Although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted a near-normal hurricane season for 2023, homeowners should still prepare. As of June, the NOAA anticipates between 12 and 17 named hurricanes, and up to four of these storms may have wind speeds of 111 mph or higher. It may be possible to predict when storms will hit, but it’s not as easy to estimate how much damage they can cause. While we can’t stop a storm from coming, Bankrate’s insurance editorial team can give you some tips on how to prevent hurricane damage to your home.


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11 ways to prepare your home for hurricane season

Here are 11 different ways to bolster your home in advance of this year’s hurricane season.

1. Board up windows with plywood before a storm is expected

A sheet of plywood and a handful of nails have stood out as one of the most popular ways to prepare for a hurricane. Homeowners typically “board up” a day or two before the storm is forecast to strike and attach 5/8-inch or 1/2-inch plywood to the windows of their homes. Plywood can help effectively reduce the impact of damage or even prevent damage from strong winds, heavy rain, hail and flying debris.

  • Cost: Material costs vary by location, season and type of wood, but a 4-by-8-foot sheet of 5/8-inch plywood typically runs from $10 to $50. Depending on home size and the number of windows, total material costs could run from $275 to $750. Although the national lumber shortage is easing and plywood prices have dropped, some areas of the country are still facing inventory issues, which is driving up the cost of wood.
  • Effect on home insurance: May help prevent damage that you’d need to file an insurance claim to repair.
  • Pros: Plywood is very effective for protection from flying debris and installation is relatively easy to do yourself. You can typically find the materials at any home improvement store. If stored properly, it 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 as daylight is blocked out.

2. Use fabric panels over windows and doors to deflect flying debris

Polymer-based, storm-strength fabric panels add trampoline-like cushions to windows and doors and repel flying debris without sacrificing visibility in a storm, which may help prevent damage from hurricanes. Panels are anchored to the edges of windows and doorways with grommets and wing nuts or clips and pins, making them fairly easy for a professional  to install.

  • Cost: Approximately $12 to $17 per square foot.
  • Effect on home insurance: Might help prevent claims-causing damage.
  • 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.

3. Anchor your roof with hurricane straps

Most homes are built to hold the roof up, not down. To account for the upward and lateral lifting forces of hurricane winds, builders can install hurricane straps, clips and anchor belts to n help keep a home’s roof intact, reducing hurricane effects. 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. However, if you choose to have hurricane straps retrofitted by a builder or roofing professional, it could cost upward of $1,000.
  • Effect on home insurance: Might generate significant savings depending on state regulations and your insurer. Some Florida home insurance providers may offer policyholders discounts for taking proactive steps to prevent hurricane damage.
  • 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.

4. Reduce the risk of flood damage with 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 cities and counties might 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 of hundred dollars up to tens of thousands of dollars to completely surround a home, depending on product and protection level. If you can’t get sandbags for free, you should expect to pay between $20 and $60 for a pack of 50 sandbags.
  • Effect on home insurance: May help prevent homeowners from filing a flood insurance-related claim.
  • Pros: Barriers can be  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.

5. Install storm panels to protect windows and doors from flying debris

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 generally run from $5 to $15 per foot of coverage.
  • Effect on home insurance: May result in significant savings depending on state regulations and your insurer.
  • 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 the number of stories your home has, and you may need extra help. Some shutters have sharp edges that may require extra caution during installation.

6. Invest in roll-down hurricane shutters

With the push of a button or the crank of a handle, roll-down hurricane shutters are easy 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 an easy and convenient way to protect your home, roll-down shutters are often a more expensive window defense option, averaging about $10 to $50 per square foot of window.
  • Effect on home insurance: Could yield a significant discount depending on state and carrier.
  • Pros: The shutters are easily raised and lowered. They also can be used to temporarily darken a room.
  • Cons: They’re prohibitively expensive for many homeowners and usually require professional installation. Push-button systems need a battery backup or manual override for use during a power outage.

