This year’s hurricane season is already off to a busy start.

If you find yourself in need of repairs after a storm hits, contact us. We’ve got experience cleaning up after the big ones. We’ll help turn your house back into a home again as quickly as possible.