insurance

11 ways to avoid hurricane damage

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.

  • 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 easy to install on new homes.
  • Cons: Retrofitting straps on an existing home can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

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.

  • Cost: The price 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: Barriers are effective in preventing minor floodwaters from entering the home. Some products are easy to install and can be deployed just before a storm.
  • Cons: The products can be expensive and time-consuming to deploy, and they're ineffective if floodwaters rise above the height of the barrier.

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.

  • 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 deployed quickly before a storm and removed quickly afterward.
  • Cons: Panels require a large space for storage. They can be difficult to install, depending on the size of windows and number of stories on your home, and you may need extra help. 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 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.

  • 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 the NOAA.
  • Effect on insurance: Can be significant depending on state and carrier.
  • Pros: The shutters are easily raised and lowered. They also can be used to temporarily darken a ro.
  • Cons: They're prohibitively expensive for most homeowners and usually require professional installation. Push-button systems need a battery backup or manual override for use during a power outage.

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.

  • Cost: The price varies by manufacturer, approximately $150 to $175 per garage door brace.
  • Effect on insurance: Possible discount depending on state and carrier.
  • Pros: Braces are effective and relatively inexpensive.
  • Cons: They 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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