A Guide to Weatherproofing Your Home for Severe Weather by Home Depot
Severe weather events are increasingly common, with floods, tornadoes and hurricanes taking extremely costly tolls on real estate and property. Taking proper safety precautions and protecting your investments is more important than ever.
What plans do you have in place to safeguard your home? How have you prepped your house to better withstand storms, reduce damage and ultimately protect yourself and your loved ones?
Chances are, there’s more you could be doing to prepare yourself and your home. It’s much easier on your wallet (and your peace of mind) to take the time to safeguard your home against severe weather than spend the money to have damage repaired afterwards. Here’s a closer look at common weather problems, as well as simple, effective ways you can protect your home against these natural threats. All brought to you by our friends at Home Depot.
How can extreme heat impact your home?
A heat wave represents an extended period of time of extreme heat that in some areas may be accompanied by high humidity.
Extreme heat waves may force you to pay higher cooling costs, and prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause asphalt roof shingles to dry out, crack and curl, which decreases the life of the roof. Taking the time to weatherproof your home against extreme heat now may deliver both immediate and long-term savings on your energy bills.
How can you protect your home against extreme heat?
1. Use proper insulation. Proper insulation can ward off excessive heat during summer and may help you reduce your energy bills.
To select the right insulation for your home, you must:
- Determine where extra insulation is needed.
- Figure out what insulation R value you need for maximum insulation efficiency.
- Evaluate the type and quantity of insulation you should buy. Here’s a handy buying guide to help determine your insulation needs.
2. Caulk windows and doors.
Caulking windows and doors eliminates the risk that warm air may enter your home. With caulk, you can fill gaps and cracks to keep air, water and bugs out of your home.
To apply caulk properly, you should:
- Remove old caulk surrounding windows and doors with a putty knife.
- Use a wire brush and/or a caulk-removing solution to clean the surface.
- Apply caulk along the window or door joints for a consistent bead. Ideally, you’ll want to hold the caulk tube at a 45-degree angle to the joint being filled and apply caulk with steady pressure.
3. Use a programmable thermostat.
Why would you run your central heating and cooling system at the same level when you’re not home? With a programmable thermostat, you can lower your energy bills by keeping your home at an optimal temperature only when you are there. As a result, you’ll be able to better protect your home against excessive energy consumption during extreme heat waves, by not forcing your system to run at full capacity when it’s not required for the inhabitants inside. The Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees warmer or cooler than usual to save significantly on your energy bill.
Using your programmable thermostat enables you to adjust your home’s temperature based on a user-set temperature program, or from an app on your phone you have greater control over how and when you heat or cool your home.
4. Improve your home’s windows.
Choose high-quality windows that insulate your home and block unwanted heat or cold air.
There are several insulating options to choose from:
- Double-pane windows. A single pane of glass provides very little insulation. Double-pane windows solve that problem by trapping cold or warm air between the panes, making them twice as effective at insulating your home.
- Argon gas fills. These double-pane windows have argon gas between the panes, which is a better insulator than regular air alone. Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive.
- Low-emissivity film. Often called low-e film, this specialized layer is applied to your windows and reflects the warmth of sunlight into your home in the winter and away from your home in the summer.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) points out numerous energy-efficient window treatments are available that may help limit heat gain in summer, including:
- High-reflectivity films
- Insulated panels
- Mesh window screens
- Storm panels
5. Apply weather stripping.
Weather stripping offers an affordable, effective way to protect your home’s doors and windows against outside elements. Here’s a video showing how to apply it to your doors and windows.
Consider factors like the amount of friction weather stripping will have to withstand, exposure to weather and any cosmetic concerns you may have with it being seen before you install it. By choosing the right weather stripping and Energy Star rated products, you may be able to lower your annual heating and cooling costs and minimize the risk of significant heat gain in summer.
6. Examine your air conditioning unit.
When was the last time you cleaned out you’re A/C’s filter or checked it for water leaks? Although your A/C alone won’t cause significant damage to your home if you fail to maintain it, nearly 90 percent of all central-air service calls are related to water leaks, according to home improvement expert Joseph Truini. If these leaks remain unchecked, they can cause severe damage.
