June 3, 2014 in 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.

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.

Hurricane straps

Most homes are built to hold the roof up, not down. To correct for the upward and lateral lifting forces of hurricane winds, builders install hurricane straps, clips and anchor belts, which can help keep a home’s roof intact. In a correct setup, galvanized straps securely attached to the walls and foundation keep the roof tied into the entire house.

Flood barriers

While there is little a homeowner can do to prepare for a hurricane’s 20-foot storm surge on the coast, there are several products that can help protect inland residents from minor flooding. Sandbags remain the least expensive option (many counties give them away for free), but they are heavy and it takes hundreds of bags and lots of help to make a solid barrier around a home. Other types of flood barriers include powder-filled absorbent door dams, water-filled tubes, expanding bags and portable walls that can be quickly deployed in the event of a flood.

Storm panels

Corrugated steel or aluminum shutters bolted over your windows and doors are one of the best ways to protect a home from flying debris. Storm panels vary in thickness and attach to window exteriors with a system of tracks and bolts. When tracks are installed permanently around the house, the shutters can be attached quickly and easily when a storm is approaching.

Roll-down hurricane shutters

With the push of a button or the crank of a handle, roll-down hurricane shutters are the easiest home protectors to deploy before a storm. The shutters are typically made of double-walled aluminum slats that interlock, and they roll up into a narrow box that sits above the window or doorway. Available in all sizes and colors, they are usually custom-fitted to your home.

Garage door braces

Your garage door is one of the parts of your home most vulnerable to high wind. Failure of a garage door can allow the full force of a hurricane to threaten the roof or walls. While some newer garage doors are rated for winds of up to 150 mph, many older ones should be braced. Vertical bracing systems are typically made of aluminum and are anchored above the garage door and to the floor to provide a backbone of extra support.

Hurricane glass

Want to skip the hassle and closed-in feeling of shutters altogether? Consider installing hurricane-impact windows. The glass is usually 3/8-inch thick and features a film coating similar to the safety glass used in vehicle windshields. If the windows crack or are smashed, the glass will stay embedded in the frame.

Accordion shutters

Housed on the sides of doors or windows when not in use, these retractable aluminum shutters unfold like an accordion to protect your home’s openings during a storm. The shutters can provide protection against not only wind but also forced entry. They are usually available in a variety of colors.

Bahama shutters

Bahama shutters are hinged at the top of the window and angle outward from the wall with the help of telescoping arms. The support arms typically are adjustable from 60- to 90-degree angles. The shutters protect against wind while providing light, ventilation and privacy control in everyday use. They often are used in sunny and coastal environments and can give a home a distinct, tropical appearance.

Colonial shutters

As a traditional style of window protection, colonial shutters attach to the window’s side walls and fold inward to close. Permanently fixed to the window frame and held open by a clip system, they can quickly and easily be closed and secured with a brace bar when a storm approaches.