Storm season can be a worrisome time for homeowners. Severe weather like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning storms can cause major damage to your property if you’re not prepared. Protecting your home properly before storm season begins is crucial.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most important ways you can safeguard your home against damage from storms. We’ll cover how to prepare your landscaping, protect windows and doors, deal with roof issues, stock up on emergency supplies, and more. With some thoughtful preparation and preventative measures, you can keep your house safe even in extreme weather events.
Check and Maintain Landscaping
The trees, bushes, and plants on your property can become major hazards in high winds and heavy rain if they are overgrown or poorly maintained.
- Trim trees and remove dead branches. Make sure all trees are trimmed so there are no dangling or dead branches that could detach and damage your home. Pay extra attention to large, old trees that may have rotting limbs. Hire an arborist to assess trees and identify potential risks. They can help determine which branches are best removed for safety.
- Clear gutters and drains. Clogged gutters can lead to flooding and water damage during heavy rains. Make sure all gutters and downspouts are cleared of debris before storm season. Use a ladder and gloves to remove leaves and other debris by hand. Flush gutters with a hose to keep them clear.
- Stake young trees. If you have any small or newly planted trees, use guy-wires or stakes to anchor them securely in case of high winds. Attach lines from tree trunk to stable anchor points underground. Wrap tree trunks for protection.
- Remove dangerous vegetation. Clear away dead trees, hanging vines, old stumps and anything else that looks like it could easily be uprooted and fly into your home during a storm. Chop down dead trees or bushes. Pull out old insignificant landscaping that could become projectiles.
- Prune shrubbery. Shrubs and bushes should be pruned back from walls, fences and structures so they don’t scrape against surfaces in heavy winds. Prune them into shapes less susceptible to wind damage.
- Consider tree health. Monitor all trees for signs of disease or damage that make them more susceptible to wind damage. Remove any unhealthy trees that could blow over easily in storms.
Protect Windows and Doors
Windows and outside doors are two of the most vulnerable parts of a home during severe weather. Follow these tips to reinforce them:
- Install storm shutters. Storm shutters and panels can be deployed over windows when big storms are approaching to protect against flying debris and broken glass. They provide the best level of protection but can be pricey. Choose shutters rated to withstand winds up to your area’s highest potential speeds.
- Use plywood. A more affordable option is cutting and labeling plywood panels to board up windows and glass doors when needed. Use at least 5/8” plywood. Pre-drill holes so you can screw panels in place quickly.
- Install impact-resistant windows. If your windows are old and brittle, consider replacing them with impact-resistant window panes, which are specially designed to withstand hail and debris. Look for windows rated for high-wind zones.
- Reinforce garage doors. Garage doors are often damaged by high winds. Installing horizontal bracing and strong vertical supports can help bolster them during storms. Make sure tracks are cleared of debris as well.
- Caulk windows and doors. Seal any leaks around windows and doors before storm season to prevent water intrusion during heavy rains. Make sure flashing is in good condition too. Check caulking and re-apply if needed. Consider waterproofing sprays as well.
- Inspect weatherstripping. Make sure weatherstripping around doors and windows is in good shape so water and wind can’t penetrate cracks. Replace any worn or damaged strips.
- Cover windows. Use temporary window coverings like cardboard or foam boards if you don’t have shutters or plywood. These can help prevent broken windows in smaller storms.
Address Roof Issues
Your home’s roof endures a lot of punishment from storms. Give yours a checkup before storm season arrives:
- Repair missing shingles. Fix any shingles that have blown off to prevent leaks. Seal down any curled or cracked ones too. Identify and replace old, brittle shingles to withstand high winds.
- Clear gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters can cause water to back up under shingles and lead to roof leaks. Remove debris from gutters by hand or with tools designed for gutter cleaning.
- Trim overhanging trees. Trees too close to your roof can scrape shingles off in high winds. Trim back any branches hanging over the roof. If trees are untrimable, consider removal.
- Replace old/damaged shingles. If your roof is overall in bad shape with curling, brittle or missing shingles, get the whole thing replaced by a roofer to withstand storms. Asphalt shingles are affordable and provide good wind resistance.
- Install roof anchors. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, have roof anchors installed so you can add reinforcing tie-downs before a storm blows in. Anchors screw into roof rafters and allow cables to be attached.
- Check flashing. Ensure all roof flashing around chimneys, vents and joints is well-sealed with no cracks or separation. Inspect flashing carefully and re-seal as needed with waterproof, high-adhesion sealant.
- Evaluate roof age. If your roof is nearing the end of its lifespan, consider replacing it prior to storm season for best results. Most shingles last 20-25 years.
- Remove roof debris. Clean all leaves, branches and other debris off your roof to avoid potential damage and leaks. Safely access roof and remove debris.
