insurance

11 ways to avoid hurricane damage

The tremendous power of a hurricane can turn a home inside out and leave it in ruins. But you can minimize the potential for damage, cut the cost of your home insurance now and save on repairs later with the help of many readily available home improvement products.

And you want to get to work before it's too late.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is predicting eight to 13 named storms during the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. Three to six of those storms could become hurricanes, including one or two major hurricanes with winds in excess of 110 mph.

Bracing your home for what the season might bring doesn't have to be expensive.

"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," says Claire Wilkinson, a blogger for the trade group the Insurance Information Institute

Top products for storm protection

  • Plywood.
  • Fabric panels.
  • Hurricane straps.
  • Flood barriers.
  • Storm panels.
  • Roll-down hurricane shutters.
  • Colonial shutters.
  • Accordion shutters.
  • Bahama shutters.
  • Garage door braces.
  • Hurricane glass.

"There are a lot of things you can do (to your home) that are meaningful, affordable and make a difference," adds Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH.

Here are several ways to avoid costly hurricane damage.

Plywood

A sheet of plywood and a handful of nails have stood out 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.

  • Cost: Material costs vary by location and season, but a 4-by-8-foot sheet of 5/8-inch plywood typically runs $20 to $30. Depending on home size and number of windows, total material costs could run $275 to $750.
  • Effect on insurance: None.
  • Pros: Plywood is very effective for protecting from flying debris, and it's easy for "do-it-yourselfers." You can find the materials 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. Installation may involve drilling holes in siding and bricks. Once windows are boarded, the home becomes very dark.

Fabric panels

Polymer-based, hurricane-strength fabric panels add trampoline-like cushion to windows and doors and repel flying debris without sacrificing visibility in a storm. Panels are anchored to the edges of windows and doorways with grommets and wing nuts or clips and pins, making them easy to install.

  • Cost: Approximately $5 to $15 per square foot.
  • Effect on insurance: None.
  • Pros: The panels can easily be installed and removed, then rolled up and stored in a compact space. Most are translucent and allow for visibility through windows.
  • Cons: Professional installation is normally required.
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