Weathering the storm: Building a hurricane-proof house

In the face of severe weather events, protecting our homes from hurricanes is paramount. Constructing a resilient, hurricane-proof house will add extra protection from your family and safeguard your property.

Vivian Tejada
May 5, 2023

Explore the series: Weatherproofing your home

Weather can be harsh on a home. Learn how to fortify your space against the elements that nature throws our way in our in-depth blog series on weatherproofing your home.

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Owning a home along the coastline is exciting, but it can also be stressful if your property is not hurricane-proof. Every year, hurricanes and storm-related flooding cause around $34 billion in damage to coastal homes. Houses built around the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and beaches along the Atlantic Coast are most at risk.

Broken down by state, the top 10 states at risk of hurricane activity are Florida, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New York, and Virginia. As a homeowner in one of these hurricane hotbeds, you’ll want to be proactive about hurricane protection and weatherproofing your home. Here is what you should focus on when designing a hurricane-proof house:

Hurricane-resistant home upgrades to consider

Install impact-resistant windows and entry doors

Doors and windows are some of the most vulnerable parts of a home during extreme weather conditions. Homeowners who want to increase their home’s hurricane resistance can either purchase impact windows or install storm shutters on top of their standard windows.

Both are an investment but are worth it if your home is located in a hurricane-prone area. If you don’t have the money to invest or expect hurricane damage to be minimal, a few cost-effective ways to protect your windows during storm surges are:

  • Add film to keep window glass together when it breaks.
  • Add caulking around window frames to keep out water and flying debris.
  • Add plywood to prevent broken window glass from causing bodily harm.

Prepare your roof for intense wind pressure

Hurricane proof homes must have secure roofs. Roof repairs are expensive, and if hurricane damage is significant, it could render your home uninhabitable after a hurricane. Maintaining the structural integrity of your home is paramount during extreme weather events, and it all starts with your roof.

The most hurricane-resistant roof material is metal, which can protect against wind gusts of up to 140 mph. Made from tin, steel, aluminum, copper, or zinc, metal roofs are a more expensive option, but they are more durable than asphalt shingles. Metal roofs last 50 years or more and are the best at wind deflection.

If a metal roof isn’t a viable option, you can also consider architectural shingles, which can often resist high winds of up to 130 mph and last 20 to 30 years. Architectural shingles are thicker and at least 50% heavier than traditional three-tab asphalt shingles. Lastly, homeowners also have the option of using steel hurricane clips, which strengthen the connection between the roof and the house.

Reinforce outdoor structures during tropical storms

Outdoor structures such as pools, patio furniture, and yard décor can easily get damaged or lost during a hurricane. They can also become a liability if they lift off the ground and fly into someone else’s property. Before a hurricane is expected to hit, bring as many of your outdoor items indoors as possible. Items that are too big or dirty to come inside, such as lawn care tools, kayaks, and pool chairs, will need to be secured separately, either by being put in storage or staked into the ground.

Improve hurricane resistance through landscaping

Maintaining your yard may seem useless in the face of the most detrimental storms, but the better you maintain it, the less damage your home may sustain. Tree maintenance is especially important. Regularly trimming trees on your property reduces the risk of damage from falling or flying branches during a storm. Trees that go array can compromise your home, your neighbors' homes, and even electric lines on the street. Choosing resilient plants can also reduce the impact of high winds and heavy rains.

Ensure proper drainage and water management

Hurricanes and flooding often go hand in hand, which can pose a significant threat to electrical equipment and utilities located in low-lying areas of your home. To reduce flood-related damage, elevate electrical systems above potential water levels. You can do this by raising electrical panels, HVAC systems, water heaters, and other utilities to higher locations within your home, or relocating them to upper floors.

You’ll also want to clear the gutters to minimize the risk of flooding. Proper drainage systems help divert water outwards and minimize the likelihood of flooding, foundation damage, and water intrusion which can cause mold issues.

