Hurricanes are powerful storms that can cause significant damage to your home. So if you live in an area with hurricane activity, it’s worthwhile to spend some time, money, and energy preparing your house for their arrival. With the proper preparations, you can significantly decrease the damage caused by one of these storms.
You can prepare your house for a hurricane in many ways, including investing in impact-resistant windows, roofing, garage doors, entry doors, sliding doors, and awnings. You should also tend to your trees and check on your hurricane tax deductible.
In the rest of this article, we’ll explain the 17 best ways to prepare your house for the next hurricane. Taking a few steps will dramatically increase your home’s ability to withstand a storm—so let’s get to it.
1.) Install Hurricane Windows
As it turns out, the year after I installed hurricane-impact windows on the first net-zero home renovation project house, it was hit by Hurricane Ian directly (in Cape Coral, FL). We’re talking 140-150mph winds for hours. The home held up great, and the renter in there said the house “was a fortress”, in large part due to these windows.
Hurricanes cause extreme winds, often leading to flying debris that can easily smash and shatter a window. One way to combat this is to install hurricane (high-impact) windows in your home.
High-impact windows have a polyvinyl butyral layer within the glass, which helps hold the glass together even in the event of high-speed impact with a flying object. Manufacturers design these windows specifically with storms in mind, so many can withstand winds up to 157 mph (252 kph).
In addition to this essential interlayer, high-impact windows often have stronger frames than typical windows. Most standard windows have wood frames, which cannot handle high-speed winds. Contrastingly, impact windows have aluminum or vinyl frames that are much stronger.
For more information about impact windows, we recommend reading our article that answers the most frequently asked questions about these windows.
If you decide to install them in your home, you might become overwhelmed by the number of manufacturers claiming to have the best and strongest windows. If this is the case, don’t worry! We have a list of the 16 best companies for your convenience.
2.) Board Your Windows With Plywood
If you don’t want to replace your windows or cannot do so now, you can install plywood panels to protect your standard windows from flying debris. Plywood is inexpensive and usually easy to find, so it’s an excellent option for protecting the glass.
We recommend purchasing exterior-grade plywood at least ⅝ of an inch (1.59 cm) thick for maximum protection.
Boarding up your windows is relatively easy. Here’s how:
- Find the studs closest to all sides of the window. You need to fasten the plywood to a stud or risk the hurricane ripping it off.
- Cut the plywood, so it extends at least one inch beyond the window’s framing.
- Screw the wood into the studs using corrosion-resistant screws.
If you need visual guidance, check out this YouTube video from The Home Depot:
3.) Upgrade Your Roof
Your roof is highly susceptible to damage during a hurricane, so if you can upgrade it to give it a good chance of survival, we recommend doing so. Your roof protects your home, so if it experiences damage during a hurricane, the rest of your house and belongings are likely to suffer, too.
The best roofing material for houses in hurricane-prone areas is metal. A metal roof can withstand winds up to 160 mph (257 kph). Metal roofing is more expensive than standard shingles, but they’re more robust and are more likely to last through a hurricane.
If you hate the look of metal roofing, you can opt for clay or concrete tiles instead. However, these are costly materials and aren’t as effective against strong winds.
If you go for shingles, ensure they’re the strongest on the market. For example, it would be best to get shingles rated ASTM D3161 Class F or ASTM D7158 Class H.
4.) Glue Down Loose Roof Shingles
If you cannot replace your roof, you should still tend to it before the next hurricane. If a roof shingle is loose, and there’s a hurricane, that loose shingle allows water to seep underneath the roof and cause leaking into your home. Additionally, a loose shingle allows for debris pile-up, which is highly likely after a hurricane. This inefficiency can cause rotting.
We recommend using this Sashco Through the Roof Sealant from Amazon.com because it is clear, doesn’t have the messy look of other roofing caulks, and doesn’t dry hard and crack later. We also like that it is UV and mildew-resistant, so it’ll last a long time.
Luckily, we only had a small patch to repair on the roof after Hurricane Ian. A bunch of shingles had blown off in one spot, and it only took me about 2 hours DIY (after watching many Youtube videos) to fix it myself. I got rubber tar and used a caulk gun and new roofing nails to fix it:
5.) Patch Up Holes or Cracks in Your Roof
Holes and cracks in your roof are dangerous for the same reasons a loose shingle is—they can cause leakage and debris build-up, especially during a hurricane. Therefore, you should also avoid any holes or cracks to prepare your house for the next hurricane.
These fixes usually require roofing mastic and reinforcement webbing. If you aren’t confident in your ability to completely and correctly tend to these damages, we recommend hiring a professional.
6.) Install Hurricane Straps
Another great way to storm-proof your home is to install hurricane straps of clips. Hurricane clips are steel connectors that provide an extra connection between your roof and the wall.
They help the building foundation withstand the high winds and forces it’ll face during the storm. To learn how to install these reinforcements, check out our article on installing hurricane straps and ties.
