America’s Homeowners: On Storm Watch

America’s Homeowners: On Storm Watch

Tree branches can fall on your roof during a storm, and when that happens, it’s important to take fast action to prevent more damage. (DepositPhotos)

In recent years, the number of homes that actually have put together a basic “survival kit” of some sort – with water, food, candles, extra batteries, etc. – has soared. So have the sales of residential backup generators, all in the interest of one’s being self-sufficient for a limited period of time after a natural disaster strikes and isolates its victims.

But these measures pale next to the new and emerging drive now underway to seriously prepare one’s home – well in advance – for all sorts of “heavy weather” that is sure to come.

Hurricane winds blow palm trees as flooding takes over streets
Heavy winds will damage your home if the right precautions aren’t taken. (©Satoshi Kina –

The Need for Storm-Resistant Products

Residential storm damage begins with strong winds that attack the integrity of roofing, windows and both entry and garage doors. As winds increase, and driving rain is added to the equation, building products begin to fail and pervasive water begins to make its way in.

Still stronger winds, say as in a category three, four or five hurricane with winds ranging from 111 to 155-plus mph rip away exterior products. Adding flying debris to the equation and homes are left seriously exposed, damaged and vulnerable to major devastation and its occupants at risk.

But just like in the movies, when things are looking most foreboding, the cavalry always charges in “to save the day” – and America’s building products manufacturers are now responding with an ever-increasing array of ways and means for homeowners to defend themselves (and their homes) against the wrath of natural disasters.

A house with a fortified roof

Leading the Charge

All types of residential “heavy-weather” storm products are seeing a dramatic increase in both acceptance and usage. These range from a variety of inventive window covering products to complete interior “fortified storm safe rooms” lined with the very same material used in bullet-proof vests.

New storm-oriented products also include specially-designed nails and fasteners with “hurricane-strength” holding power; stronger and more impact-resistant wood sheathing and tougher exterior siding products; and a number of do-it-yourself, easy-to-install kits that strengthen existing garage doors against being blown-in by severe winds.

Yet, of the many protective measures now being offered to homeowners, those that covered and protected window openings were an early and instinctive choice and were initially most popular – and to this day, many inventive “cover-up” systems are still being engineered and introduced almost daily.

These range from “quick-install” protective covers (either heavy solid sheets or clear “see-through” tough hybrid plastics) to “shutters” of all types – up to and including motorized roll-up metal units, with rain and/or high wind sensors, that go (or roll) into action to protect windows, whether or not the owner is home. However, all of these window “covering” products are simply alternatives to the purchase and installation of numerous sheets of plywood, which is often in short supply in last-minute or short-notice situations. Rather today, homeowners and building product manufacturers alike are thinking way beyond simply “boarding-up” when heavy weather threatens. They are now investing in real “built-in” everyday protection – that not only offers peace of mind for one’s home and family, but in many cases also offers insurance benefits and energy-efficiency too.

Hurricanes can cause extreme home damage.

Strengthening the Exterior Envelope

Today, a number of truly “storm-resistant” products are being offered to fend off intrusive heavy weather. They start with much tougher roofing products, which stay in place during severe winds. A strong, durable roof is a home’s first line of defense during a major storm or hurricane. The majority of storm related damage is not caused by actual structural failure, but rather by water being driven in – which, in turn, can and often does lead to serious mold problems.

Next is the drive to toughen-up –– rather than cover up — the number one weak-spot in every home: fragile windows. A variety of impact-resistant glass configurations are now available with combinations of various protective materials and technologies, such as one pane of tempered glass and one pane of impact-resistant laminated glass. A durable inner layer, sandwiched between pieces of the laminated glass, prevents the glass from being shattered by flying debris — much like car windshields. The glass may fracture but it will not break out of its frame.