Keep up with regular inspections and maintenance

Regular property maintenance ensures that any previous renovations such as reinforced windows, sturdy doors, and fortified roofing are in optimal working condition when a hurricane hits. It’s important for homeowners to conduct routine inspections on hurricane shutters, drainage systems, backup generators, and sump pumps before trouble strikes. This helps maintain energy efficiency within the home while hurricane repairs are being made.

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How to finance hurricane-proof home upgrades

According to Attainable Home, preparing your home for a hurricane can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000. The bigger the house, the higher the cost. Here is a quick breakdown of costs for different upgrades that hurricane-proof your home:

  • Hurricane-proof windows: $2,400 to $30,000+
  • Storm shutters: $3,500 to $5,000
  • Hurricane-resistant roof: $1,700 to $42,500
  • Hurricane-proof doors: $2,400 to $3,000
  • Impact garage doors: $750 to $1,300
  • Roll-down hurricane shutters: $30-35/sq ft

As you can see from the above prices, hurricane-proofing your home can get quite expensive. Here are a few financing options to consider:

Homeowners insurance

Purchasing homeowners insurance is a must, especially if you live in an area prone to natural disasters. However, not all homes qualify for the same coverage. Many older homes built in hurricane-prone areas are now considered functionally unwarrantable, meaning that insurance companies will not cover damages to the property. Make sure that the home you are buying qualifies for natural disaster coverage before closing.

Since hurricane-proofing a home can be expensive, some owners prefer to take out a homeowners insurance policy and use these funds to repair their homes after a hurricane has passed.

Standalone "hurricane insurance policies" are not actually sold by insurance companies. Instead, you'll need a combination of your home insurance policy and other relevant supplemental policies, like flood insurance, to get good coverage. Insurance costs usually provide financial protection for:

  • Your residence (the structure)
  • Detached units (like a detached garage)
  • Personal property (your belongings)
  • Living expenses if you are displaced

PACE loan

Another common way of financing home renovations is through a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan. PACE loans finance 100% of a homeowner’s property renovations up to $250,000, as long as the renovations make the home more efficient or safer.

PACE loans come with competitive fixed interest rates and terms of up to 30 years for some projects. In some cases, homeowners don’t need to make an initial cash payment towards the loan.

However, borrowers do need to settle associated loan fees along with their next property tax bill. Failure to make payments on a PACE loan could result in the loss of your property, so it’s important you carefully consider your financing options moving forward.

Home equity loan or HELOC

Hurricane-proofing a home can also be financed through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Both financing options leverage the equity you have in your home and utilize your home as collateral. A home equity loan is repaid much like a mortgage, whereas a HELOC is repaid only after the draw period ends. Just like with a PACE loan, you run the risk of losing your home if your home equity loan, or HELOC, is not repaid.

Home Equity Investment (HEI)

Homeowners also have the option of financing their hurricane-proofing projects through a Home Equity Investment (HEI). An HEI allows homeowners with a 500+ credit score to access a lump sum of cash with no restrictions on how the funds can be used, no monthly payments, and no income requirements.

Instead, homeowners repay the investment amount plus a percentage of the home’s future appreciation at any time during a 30-year term. Homeowners pay back the HEI in a lump sum when the house is sold, refinanced, or at some other point in time. A Home Equity Investment is an attractive financing option for homeowners because it comes with:

  • Lump sum payouts
  • No monthly payments
  • If the home value goes down, the payback amount may be smaller
  • No restrictions as to how money is used
  • No prepayment penalties ‍

Using a HEI to hurricane-proof your home

Living in a hurricane-prone area without an impact-resistant home can be worrisome for a homeowner. It’s best that you take measures to protect your home before it’s too late. Instead of depending on insurance agencies in the aftermath of a hurricane or risking your homeownership through a home equity loan, consider a Home Equity Investment.

Point provides a unique financing solution to homeowners with low credit scores who need to hurricane-proof their homes and secure peace of mind. Visit Point to find out if you qualify to fund your hurricane-resistant home without new monthly payments.

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