There is no doubt that keeping your property in excellent condition – well maintained and well protected (against intruders and thieves, as well as against the elements) – is your top priority as a homeowner. But while you may be living in a safe neighborhood or city where crime is not an issue, you cannot escape the weather, no matter where your home is – severe storms can happen anywhere in the country, throughout the year. Whether it’s a violent thunderstorm, hailstorm, snowstorm, hurricane, tornado, or any other natural disaster, your home can be badly damaged by the adverse weather conditions.
There is nothing you can do to stop a storm from hitting your area, of course, but there are many precautions you can take to minimize and even prevent the potential damage to your home. Most of these preventive measures will help you not only avoid storm damage and costly repairs, but also upgrade your property and keep it in good condition at all times.
So, how do you protect your home from storm damage? Follow these storm damage prevention tips to make sure that you will be well prepared for whatever the weather may throw at you.
Secure Your Home
First things first, to have a fighting chance against the elements, you need to fortify your fortress and make it as water-proof, wind-proof, and shutter-proof as possible.
Secure the Roof
A quality new roof should be able to withstand severe weather, but if your roof is 5-10 years old or older, it may need some reinforcement. Older roofs should be inspected at regular intervals so that any problem areas or leaks that could lead to water damage in the event of torrential rain are timely identified and properly taken care of before a storm hits:
- Check for loose shingles that can be blown off in a storm and secure them tightly in place with a heavy-duty adhesive;
- Replace any broken or damaged tiles as soon as you find them – consider installing ones rated as class 3 or 4 that have been proven to withstand harsh hail and heavy winds;
- Check for loose nails and sheathing that can cause chunks of roofing to be dislodged or create openings for water to enter the home;
- Make sure the chimney flashing is in good condition and the chimney can be tightly closed if necessary;
- Consider reinforcing the roof by having it retrofitted with brackets, bracing, clips or straps that are specifically designed to make it stronger.
Keep in mind that roofs that are over 20 years old can suddenly fail in a storm even if there were no apparent problems, so they should be replaced at the earliest opportunity.
If you’re planning a renovation project and/or installing a new roof, make sure you choose an impact-resisting material that will stand up to severe storms and protect your home better than other types of roofs that are easily affected by hail, wind, and water damage.
Secure Doors and Windows
Doors and windows are more susceptible to storm damage than any other parts of the home, so they need special attention:
- Check doors for missing screws/bolts or loose hinges and fix any problems you find without delay;
- Fit keyhole covers in front of door locks to keep rainwater and snow outside;
- Use weather-stripping to seal doors and windows that don’t close tightly;
- Apply caulk on both sides of windows to prevent water from seeping inside;
- Consider applying a durable clear plastic film on windows to prevent glass shards from blowing into your home in case the window is broken by strong winds;
- Install permanent shutters, such as roll-up or accordion shutters, to shield your windows from wind and debris during a storm (there are models for skylights, sliding glass doors, and garage doors as well);
- Replace the windows if you notice cracked or broken glass, condensation, or drafts in the home.When installing new windows, consider high-impact glass and double-paned models that provide better protection against storms.
These precautionary measures will not only help protect your home from storm damage, but will also considerably improve the thermal efficiency of the building (as they help insulate the home) and reduce your energy costs.
Secure the House Foundation
Even the smallest cracks in the foundation walls can let water inside your home. So, in order to avoid basement flooding and water damage to your property during a storm, you need to make sure the house foundations are completely waterproof. Inspect the foundation walls for cracks and make any necessary repairs before a major storm hits your area:
- Small cracks can be sealed with caulk designed to repair masonry;
- Larger gaps should be fixed with the help of hydraulic cement.
Inspect the Siding
Any damage to the siding makes your home vulnerable to leaks and water damage, so you’re advised to check the exterior walls for cracks and holes at a regular basis and take quick and adequate measures to fix the problems (if you find any).
Also, make sure that all the openings for pipes, wires, and ductwork in the walls, roof, and foundations of your home are well sealed and there are no gaps that could allow water to enter inside.
Sewer and Drain Backup Coverage
Sometimes a storm can lead to a sewer or drain backup which will result in standing water in your home. A backup can cause significant indoor flooding and property damage and if the water is contaminated with sewage, it poses a major risk to your health. Typically, homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover the damage caused by a drain or sewage backup. Make sure you check your insurance policy to see if the damage from a backup is covered. If not, you must purchase a separate rider to cover the damage. It may cost a little more to add the rider, but this will better protect your home from flood damage.
Bonus tip: Invest in a quality sump pump
A sump pump will allow you to pump any excess water out of your home before water levels get too high and cause damage, helping you prevent flooding during a storm. So, you’re strongly advised to install one in your property – make sure your sump pump is functioning properly and has a battery backup in case the electricity goes out.
Sump pump failure is categorized as “Sewer and drain back up”. If you don’t have the separate rider on your policy typically you will have no or limited coverage. Think about what’s in your lower level/basement area… what happens if your sump pump fails and you lose your furnace, hot water heater, furniture, carpet walls, washer& dryer etc. Can you afford the loss? Sewer and drain back up coverage can usually be purchased in increments $5000, 10,000, 25,000 etc. all the way to policy limits.
When properly secured, your home will be able to withstand the force of a storm. Yet, to make sure that the house will survive the adverse weather safe and intact, you need to take care of the exterior areas of your property as well.
Clean up the Yard
Needless to say, your yard and your patio are much more vulnerable to storm damage than the interior of your house. On top of that, each and any outdoor item can become a danger to your home as well – lawn furniture and garden items can be easily picked up by strong winds and flung across the yard or against the building; tree branches can fall onto power lines or on top of your home, smashing windows or causing the roof to collapse, etc.
