How To Prepare the Exterior of Your Home for a Hurricane
If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, you’re all too familiar with the national weather warnings that pop up on cell phones and TV screens before one hits the shore.
Staying informed on the weather is critical when you live to keep your family safe from potentially dangerous storms.
It shouldn’t stop there, though. You also have to decide whether or not to evacuate your home. And you can’t take your home with you, so it’s extremely important to give our home the best protection from a hurricane to ensure the least amount of damage.
There are plenty of things you can do to prepare the inside of your house, like safeguarding electronics and installing heavy-duty bolts, but the exterior of the home is the first line of defense against a powerful storm and should have the most protection.
Starting the preparation process as soon as possible is crucial because it doesn’t take a long time for a hurricane to hit land.
You could have some significant repairs or replacements to do to fully protect the home that aren’t able to be done in a matter of days, leaving your home exposed to the torrential downpour and dangerous winds.
Before you go through the preparation checklist, consider the risks that come with leaving your home vulnerable to hurricanes.
Know the Risks
Failing to prepare the exterior of your home for a hurricane can have disastrous consequences.
On top of the danger to your family, you could be facing significant water and structural damage that takes thousands of dollars and hours of labor to repair without proper preparations.
Luckily, there are five steps you can take to make sure the outside of your home is as protected as possible from a hurricane.
Check The Roof
The roof is very vulnerable to the onslaught of a hurricane so it should be the first thing you check when preparing for one. Make sure all of the shingles are solid and secured to the roof and make any repairs or replacements as needed. If they feel brittle or loose, they need to be replaced.
Many homeowners install metal roof straps, or hurricane straps, to provide significant protection from the intense weather. These connectors strengthen the frame of your home and greatly increase its chances of surviving tropical storms.
Hurricane straps are so effective that they’re required by some cities’ construction codes. They’re the best protection you can give your home for weathering a hurricane.
While you’re on the roof, check the gutters and drain pipes. This is arguably the most important step in preparing your home for a hurricane, or any heavy rainstorm. Garages and basements can be flooded within a matter of minutes if gutters and downspouts aren’t cleared.
Protect the Entrance
The entrances to your home are the gateways between you and the storm outside and therefore are the most vulnerable. Broken glass, flooding, and structural damage are just a few of the things that can go wrong with a hurricane.
Check the walls, windows, and doors for damages. These could be as simple as a small gap between a window and a wall or more severe like a broken door.
No matter the size of the damages, they all need to be repaired before a hurricane or it could make matters extremely worse for you.
Once they’ve been checked and/or repaired, doors and windows need to be properly reinforced so they can withstand the impending storm.
The most common way to do this is to cover the doors and windows with plywood. It’s cheap and easy to install and does a great job of shielding entrances from the weather.
Many people go above and beyond by installing storm shutters over their windows to and doors to provide extra protection from the harsh elements. The metal shields are very effective but they take time to install, so they aren’t a good last-minute option for defense.
Additional reinforcements include installing storm panels to doors, using hurricane window film, or fitting your windows with high-impact glass.
The last and most difficult door to deal with is the garage door, as it is well-known as a particularly weak spot on the house’s exterior.
This may sound odd, considering it all might be destroyed if the storm is powerful enough, but maintaining your yard is crucial to reducing the potential damage of a hurricane.
The most important part of preparing your landscaping for a hurricane is trimming your trees and hedges. Every loose branch should be removed and overhanging limbs trimmed to keep the foliage as far away from your home as possible. A large tree branch hanging over your front porch is a disaster waiting to happen during a hurricane.
Pick up any solid clutter like branches or sticks off the ground as these can also become projectiles.
Strap down or put away any moveable objects in your landscaping to prevent objects from flying around. Garbage cans, trellises, free-standing fire pits, bird baths, feeders, lawn ornaments, or potted plants can easily be thrown around by the storm’s winds and become dangerous projectiles.
Lastly, make any necessary repairs to fencing or structures in your yard. Loose fence posts or leaning trees are catastrophes waiting to happen in a hurricane. Don’t forget sheds, raised garden beds, and treehouses.
Go on Leak Patrol
Every corner of your home’s exterior should be checked for leaks. Damaging amounts of water can come through a tiny leak during a hurricane if it’s not properly sealed, so just imagine how much worse it would be with multiple leaks.
Check that every window and door are sealed. Use caulk or minimal-expanding foam to fill in the gaps and cracks leading to the outside of the home.
For doors, replace faulty hinges and repair doorknobs. Use weather stripping or foam-rubber backer rods for other gaps.
To check for leaks from the outside, look for unexplainable puddles or soggy patches in the lawn. If you notice this, you could have a leak in the main water line leading to your house. Puddles that are far away from the main line usually mean a leak in the irrigation system.
The last place to look for a leak is the outdoor faucets. You can tell if they’re leaking by turning the water on for a little and then turning it off. The leak will present itself.
Repair any leaky pipes or faucets before a hurricane for the best chance of preventing potentially severe water damage to your home.
Guard the Garage
If not properly prepared, the garage can be a disastrous place during a hurricane. Water that floods in can potentially ruin stored items, and, if let sitting for too long, can severely damage the drywall, foundation, or other structural components of the home.
The garage door, specifically, is where a hurricane situation can go from bad to worse. Most garage doors are made with lightweight metal so it can be raised and lowered easily. This means that they are much weaker than any other type of door in your house.
Many people, especially in areas prone to hurricanes, purchase wind-resistant or impact-resistant garage doors to radically increase their home’s protection.
If you can’t invest in one of these types of doors, consider purchasing a metal brace kit. These metal bars are secured behind the garage door to reinforce it and are very good at doing so, but flimsy or cheap garage doors might still be damaged.
Sandbags are a great way to continue the fortification of the garage (or any other doorway to the house), especially if there are gaps in between the door and the wall. Line them up along the outside of your garage door snugly fit against each other for the best protection.
Lastly, consider covering any other openings into the garage, like windows. If your garage has windows or additional doors to the outside, make sure they are sealed or boarded up with plywood before the storm.
Are You Prepared?
If you’ve completed all five steps above, then the exterior of your house is ready for the storm. You’ve fitted it with the best possible defenses and it now has the best chance for withstanding the hurricane.
Preparing the exterior of your home is the most important step to ensuring your family’s safety from the storm. You shouldn’t let your home face a hurricane without doing so, or you could be facing major damages.
Before you head inside and brace yourselves from the storm, don't forget to enclose yourself in the safest home possible!