In addition to “impact-resistant” double-strength tempered and laminated glass, tougher and better engineered window frames and sashes are being offered –with strong seals to keep nasty weather out – and upgrade hardware that, when all put together, makes once highly-vulnerable conventional windows now a good defense against whatever Mother Nature decides to throw your way.

Entry and patio doors have also been vastly upgraded and engineered to better fend off severe weather. Added protection and new storm-resistant features now include composite materials such as fiberglass that adds strength, impact-resistance and eliminates wood rot; numerous design and engineering improvements that create a better and stronger seal between the door and frame to reduce all air, wind and water penetration; stronger “sweep” designs to better seal the bottom of the door; tougher upgraded hardware and more of it; and durable impact-resistant glass (as noted earlier for windows).

These new “heavy weather resistant” windows and doors can stand-up to the fiercest storms and will protect a home and its contents from damage and those inside from possible injury. In fact, some of these new storm-resistant products have even caught the attention of the National Association of Mold Inspectors and are NAMI-certified, tested and approved as “mold fighters” – an important seal of approval.

Man prepares to board up a window during a hurricane
A man “boarding up” a home in preparation for a hurricane. (DepositPhotos)

Closing the Door (and Windows) on Nasty Weather

Whether it’s in response to global warming or simply better TV news coverage, America’s homeowners are truly on a personal “storm watch.” Today, rather than being resigned to repeated “boarding-up and cleaning up,” homeowners are instead actively “gearing-up” with an exciting array of specially designed “always in place” heavy weather products, engineered with built-in durability and true storm resistance for greater peace of mind. And every day, America’s homeowners are becoming better prepared, more self-sufficient and better protected.

Are you and your home ready to weather the next big storm?

Further Reading

6 Types of Home Insurance Policies

6 Types of Home Insurance Policies

According to Webster’s Dictionary, insurance is defined as “coverage by contract whereby one party undertakes to indemnify or guarantee another against loss by a specified contingency or peril.” In Webster’s definition, the first party is usually an insurance company and the second party is you, your family or business.

In simple terms, insurance is designed to assist an individual, family or business in recovering from an unexpected loss. You can buy insurance for almost anything – medical, life, disability, automobile, business liability, fire and theft, worker’s compensation, homeowners (including condominium owners), and renters to name a few. For the purposes of this column, we will focus on insurance for your home.

As you will soon learn, simply having a homeowner’s insurance policy isn’t enough.

Contrary to what many believe, an insurance policy isn’t a “cure all.” Unfortunately, many people become aware of this when they are most in need of help – after a crisis such as a fire, flood, earthquake or tornado. Thus, there is no time like the present to review your insurance policy to determine if you have the proper coverage.

Wildfire destroys stick-built home
Wildfires can destroy homes fast, but there are ways to minimize the damage.

Coverage is the term that is used to determine to what extent you will be compensated in the event of a loss.

For example, if you are like most people and your home were to burn to the ground from a fire, you might expect your insurance company to pay for the construction of a new home and to replace all of the furniture and personal property that was lost in the fire. Not so fast! That’s not the way it works. Depending upon the type of policy, its coverage and dollar limits, you may find that you are, as they say, up a creek without a paddle.

How much coverage is enough?

A better question would be how much are you willing to sacrifice? If the answer is nothing, as it should be, your coverage should provide you with full replacement of your loss. Pennywise consumers will often compromise coverage in an effort to save money. Unfortunately, the savings of a few hundred dollars a year can result in the loss of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars when it comes time to pick up the pieces.

Tree branches can fall on your roof during a storm, and when that happens, it’s important to take fast action to prevent more damage. (DepositPhotos)

Not all homeowner’s insurance policies are created equal. Here’s how some of the most common types of policies shake out:

HO-1: Covers the dwelling and contents from 10 types of perils:

  1. Fire and Lightning
  2. Windstorm or Hail
  3. Explosion
  4. Riot or civil commotion
  5. Aircraft
  6. Vehicles (unless it is caused by the insured)
  7. Smoke
  8. Vandalism or malicious mischief
  9. Theft (may have limits)
  10. Volcanic Eruption

HO-8: This is especially for older homes. Covers the dwelling and contents from the same 11 types of perils listed in HO-1, but only for repairs, not for replacement cost. Usually written for homes with historical value that would be impossible to replace.

