It is more important than ever to take steps to try to hurricane proof your home and, if possible, to do it well before there is any imminent storm threat.
If you own or are planning to build a home along the South Coast of Massachusetts or Rhode Island, you probably know how vulnerable coastal properties are to hurricanes, tropical depressions, and tropical storms. These three severe weather patterns fall under the storm category of “tropical cyclone” because they originate over tropical waters and move in a cyclone-like shape. The strong winds, torrential rains, and storm surges that often accompany these cyclones can leave massive property damage in their wake. Even if you own a home that’s miles inland from the New England coastline, your property is still at risk because storms like these are hitting our area with increased frequency, breadth, and intensity.
How can you prepare your home for the possibility of a hurricane or other tropical cyclone?
By focusing on the following five at-risk areas of your home, you may be able to better fortify your coastal property against hurricanes, tropical depressions, tropical storms, and other severe weather events:
- Reinforce the roof. Since storms with winds under 50 miles per hour have been known to blow roofs sheer off homes, you can imagine the damage that a hurricane, which is categorized by winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, could do to this fundamentally important part of your house. For the most durable roof, coastal homeowners may want to select a metal material such as tin, steel, aluminum, copper, or zinc, or you may want to opt for architectural shingles, which are substantially thicker than traditional asphalt shingles. If you already have a roof made of one of these types of materials, or want to retrofit an existing roof, you may be able to increase the strength of the roof-to-house connection with steel hurricane clips or spray-applied polyurethane foam.
- Protect the windows. When a storm breaks a window in your home, it is more than just a dangerous injury risk. It can also leave your house completely exposed to wind, rain, and flying debris. Getting hurricane-impact-resistant windows throughout your home may offer the best protection. In addition, unlike storm shutters or plywood panels, you won’t have to take the time to put them up if a storm is on the horizon or take them down after the weather passes. However, if purchasing all new windows is too large of an investment, you may want to consider Bahama awnings, accordion hurricane shutters, or motorized roll-downs, which are less expensive options but can be deployed in a matter of seconds rather than hours.
- Strengthen garage doors. Your garage is one of the largest and most vulnerable openings in your home. It’s often the “way in” for a hurricane’s gale-force winds and torrential rains. As with your windows, you may want to shore up your garage by investing in a permanent, never-have-to-think-about-it-again solution—hurricane-proof doors. Then, your garage will always be storm-ready, 365 days a year. Another typically less expensive but temporary option is garage door braces, which secure a horizontally seamed door to the garage floor and ceiling. If you go this route, though, you’ll need to have time to put the braces on before a storm hits and then remove them when the storm is over so you can use the garage door as normal.
- Tend to the trees. Staying on top of yard maintenance all year round, including keeping gutters clear of leaves and debris, pruning trees and bushes, and cutting down weak branches and trees, is a good start. However, this may not be enough care to minimize the risk of a tree falling in your yard during a hurricane or other tropical cyclone. You may want to consult your local landscaping expert or certified arborist to assess whether the types of trees and shrubbery around your home are the best choices for standing up to strong winds and other severe storm elements. If you do add trees and other plants to your landscape, make sure they are an appropriate distance from your home, power lines, and other structures on your property, and plant them in groupings, which can greatly enhance wind resistance.
- Seal up holes. Your house may seem like a fortress, but really, there are weaknesses in its armor everywhere. Wherever a pipe or cable or other electrical wire comes into the side of a house, a hole has been punched through the exterior wall. These spaces are the ideal spot for one of a homeowner’s biggest enemies—water—to find its way into the house. To help minimize the likelihood that a hurricane’s heavy rains will penetrate your home, it is recommended that you use a high-quality urethane-based caulk to seal all outside wall openings, including vents, outdoor electrical outlets, garden hose bibs, and any other locations where cables or pipes go through the wall.
Some of these hurricane-proofing steps are simple and inexpensive. Other changes may require more of an expenditure of time and money. However, the peace of mind it will probably provide you with—and the heartache it could save you and your family from—may be priceless.
In addition, several insurance companies offer a significant discount off your annual insurance premium if you implement home improvements that may minimize hurricane damage, such as making your roof more resistant to volatile winds. To find out more about these potential savings, feel free to give HIG a call.
Taking time to review your coastal home insurance policy is also smart hurricane prep
The Atlantic hurricane season may stretch from June 1 to November 30, but that doesn’t mean a harsh storm can’t hit before or after this time frame. In fact, many signs point to ongoing above-normal hurricane and tropical storm activity for the foreseeable future. So, there’s no time like the present to evaluate not only if your home is prepared to withstand fierce weather, but also if your home insurance policy includes adequate storm damage coverage.
It is essential to have both your coastal home and flood insurance policies reviewed annually by a local insurance professional, like HIG, who is not only experienced and knowledgeable but also very familiar with the area you live in and its unique risks. Because of the increased threat of storm damage, we often recommend to our coastal property owners that they secure a homeowners policy with higher limits than are included in the standard home insurance or guaranteed replacement cost coverage that typically helps pay for the cost of rebuilding your house if it’s a total loss due to a hurricane or other severe storm.
At HIG, we are here to help our clients take steps to better prepare and protect their home and, by doing so, hopefully remove some of the stress they may feel about safeguarding one of their most important investments.