As the hurricane season approaches, you may want to have your home ready now to ensure the least amount of damage.
As we move into Houston’s summer, we have thoughts of fun, but many of us are already preparing for the hurricane season. This is a good time for many preparatory steps for your home. During the last hurricane, I remember people scrambling for supplies with the radio reporting where they may be found as goods became more scarce. I noticed that there are lists and advice booklets on hurricane preparation to be found; however, these do not include some practical advice for your home based on the kind of damage I saw afterwards as a home inspector. Here is my take.
I would suggest that the first step as tree and bush pruning. This serves two purposes: keeping branches away from the home will mean less damage to the roof covering, walls, and windows; and a well pruned tree allows more air to pass through the tree without knocking limbs down. Softwood trees, like the ash and pine which are commonly planted for their fast growth, have the greater potential of having large limbs fall down, so look for branches that may cause damage when they fall. A tree expert is your best choice for making a decision. While pruning around the home, clear branches away from the overhead service entrance cables for your electrical supply.
I would then examine the roof for issues. Loose or broken shingles will need to be repaired. Dishes for your television have cables that go down to the home, and often these cables are loose. These cables will damage the roof in a similar way to tree branches. Then check the vents for being secure. They should be firmly in place, since hurricane winds can blow them around. On flat roofs look to see that everything is in good shape and well caulked. Look for spots where water may stand, and also check that corners are well caulked. While in the roof area, examine the gutter system. Any loose gutters can come off.
Moving under the roof into the attic, ensure that vents for your water heater, heating system, and kitchen range are strapped in. If they are not, they can shake around causing damage. Check to see that the framing members are attached (you would be surprised how often I find support beams that are not affixed); this will help the roof withstand more. Having enough insulation and ventilation would be a good goal at this point. Ventilation allows for air movement, and if you do not have power afterwards, keeping the attic cool will help the house. Having insulation meeting a factor of R48 will help attic heat from effecting the interior, but a R-60 would be better.
For the windows, you may want to buy and cut plywood sheets now. There was a rush on building supply centers for the last hurricane, and many of my neighbors were unable to buy sheets to cover their windows. OSB will serve in a pinch, but I would not recommend this material (the adhesive will delaminate with water exposure). When the power goes out, you will want to open the windows to catch the breezes to cool the home. This is where well fitting window screens with no holes are needed. You want the breeze, not the insects.
Looking at your landscaping, see that water will be flowing away from your home. More damage comes from flood waters than the hurricane’s rain. I noticed more homeowners having problems with their backyards flooding than flood waters come from the street. Water has to be able to flow away from the house, and this means through side yards for most homes towards the street. Drainage systems can help, but proper grading is your best option. If the street is flooding, the drainage system may not drain to the street.
Inside the home, you have the standard hurricane guides; I do have one suggestion though. Electrical power may be down, but gas frequently remains viable. That is why gas generators are becoming popular. If you have the means, I would change over electrical cooktops or ranges to gas, so you can continue to cook meals for your family. Look for a gas pipe behind your range or under the cabinet to see if you can change this out.
I have seen a fan powered by a solar panel meant for patios. Without power, having this consistent breeze can make you feel better. I have seen these sell for around $50.
Lastly, caulk your wall joints. I see moisture penetration through uncaulked wall joints often. On the walls, check to see that everything is firmly attached to prevent the item from flying off.
Hopefully your home will come through with minor damage.