insurance

11 ways to avoid hurricane costs

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 from blowing off. In a correct setup, galvanized straps securely attach the roof to the walls and the foundation, creating a rigid support system and continuous load path where the roof is tied into the entire house.

  • Cost: Inexpensive hurricane straps sell for as little as 50 cents apiece, usually by the box or in coils. A typical home could require hundreds of straps.
  • Effect on insurance: Can be significant depending on state and carrier.
  • Pros: When installed properly on a new home, hurricane straps drastically reduce the threat of roof failure in high winds. They are cheap and easy to install, as homes are being built and are increasingly required under building code for new construction in many coastal areas.
  • Cons: These can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive to retrofit on an existing home.

Flood barriers

Flooding remains one of the most destructive elements of a hurricane. While there is little a homeowner can do to prepare for a 20-foot storm surge on the coast, there are 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 would take hundreds of sandbags and lots of help to completely surround a home. Flood barriers on the market include powder-filled absorbent DoorDams, water-filled tubes, expanding bags and portable walls that can be quickly deployed in the event of a flood. It could be quite expensive to entirely surround a home and protect against a few feet of floodwater, but there are some products on the market and companies that do exactly that.

  • Cost: This varies from a couple hundred dollars up to tens of thousands of dollars to completely surround a home, depending on product and protection level.
  • Effect on insurance: None.
  • Pros: It is effective in preventing minor floodwaters from entering the home. Some products are easy to install and can be deployed just before a storm.
  • Cons: Products can be expensive and time-consuming to deploy and will be ineffective if floodwaters enter the home through other locations or rise above the height of the barrier.

Storm panels

Corrugated steel or aluminum shutters bolted over your windows may not look like it, but they 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. With prefitted panels and tracks permanently installed around the house, the shutters can be attached quickly and easily when a storm is approaching.

  • Cost: Prices for steel or aluminum storm panels run from $7 to $15 per foot of coverage.
  • Effect on insurance: Can be significant depending on state and carrier.
  • Pros: One of the most inexpensive permanent shutter systems, the panels are strong and can protect from almost any flying debris. Can be quickly deployed and removed before and after a storm.
  • Cons: These require a large spot for storage somewhere in the house or property. Depending on size of windows and stories on home, these can be difficult to install and may require more than one person. Some shutters have sharp edges.

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 in the event of a storm. Made of double-walled aluminum slats that interlock, these shutters 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 and require professional installation.

  • Cost: While they are the easiest and most convenient way to protect your home, roll-down shutters also are the most expensive window defense option, averaging $20 to $35 per square foot of window, according to NOAA.
  • Effect on insurance: Can be significant depending on state and carrier.
  • Pros: Easily raised and lowered with a crank handle or the push of a button. They also have an insulating factor and can serve other purposes besides wind protection.
  • Cons: Prohibitively expensive for most average homeowners. Push-button systems need a battery backup or manual override for use during a power outage. Usually require professional installation.

Garage door braces

Your garage door is one of the most vulnerable parts of your home to high wind. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, identified compromised garages as one of four major factors in homes damaged by Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that slammed into South Florida in 1992. And, FLASH reports that 80 percent of residential wind damage starts with entry through the garage door. Failure of a garage door can allow the full force of hurricane winds to enter the home and 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.

  • Cost: Varies per manufacturer, approximately $150 to $175 per garage door brace.
  • Effect on insurance: Possible discount depending on state and carrier.
  • Pros: Effective and easy-to-brace door once initial installation is performed. Braces are relatively inexpensive. Do-it-yourselfers often make their own from some metal braces and a 4-foot by 4-foot piece of lumber.
  • Cons: May require special tools such as a rotor hammer and masonry bit to drill into concrete floor. Garage door cannot be opened without removing the brace.
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