It's hard to protect a home from a monster Category 5 hurricane, but many readily available products can reduce or minimize the impact and save homeowners big bucks in repairs and home insurance premiums.
The peace of mind that can result is priceless.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, predicts the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, will spawn nine to 15 hurricanes -- one to three of them major.
"Forecasts of an average season should not lead to complacency," says Claire Wilkinson, vice president for global issues at the Insurance Information Institute. "An average hurricane season was also forecast in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew caused more than $23 billion in property losses.
"While many products don't cost much money, they can have a major impact on the ability to withstand a hurricane and in many cases, offer opportunities for discounts from your insurance carrier. Homeowners may get discounts for things such as hurricane shutters, various types of roof coverings and the way the roof is attached to the structure."
Retrofitting your home against hurricane damage can be an expensive project, says Wilkinson, but you can do it in stages. "Insurance companies may offer discounts for retrofitting which can help offset the cost."
"There are a lot of things you can do (to your home) that are meaningful, affordable and make a difference," says Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. "Homeowners should select products that are tested and approved." As the market for hurricane protection products has exploded, she adds, so has a wealth of products that claim to protect but which don't really perform.
Here are several ways to avoid hurricane costs.
Top products for storm protection
- Fabric panels.
- Hurricane straps.
- Flood barriers.
- Storm panels.
- Roll-down hurricane shutters.
- Colonial shutters.
- Accordion shutters.
- Bahama shutters.
- Garage door braces.
- Hurricane glass.
A sheet of plywood and a handful of nails have stood the test of time as one of the most popular ways to prepare for a storm. Homeowners typically "board up" a day or two before and attach 5/8-inch or 1/2-inch plywood to the windows of their homes. Those in hurricane zones who plan ahead often measure their windows and cut and label their wood beforehand so that they don't have to scramble for materials at the last minute. Plywood can be secured to the home with nails, screws or specialty anchor bolts and clips.
Cost: Material costs vary by location and season but a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of 5/8-inch plywood typically runs $15 to $20 in most home improvement stores. Depending on home size and number of windows, total material costs could be around $200 to $500.
Effect on insurance: None.
Pros: Very effective in protecting from flying debris and easy for "do-it-yourselfers." Materials are easily obtained at any home improvement store. Plywood is relatively inexpensive and, if stored properly, can be used from season to season.
Cons: Working with plywood can be time-consuming and may require a helping hand for those with two-story homes. Installing may require drilling holes in siding and bricks. Once windows are boarded, the home becomes very dark.
Adding some cushion and visibility to window protection, hurricane-strength fabric panels are polymer-based shutters that act much like trampolines, repelling debris from the windows. With a gap between the windows and the panels, they don't rely on rigidity but on flexibility. The panels are anchored to the edges of the windows and doorways with grommets and wing nuts and are put up just before a storm.
Cost: Approximately $12 to $15 per square foot.
Effect on insurance: None.
Pros: Can be rolled up and stored in a small area and can be easily deployed and removed. Most are translucent and allow for visibility through windows.
Cons: Professional installation is normally required. Permanent grommets must be installed in brick or siding.