Stock Up on Emergency Supplies
You’ll want to have ample supplies on hand if a severe storm knocks out power or cuts off access to stores and assistance:
- Water – Have at least 1 gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation. Stock up on cases of bottled water or several clean plastic jugs.
- Non-perishable food – Canned goods, powdered milk, trail mix, protein bars, dried fruits, nuts, crackers, peanut butter, etc. Focus on food that does not require refrigeration or cooking.
- Medications – Prescriptions, over-the-counter pain relievers, antibiotics, stomach remedies, medical supplies like bandages. Have backup prescriptions if possible.
- First-aid kit – Stock a robust first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, disinfectant, thermometer, medical tape, and any other items you may need. Make sure it is complete and well-stocked.
- Baby supplies – Food, infant formula, extra diapers and wipes, rash cream, portable crib. Have enough for several days at least.
- Pet supplies – Food, extra water, litter, leashes, plastic bags, cleaning supplies, vaccination records, medication. Shelters may require vaccination info.
- Radio – Battery-operated or hand-crank radio to receive weather updates if power is out. Stock extra batteries. Consider a weather radio.
- Flashlights and batteries – Have extras throughout the house and check them regularly. Always keep flashlights and batteries in supply kits.
- Cash – Banks and ATMs may be inaccessible after storms. Have plenty of small bills on hand for buying essentials.
- Generator – For powering essential appliances if electricity is out for an extended time. Get one powerful enough to run fridge, medical devices, etc. Store fuel.
- Camping supplies – Camp stove, lanterns, tents, sleeping bags may come in handy during extended outages or evacuation.
- Trash bags, paper plates – Stock up on disposable plates, cups and trash bags, as well as paper towels, toilet paper, wet wipes and other daily essentials.
Protect Interior Rooms
Make sure rain and debris won’t wreak havoc inside your home either:
- Raise furniture. In flood-prone areas, elevate couches, tables, and other furniture up on wood blocks to keep them above potential floodwaters. Even 6-12″ of elevation can save furniture from water damage.
- Move valuables. Relocate important documents, sentimental items, electronics and other valuables to upper floors or higher elevations so they’re safe from flooding. Store irreplaceable items securely in waterproof containers.
- Install sump pump. Sump pumps help remove water that seeps into basements and crawl spaces from the ground during heavy rains. Install powerful pumps with backup battery power in case electricity goes out.
- Clear floor drains. Make sure all floor drains are free of debris to allow water to properly drain. Remove debris and flush drains with water to keep open. Consider non-clogging drain covers.
- Disconnect appliances. Unplug washing machines, dryers and other major appliances before flooding hits to avoid electrical damage. Turn off electricity to appliances if possible.
- Inspect basement. Check for cracks in foundation walls that could lead to flooding. Seal all cracks with waterproof cement or epoxy injectables. Install a flood barrier across doorways.
- Waterproof walls. Paint basement walls with waterproofing paint and sealant which can help minimize minor flooding. Epoxy or urethane-based sealants work well. Apply several coats.
- Move chemicals. Relocate paint, oil, cleaning products, and other hazardous chemicals to upper floors where floodwaters can’t reach them. This prevents pollution.
Have An Emergency Plan
Your family should have a storm emergency plan in place before severe weather hits:
- Discuss where to take shelter if a tornado, hurricane or other storm hits. Pick a safe room in your home’s lowest level or community shelter.
- Learn tornado and hurricane warning signals for your area. Discuss what you’ll do if warnings are issued, including taking shelter, picking up kids, etc.
- Decide where to meet if family gets separated, such as a relative or friend’s home. Have an out-of-town emergency contact.
- Know the evacuation routes and shelter locations. If ordered to evacuate, know where to go and have supplies packed and ready to go.
- Teach children what to do in case of storm when away from home – follow schools plans, listen for warnings, avoid downed power lines. Reassure them.
- Ensure everyone knows how to turn off utilities like electricity and gas. Show family members the shut-off valves and how to use them.
- Program all emergency numbers into cell phones. Save police, fire, hospital and emergency contact info. Make temporary signs with numbers to post by home phones.
- Keep important documents in a waterproof container that’s easy to grab if you must evacuate. Include ID, insurance, prescriptions, bank info.
- Have go-bags ready with essentials like clothes, toiletries, supplies, keys, cash and emergency contacts. Store them near the exit.
Preparing your house thoroughly before storm season begins takes time and diligence. But putting in the work upfront to properly waterproof and reinforce your home can mean the difference between minor and severe destruction when severe weather actually hits. Follow these tips to give your family and home maximum protection against whatever turbulent weather comes your way. Stay alert to weather reports and be ready to enact your emergency plan. With smart preparation, your family can stay safe this storm season.