HO-2: Covers the dwelling and contents from 17 types of perils: the one covered in HO-1 and HO-8 plus

  1. Falling Objects
  2. Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet
  3. Accidental Discharge or Overflow of Water or Steam
  4. Sudden and Accidental Tearing apart, Cracking, Burning or Bulging
  5. Freezing
  6. Sudden & Accidental damage from Artificially Generated Electric Current
  7. (H01 Policy- Numbers 1 though 10)

HO-3: (Broad Form) Covers the dwelling and contents from the 17 perils listed in HO-2, plus any other peril not specifically excluded in the policy. Standard exclusions are flood, earthquake, war and nuclear accident.

HO-4 This is a renters policy. It covers personal property (no dwelling coverage) form the 17 peril types listed in HO-2.

HO-6 A condominium owner’s policy that, like the renter’s policy, covers personal property from the 17 peril types listed in HO-2. It is normally the responsibility of the owner’s association to insure the structure (walls, roof, etc.). Be sure to check the master policy for exclusions. You may need to cover the construction and improvements within the outer shell of your building.

Historic homes such as this often require HO-8 insurance policies. (Photo by Scott Evans)

Note that not one of the policy types listed will provide coverage for loss from a flood or earthquake.

This may not be particularly important to you if your home isn’t located in an area that is prone to either one of these disasters. If, on the other hand, your home is at risk to such an event, flood and/or earthquake insurance might be the smartest investment you’ll ever make.

Flooded home, seen from the street, with water up to the tops of the windows and doors
Federal disaster aid doesn’t always cover flood damage. (©2mmedia –

Federal flood insurance, purchased through your insurance agent or company, is the only guaranteed flood insurance coverage available for your home.

Many people are reluctant to buy flood insurance because they believe that Federal disaster aid, available during and after a flood, will reimburse them for loss. WRONG! Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster aid is only available during Presidentially declared disasters. Moreover, Federal aid may often be in the form of a loan that you must pay back with interest. Flood insurance policies pay claims whether or not a disaster is declared.

Hurricane preparation to-do list, as seen on a clipboard
Maintenance and preparation are key to ensuring your home is safe during earthquakes. (©Roger –

When it comes to earthquakes, your best insurance is preparation.

Making sure the foundation is in good shape, the frame is bolted to the foundation, the water heater is strapped and the structure is in good condition is your best defense. Unfortunately, even the best-prepared homes can sustain significant damage. Consequently, if you live in an area where earthquakes are part of the way of life, you may want to look into earthquake insurance. By comparison, earthquake insurance is costly and often comes with a large deductible. Where a standard homeowners policy might have a $500 deductible, the deductible for earthquake insurance can range from 5 to 15%. Using 10% as an example, that would equate to a $20,000 deductible on a $200,000 house. The lower the deductible, the greater the cost of the insurance. Generous discounts are offered where earthquake retrofitting (bolting, strapping, etc.) has been performed.

Which policy best suits your needs?

Your best bet is to enlist the services of a reputable insurance agent who can discuss with you the coverage options available. For example, you can opt for a “replacement cost policy” which means the insurance company will pay the cost of replacing an item (less deductibles) rather than simply offering its depreciated current value.

Hurricane damage

Don’t forget a big part of being prepared for a disaster is ensuring that you have a full inventory of the construction elements of your home and its contents.

Take photos or videotape each room. Pay special attention to details such as appliances, doors, trim, cabinets, flooring, ceiling treatment and other decorative finishes. Also, be sure to open cabinet and closet doors to photograph contents such as dishes, clothing, hinting gear and even your video collection.

Further Reading