Truini emphasizes that air leaks can be problematic for homeowners. These leaks waste energy – likely the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re dealing with excessive heat in summer.
PRO TIP: Check that your central air-conditioning system is ready for summer. Clean out the filter, clear any debris and check the coolant levels, then test the unit to make sure everything is in working order. It’s far better to be proactive and check on your system before temperatures spike than to be left stranded with no A/C during a heat wave.
Hurricanes, Heavy Rainfall and Flooding
According to the National Resources Defense Council, climate change has contributed to a rise in extreme weather events – including higher-intensity hurricanes in the North Atlantic and heavier rainfalls across the country that may lead to substantial coastal flooding.
Even a few inches of floodwater can result in thousands of dollars in home damage, and hurricanes, heavy rainfall and flooding may lead to mold formation that can be extremely difficult—and costly—to remove.
How can you protect your home against heavy rainfall and flooding?
1. Clear your gutters.
Cleaning out your gutters may seem like an arduous task, but it is essential for those who want to safeguard their homes against heavy rainfall and flooding. Clear out leaves and twigs that may have accumulated. Ideally, you’ll want to clean your gutters at least twice a year.
If you find holes or cracks in your gutters, downspouts and downspout extensions, seal these with silicon caulk.
2. Identify sealant gaps in the space around your home’s windows.
Windows remain one of the most common sources of leaks in our homes. When it comes to heavy rainfall and flooding, you’ll want to do everything possible to minimize sealant gaps to prevent water or other debris from entering your residence.
Use an insulating foam sealant to seal gaps or cracks in the space surrounding your home’s windows. When this sealant is applied, it will fill the open spaces around a window to form a durable, airtight and water-resistant seal.
3. Install storm windows.
Many storm windows are available that can deliver long-lasting protection against heavy rainfall and flooding. Plus, these windows often feature comprehensive warranties – including lifetime guarantees – ensuring they will continue perform year after year, so you get the most out of your investment.
4. Grade the land around your home.
By adding dirt and grading the land around your home, you can ensure heavy rainfall and flooding slopes away from the foundation, Truini notes. This also represents the number one way to prevent wet basements and crawlspaces from forming.
The average hailstorm lasts only five minutes, but the damage hailstorms cause totals about $1 billion annually, according to the National Weather Service.
Hailstones can be as small as peas or as large as softballs, and the larger ones can cause injury and serious damage. When hail hits, it can shred roof coverings and lead to water damage to your ceilings, walls, floors, appliances and personal possessions.
How can you protect your home against hail?
1. Monitor your roof’s shingles.
Do your roof shingles need to be replaced? It’s not a project to procrastinate about. Installing high-quality roof shingles can help you safeguard your home against hail and other severe weather.
Top-rated roof shingles are unlikely to crack under extreme hail conditions. Therefore, choosing roof shingles that are warrantied to withstand severe weather threats can improve a homeowner’s chances of safeguarding his or her residence against hail.
If required, consider roof replacement from a trusted source. Seek out licensed and insured roof installers with warranties on both the product and labor.
PRO TIP: “If you need a new roof and live in an area prone to hail, select an impact-resistant roof covering … [that] has passed an impact test and was proven to be highly effective in hailstorms.” – Amy Howell Hirt, Liberty Mutual
2. Clean your gutters and drainpipes.
You might think your gutters and drainpipes work perfectly, at least until a hailstorm arrives. Excessive hail can clog gutters and drainpipes, particularly if these systems are already filled with debris. By clearing out gutters and drainpipes you can minimize this threat.
3. Remove outside patio furniture.
Hailstorms often include extreme wind and lightning. Removing lawn chairs, tables and other furniture from outdoor areas can reduce the risk of these items from flying into your home, and protects your furniture from hail damage.
Pea-sized hail likely won’t cause significant damage, but it’s hard to predict the size of hail in advance of a storm. Hail larger than 1.5 inches may cause significant rooftop and siding damage and breakage to windows, so it’s important to prep your home before any hail event.