Storm Safety Tips – Outside Home Checklist – Video
Therefore, when preparing for a storm, you need to take special measures to protect the outside of your home as well:
- Store flower pots, garden decorations, and other loose outdoor items in a garage or shed when the weather forecast predicts high winds or torrential rains in your area;
- Tie down patio furniture and larger garden items (use ground anchors with straps, cables, or chains) to prevent them from being knocked over or picked up by forceful winds;
- Remove any debris from the yard as they can become dangerous projectiles during a storm;
- Remove loose or dead branches from trees and shrubs – strong winds and dense rain or hail can cause weak branches to snap and fall on cars, power lines, and/or roofs;
- Keep trees that are near your home well-trimmed to prevent large branches from damaging the building during a storm;
- Make sure the gutters are firmly attached and all downspouts are in place;
- Make sure the fence is in good repair.
Bonus tip: Clean the gutters
If leaves and debris are blocking the drainpipes and downspouts, water won’t be able to drain from the roof and will start pooling in the gutters during a heavy rain. To prevent water from spilling over and running down the siding, causing excessive dampness and, possibly, internal leaks, you need to keep the eaves, troughs, and drainpipes clean and free of debris – remove dead leaves and branches from the shingles, scoop larger debris from the gutters, wash smaller pieces down the downspout with a garden hose, etc.
It goes without saying that you should regularly inspect the drains and replace damaged or rusty ones in due time.
Get Proper Insurance
Review your existing insurance policy, research your options, and consider purchasing additional insurance (such as flood insurance and windstorm insurance) in order to maximize your coverage. A homeowners’ insurance policy will not literally protect your home from the whims of the weather, of course, but it can help you get your life back on track soon after a disaster, by providing the means to pay for the restoration of your storm damaged property.
Bonus tip: Make a home inventory
A home inventory will come very handy if you need to make a storm claim. So, be sure to create a detailed inventory list of your household items and valuable possessions (include pictures and videos to prove the condition of your belongings), make several copies of it, and keep each of them at a different place, so that they don’t all get destroyed if your home is damaged during a storm or some other natural disaster.
How to Prevent Storm Damage
Reinforcing your house and taking proper care of the outside areas will help you protect your property and reduce the overall risk of storm damage to your home. Yet, you can do even better and further minimize the potential damage a storm could inflict on your home – what you need to do is take some additional precautions to prevent specific types of storm damage.
How to Prevent Water Damage
Water damage is the most common type of damage a storm causes to a home. To prevent it from affecting your property, you’re advised to:
- Leak-proof your home as described above;
- Keep gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and debris;
- Add extensions to the downspouts to make sure water is draining well away from your home foundation;
- Make sure the grading around your house slopes away from the foundation, so that water flows safely away from the building;
- Create catch basins for storm water – you can dig a U-shaped trench or a cylindrical well in the lowest part of your property to collect excess water during a storm.
How to Prevent Wind Damage
Strong winds are generally considered to be the most dangerous aspect of a storm. To protect your home from wind damage, make sure you:
- Reinforce susceptible areas (doors, windows, roofs, etc.) as described above;
- Keep outdoor items from becoming dangerous projectile (see above);
- Prune weak and low hanging tree branches;
- Create landscaping windbreaks – plant shrubs and trees in strategic places around your house to serve as a buffer for your home against strong winds;
- Use shredded bark mulch as landscaping material instead of rock or gravel that can cause damage when blown around in high winds.
How to Prevent Hail Damage
Hail storms are especially dangerous, as the ice pellets falling with great intensity can literally ruin plants, vehicles, and building structures. To minimize the harm, you can:
- Fortify your home as described above;
- Remove tree branches that are directly over your roof or too close to your windows;
- Cover large outdoor items that cannot be brought inside with thick blankets or tarp;
- Park vehicles in a covered area.
How to Prevent Snow Damage
Winter storms bring heavy snowfall and chilly winds. To prevent winter storm damage, you need to:
- Insulate your home – make sure that the roof and the walls are in good condition; weather-strip doors and windows; add attic insulation; etc.;
- Clear snow away from the roof and the foundations of the house at every opportunity;
- Make sure no branches spread near the house;
- Keep pipes from freezing;
- Ensure proper drainage;
- Consider a snow fence.
Storm Damage Restoration
Now that you know how to prepare for a storm, you have a good chance to prevent serious damage to your home even in the most adverse weather conditions. Yet, a severe storm can be very destructive and wreak havoc on your property despite your preparations. So, when the storm passes, make sure you carefully inspect your home for damage and if you find any, call a storm damage restoration specialist immediately. Any delays will leave your home vulnerable to the elements and will result in further damage to your property.
At ServiceMasterDAK, we can help you with the storm cleanup and the quick and efficient restoration of your property. Our skilled technicians will conduct a full inspection of your home, assess the damage, and come up with an efficient restoration plan. They will perform water damage cleanup, water extraction, water mitigation and drying services, and any other necessary water restoration services to ensure the good condition of your home and prevent mold growth and mold problems in the future. If your home was affected by a major storm and sustained structural damage, we can assist you with adequate reconstruction services (controlled demolition, building stabilization, roof rebuilding, structural repairs, etc.) as well.
What’s more, ServiceMaster DAK works in close collaboration with insurance companies and can help you handle your water damage remediation claim quickly and efficiently. However severe the damage, you’ll be able to get your life back on track soon after the disaster – just call us at (847) 459-3900 as soon as you find any storm damage on your property.