7. Use a brace to secure your garage door in high winds

Your garage door is one of the areas 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, but garage door braces cost approximately $158 per brace. Keep in mind that if you have a multi-car garage, you will need to purchase one brace for each door. If you have a three-car garage, you can expect to pay about $500 total.
  • Effect on home insurance: Possible discount depending on state regulations and your insurer.
  • Pros: Braces are effective and relatively inexpensive.
  • Cons: They may require special tools such as a rotor hammer and masonry bit to drill into the concrete floor. The garage door cannot be opened without removing the brace.

8. Upgrade your windows with hurricane-impact 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.

  • Cost: Hurricane glass windows are not cheap, costing around $55 per square foot. On average, outfitting your windows with hurricane-impact glass costs about $8,000, but the price could be higher or lower depending on the installation company and the number of windows you have.
  • Effect on home insurance: Possible discount depending on state regulations and your insurer.
  • Pros: With hurricane glass, there is nothing to install or remove when a hurricane comes; it is always in place and is completely transparent. No shutters are needed. Hurricane windows also help block outside noise, protect against break-ins and filter out harmful UV rays.
  • Cons: The windows must be installed by a contractor, and the labor costs can be steep.

9. Install permanent accordion shutters around doors and windows

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.

  • Cost: Accordion shutters cost, on average, between $20 to $25 per square foot. The cost is typically higher for custom accordion shutters.
  • Effect on home insurance: Possible discount depending on state regulations and your insurer.
  • Pros: Accordion shutters are easily and quickly deployed in the event of a storm. They are permanently fixed to the house and do not require storage.
  • Cons: They may appear unattractive on some houses. The mechanisms that open and close the shutters may be weaker or break more often than with other products.

10. Add Bahama shutters for hurricane protection and curb appeal

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 the 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.

  • Cost: Most Bahama shutters cost between $20 to $50 per square foot. For each window, the average cost can range from $140 to $350.
  • Effect on home insurance: Possible discount depending on state regulations and your insurer.
  • Pros: Bahama shutters permanently attach to the home and can be quickly deployed. Made of aluminum, vinyl or wood, they can easily be painted to complement or match the home.
  • Cons: Almost permanently block full vision from windows and can make a home much darker. The amount of hurricane protection they offer can vary by style and manufacturer.

11. Outfit your windows with easy-to-install colonial shutters

As a traditional style of window protection, colonial shutters attach to the window’s sidewalls 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.

  • Cost: Colonial shutters run roughly $20 to $45 per square foot. However, the cost is largely dependent on the type of shutters. For example, wood shutters typically cost between $200 to $350 per window, whereas composite shutters are cheaper, at an average cost of around between $80 to $200 per window.
  • Effect on home insurance: Possible discount depending on state regulations and your insurer.
  • Pros: The shutters can easily be closed by one person. They can add decorative curb appeal to a home.
  • Cons: They must be permanently installed on a house, a process that can be expensive and time-consuming. Professional installation may be required.

Check your insurance policies

Insurance policies are designed to offer you financial protection for life’s unexpected events. And chances are, your car and your home are at the top of your most valuable asset list. However, hurricane damage can be a thorny area when it comes to insurance coverage. It may be a wise idea to review your home and auto insurance policies to see if they cover damage from hurricanes.

In general, car insurance covers hurricane damage if you have comprehensive and collision coverage on your vehicle. Whether or not home insurance covers hurricane damage can be a bit trickier; you may need to purchase a separate flood policy, and your hurricane-related claims could be subject to a different deductible. It may be beneficial to speak to a licensed insurance agent before hurricane season begins to shore up your policy.

The bottom line

Hurricanes have the potential to cause serious damage and destruction to homes in the path of the storm. The strongest storms may even reduce a home to rubble. While it’s impossible to completely avoid the potential damage from a hurricane, there are a variety of ways to protect your house and mitigate the effects of hurricanes and tropical storms. That said, being proactive is essential. Once a hurricane has formed, you typically won’t have much time to get your home prepared for what may come.