How to Better Prepare Your Home for Hurricanes and Floods

September 11, 2019

Hurricanes and floods have touched nearly every corner of Louisiana over the past 15 years, forcing residents around the state to adapt and take innovative steps to protect their homes from these challenging natural disasters.

For insights into these approaches, we turned to Claudette Hanks Reichel, an LSU AgCenter professor and director of the LaHouse Home and Landscape Resource Center on the LSU campus, which serves as a public showcase for solutions for resistance to hurricanes, floods, termites, moisture and decay.

Reichel says a little thought and investment before a natural disaster can save you a ton of heartbreak — and expense — when flooding or a wind event strikes. “The reality is when your home is damaged and you can’t live in it, it really disrupts your life — the stress as well as the expense,” she says.

Here are four ways you can better protect your home from storms and floods and save money on repairs.

Choose Your Roof Carefully

When it comes to insurance claims from storm damage, roofing ranks at the top. Reichel says many people purchase a 30- or 40-year roof and mistakenly expect it to provide increased wind resistance compared with a standard roof. “That has nothing to do with wind resistance,” she says. “That has to do with degradation from UV exposure and normal weather conditions.”

Homeowners who are re-roofing and want additional storm protection should opt for a wind-tested roof with materials that are rated specifically for wind resistance. The most wind-resistant materials are class F, G or H and are often only slightly more expensive than a standard roof. “You can get shingles that withstand up to 150 mph now,” Reichel says.

She says homeowners need to be sure that roof installers follow the special installation instructions for wind-resistant roofing materials to make sure the warranty is valid and the roof performs as intended.

A Little Roofing Cement Can Go a Long Way

Installing a new roof isn’t feasible for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve the storm resistance of your existing roof.

Reichel suggests applying roofing cement under the first course of your roof’s shingles to help them stick down better in windy conditions. Focus on shingles near the roof edges and near gable ends, and place three 1-inch-diameter dabs under each shingle tab near the edges.

The AgCenter suggests doing this at least two weeks in advance of a storm to allow the cement to adhere properly. “It’s inexpensive, you can do it yourself and it can help reduce damages if the wind isn’t super high,” Reichel says.

Limit Potential Debris

While cleaning up around the yard is standard operating procedure for many people before a storm, they often overlook smaller objects that can turn into big problems in high-wind situations.

Reichel says fine gravel — often used as mulch — is one of the biggest damage-causing culprits during a storm. In fact, gravel has been found in mailboxes after strong hurricanes and has been known to shred vinyl siding and break glass.

“That can become flying debris that can fly around and break windows,” she says. “Choosing soft-type mulches is better than gravel.”

Choose Flood-Resistant Materials When Possible

The AgCenter suggests homeowners in floodplains or those who have already experienced flooding should strongly consider upgrading to flood-resistant materials when possible. “If you’ve flooded once, it could happen again,” Reichel says. “It’s not just people in flood zones. In 2016, three-fourths of the people who flooded were not in a flood zone.”

Flood-resistant materials are those that can be submerged and either not take on water or dry easily without damage. Flood-resistant flooring includes materials such as ceramic tiles, decorative concrete flooring and thicker vinyl tiles that aren’t glued down to the subfloor or foundation. “If you ever flood that floor will be undamaged because you can literally pick it up, let your slab or subfloor dry and put it back,” Reichel says.

Beyond flooring, those building a new home in flood-prone areas or gutting a home after a flood event should consider installing washable, drainable, dryable walls (more information is available in this AgCenter fact sheet). “It’s a little more expensive, a little more involved, but if they ever flood they can just clean and restore it and not have to replace anything,” Reichel says. “It would vastly reduce their expenses in the ordeal and the time they would be displaced after a flood.”

Additionally, when remodeling your home, elevate what you can to reduce the likelihood of water damage. Equipment such as air conditioner compressors, water heaters, washers, dryers and other electrical systems are prime candidates for additional elevation.

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