A drought puts significant strain on water resources, forcing homeowners to examine how they can protect their lawns and cool their homes effectively until rain returns. It may also lead to an uneven foundation that can be extremely expensive and difficult to repair.
How can you protect your home against a drought?
1. Repair dripping faucets.
Saving water is essential in a drought. Repair dripping faucets to minimize the risk of water leakage. The repair process usually can be completed in one to two hours and delivers long-lasting water retention in the event of a drought.
To repair a dripping faucet, you must:
- Turn off the water under your sink.
- Identify the type of faucet you own. There are four kinds of faucets you may find in your home (compression, cartridge, ceramic disk and ball type).
- With a compression faucet, you’ll need to determine whether the rubber washers that are used to seal the valve seat are worn out. In this case, it is essential to replace the defective washers.
- In all other types of faucets, you can replace the faucet’s O-ring or neoprene seal that is causing the leak. Alternatively, you may be able to replace the entire assembly for under $20, as This Old House points out.
2. Pick up a rain barrel.
Watering your lawn might seem impossible during a drought, but those who use a rain barrel can collect water and maximize its usage when it does rain. Rain barrels come in a variety of shapes and styles to match your home and landscape and are relatively inexpensive.
3. Install efficient irrigation devices.
Rain or soil moisture sensors override your automatic watering system, when necessary. For example, a rain sensor senses rainfall and shuts down any regularly scheduled irrigation. Rain sensors are small, simple to use and easy to install, making them a great choice for DIYers.
In addition, soil moisture sensors are available that can detect moisture at the level of the root system. They measure how much water your plants receive.
4. Examine your foundation.
In many cases, a prolonged drought may result in a loss of moisture in the ground, causing the foundation to shift. If your foundation settles unevenly, it may be both time-consuming and expensive to fix.
To prevent this problem, keep the soil around your home’s foundation well hydrated at all times. You also can plant trees away from your home’s foundation to ensure your foundation and these plants don’t compete for moisture during a drought.
“Extended dryness can mean big problems for your home,” says Roy Spencer of Perma-Seal. “It can cause the ground beneath your house to harden and crack, and even start moving and sinking. Luckily, if you know where to look, these kinds of issues can be spotted and repaired.”
Be sure to look for foundation damage both inside and outside your home, as well as in crawl spaces. Cracked drywall that runs along a ceiling or wall can be a sign of foundational shift.
High winds can affect the structural frame of your house. Natural variables such as wind speed, wind height, ground surface features and the properties of the air, combined with building variables like the shape, location, and physical properties of a home, can create differences in pressure that push and pull on the exterior surfaces of buildings. Tilting or uplift of a home may also occur due to high winds.
How can you protect your home against high winds?
1. Install storm shutters and storm doors.
Installing storm shutters and storm doors can minimize the impact of high winds that may occur during hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather events.
To install storm shutters and storm doors, you must:
- Look for any obstructions (overhangs, protruding windowsills, etc.) that might otherwise interfere with the installation.
- Install the bottom panel so it overlaps the bottom of the windowsill or door frame.
- Make the location where the holes will need to be drilled for installation and drill on one side only.
- Ensure the panel is level, and if so, drill all other holes so each panel overlaps the previous panel.
- After the opening is covered by paneling, attach wing nuts to secure the panels properly.
2. Reinforce your home.
Reinforcing a home’s roof, doors and windows can reduce the impact of high winds.
To do this, you must:
- Determine what type of roof you have and ensure your roof is properly braced; you can reinforce with truss bracing.
- If high winds severely damage your home’s windows, you can install new windows from a variety of globally recognized brands (look for trusted brands like Andersen Window, JELD-WEN, American Craftsman and Tafco), many of which feature up to a double-lifetime warranty on hardware and screens, a lifetime craftsmanship warranty and lifetime accidental glass breakage warranty.
PRO TIP: Installing a waterproof underlayment beneath your roof shingles offers added protection against rain in the event that high winds blow the shingles off your roof.
