insurance

Get your home in shape for hurricane season

Beware of contractors who try to sell DIY products, warns Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and chief executive of FLASH. "Those are products that are cheap and can't get product approval," she says.

Consider looks, construction of coverings

Some coverings are permanent attachments to your home, such as accordion shutters and "clamshell" awnings. Accordion shutters rest folded and highly visible on both sides of your windows, while single-piece clamshell awnings fold down over your windows from above.

Removable hurricane panels sit in tracks at the top and bottom of window and door openings; only the tracks are permanently attached to the building.

If you live in a condo or a development with an active homeowners association, be aware that there may be rules about the type and color of storm shutters allowed. Check before outfitting your doors and windows.

Also, ask your local building department what's required of coverings in your state or region. Mirtrani says building codes in Florida, for example, require that hurricane products be able to withstand certain levels of impact by wind-borne debris. That means those products have to undergo impact tests to earn approval.

Once your new coverings are installed, take them for a trial run, suggests Tim Reinhold, IBHS chief engineer and senior vice president of research.

"Make sure you have all the parts and everything is sized and fits properly," he says.

Other property precautions

Before hurricanes start forming, do a spot-check from the attic down. FLASH recommends caulking holes in building exteriors and tightening or replacing loose and missing screws and brackets in windows and doors -- including garage doors. Also, be sure to clean out the gutters.

A few final preparation tips:

  • Don't tape windows. Placing those masking-tape Xs across your panes may feel comforting, but the National Hurricane Center says it's a waste of valuable time and won't keep your windows or glass doors from shattering.
  • Plan to evacuate a mobile home. Even if you have a newer manufactured home built to withstand higher wind speeds, Reinhold says there's too great a chance of damage from flying debris from older neighboring homes to risk staying.
  • Prepare for high-rise pressure changes. If you live in a high-rise building, be aware that potentially damaging wind pressures increase with height.
  • Batten down the patio/yard. Don't leave anything outside, including furniture, playthings and tools. Trim trees so branches won't bang against the house, and do it early enough so the trimmings can be hauled off before a hurricane. Otherwise, they could become projectiles in a major storm.
  • Gas up before the storm. Fill up your vehicles and emergency power generator well ahead of time to avoid last-minute lines at the pump.

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