If you live in the South, hurricane straps may be required. Please read our guide on hurricane strap codes in the South by state for ordinances in each locale to learn more.
Hurricane straps can save huge on your homeowner’s insurance, sometimes up to half or more. Check out our own experience with this here in this article.
7.) Reinforce Your Garage Door With Bracings
Garage doors are a vulnerable part of your home during a storm because they’re made of light material that is highly susceptible to damage. A bracing system can strengthen the door and support it during extreme weather, preventing it from getting torn off by high winds.
For help installing garage door storm braces, we suggest watching this YouTube video from Lowe’s.
8.) Install a Wind-Resistant Garage Door
Even better than installing a storm brace system on your garage door is replacing it entirely with a wind-resistant door.
Wind-load garage doors typically have features that increase the door’s strength and endurance, which include:
- Carbon steel hinges
- Roller slides attached to U-bars
- Heavy-duty jamb brackets
- Commercial grade U-bars
If you can afford a garage door replacement and live in a hurricane-prone area, it’s worth looking into a wind-load garage door.
9.) Get Fiberglass Entry Doors
Wood entry doors are not as durable as fiberglass doors. Fiberglass entry doors are engineered to withstand extreme weather, including winds and flying debris.
Not only are fiberglass doors more capable of withstanding hurricane damage, but they also won’t rot or warp like wood doors. Therefore, if you’re ready for an upgrade, we suggest using fiberglass.
10.) Use a Protective Tarp for Your HVAC System
Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is also vulnerable during a storm. If these units are left unprotected during the storm, they’re highly likely to suffer extreme damage that will probably require expensive repairs.
To cover this system, you can use a protective, heavy-duty tarp. A vinyl or polyethylene tarp is a great way to shield your HVAC system from flying debris.
11.) Strap Your HVAC System Down
Another way to prepare your HVAC system for a hurricane is to strap it down. Hurricane-level winds can knock your unit off its base, which can cause damage to the unit itself and your home. Instead, you can use ratchet straps to secure your HVAC system to its foundation.
We recommend using these AUGO Ratchet Tie Down Straps from Amazon.com because they are durable and have 2,200-pound (998 kg) break strength, so they’re unlikely to move during even the most intense hurricane. We also like the secure “S” hooks with a safety lock.
12.) Install Impact Sliding Glass Doors
Another part of your house that is vulnerable to damage during a hurricane is your sliding glass doors. If you can, we suggest replacing your glass doors with impact doors with a multi-chamber design, metal reinforcement, and interlocking center rails that keep the doors closed and secure.
13.) Install Hurricane Shutters
Hurricane shutters are barriers against the wind that help protect your house from flying debris, hail, and powerful gusts. These shutters are stronger than plywood covers—if you live in a a a tropical storm-prone area, they are worth the investment.
There are many kinds of hurricane shutters, so you can find one that fits your needs and aesthetic preference.
Some types you might choose to use for your home include:
- Aluminum or steel storm panel
- Roll-down shutters
- Accordion shutters
- Colonial shutters
- Bahama shutters
14.) Trim Your Trees
Another way to protect your house during a hurricane is to prevent damage from your trees. If you have branches hanging over your home, we suggest removing them before a storm tears them off and throws them into your house. We also recommend trimming off all their weak or dead branches, as these are the most likely to be torn off during a storm.
15.) Reinforce Your Deck
If you have a deck, we suggest using hurricane ties to reinforce it before the next tropical storm. We also recommend inspecting your deck and securing any loose railings or boards, so they don’t get torn off by high winds. Finally, clear off anything that could be blown away in the hurricane and store it in a more secure place.
16.) Upgrade Your Awnings
Some awnings are stronger and more durable than others, so it may be time to upgrade if you have a weak one. We recommend having steel awnings if you live in a tropical storm-prone area. Steel is more capable of resisting wind than aluminum. Additionally, it would be best to look for an awning with extra-strong attachment points.
17.) Check on Your Hurricane Deductible
No matter how much you prepare, your home will probably suffer damage during a hurricane.
Therefore, our final suggestion for preparing for a tropical storm is to check on your hurricane deductible and ensure that you have adequate coverage for wind damage and hurricane-force winds. This way, you can ensure that repairing your home after the storm is financially possible.
There’s no way to guarantee that your house won’t be damaged in a a tropical storm. Hurricanes are powerful storms—sometimes, nature is more potent than any precaution you take.
However, by taking these steps, you can prepare your home as much as possible to withstand the wind and rain and minimize the damage.
- University of Trieste: Strengthening of Laminated Glass Windows Against Windborne Debris Impact
- Juneau Odenwald Roofing: The Best Roof Materials for Hurricane Resistance and Protection
- Flash Alliance: Roof–Choosing the Right Covering
- Forbes: Watch Out for Special Hurricane Deductibles in Home Insurance