3. Don’t forget the “easy stuff.”
Completing simple maintenance tasks like bringing your outdoor furniture inside and securing your outdoor grill can make a world of difference if high winds approach. These tasks ensure you can safeguard your personal belongings and prevent them from blowing into your home in extreme winds.
4. Hire an arborist.
By employing an arborist, you can cut down trees that are leaning toward your house and trim away branches that overhang the roof.
PRO TIP: “When you think about protecting your home from wind damage, make sure to focus on the weak points: windows, doors, garage doors, siding and roofing. Also, don’t forget about trees that can crash onto your home or branches that can turn into projectiles.” – Jason Michael White, Angie’s List
Severe Winter Weather
Extreme cold may lead to greater energy consumption, resulting in higher energy bills as well as putting additional strain on your home’s HVAC system.
Furthermore, winter storms bring snow, sleet and other inclement weather, which may lead to flooding. Winter weather may also result in freezing pipes if you don’t heat your home properly throughout the season.
How can you protect your home against severe winter weather?
1. Fix leaks in your ductwork and insulate your walls and attic.
Sealing attic and furnace ducting using materials that cost less than $50 (on average) will slash up to 30 percent off your energy bill, according to home improvement expert Fran Donegan. Small leaks may be as simple as taping over a minor tear.
Also, adding insulation in your attic can deliver substantial benefits. Regardless of whether you use loose fill or fiberglass batt insulation in your attic, sealing your attic will help you better control your cooling and heating costs for years to come.
2. Caulk and weather-strip your doors and windows.
Caulking and weather-stripping reduces the risk that cold air may enter your home in winter. Thus, both options may provide immediate and long-lasting benefits by eliminating gaps and seals around your doors and windows. They also can help keep warm air inside your home and cut down on drafts.
3. Use storm windows.
Installing storm windows offers a great way to keep warm air inside your home, as well as keep cold air outside in winter.
Also, you can cover your windows with plastic before winter, which may offer a more affordable alternative to installing storm windows. This can be done with plastic sheeting and a hair dryer and may help limit condensation on window panes by keeping your interior window surfaces warmer.
4. Insulate your pipes.
Pipe insulation offers multiple benefits: it helps prevent your pipes from freezing in cold temperatures and reduces plumbing noise, mold growth and heat loss, year-round.
In winter, cold air can cause the water flowing through your pipes to freeze and expand, resulting in bursting pipes that may cause structural damage to your home. Pipes that are exposed in unheated areas, such as basements and exterior walls, are vulnerable to cold temperatures. But those who apply fiberglass pipe wrap and tubular pipe sticks around their home’s pipes can limit the risk of freezing in extreme cold.
5. Install storm doors.
By installing storm doors, you can add extra protection for your home’s front doors against rain, snow and other winter weather.
Plus, if there is severe damage to your entry doors after a winter storm, keep in mind that there are many different types of front and rear entry doors (fiberglass, iron, wood, etc.) to safeguard your home against severe winter weather.
6. Avoid ice dams.
Ice dams can damage your roof’s shingles and cause water to back up into your home.
Home improvement expert Joseph Truini notes you can avoid ice dams by making sure that the attic fresh-air vents (soffit, ridge or gable-end) are working properly and not covered by insulation and by ensuring that the attic floor is properly insulated. Also, using a snow rake to pull snow from the lower edges (eaves) of the roof can further reduce the risks of ice dams.
Finally, repair roof leaks and remove tree branches that could become weighted down with ice or snow and fall on your house or your neighbor’s house.
PRO TIP: “Protecting your home is critical. A frozen water pipe can burst and flood your home or basement. An ice dam in your gutter can cause water to seep into and saturate an interior wall.” – Nationwide Insurance
About every three to six years, the surface water of the Pacific Ocean along the equator becomes unusually warm. This is called El Niño, and it brings intense weather, along with extreme temperatures and precipitation. Additional storms may lead to greater risk of flooding, which can cause severe home damage. Excessive winds may be problematic, further putting your home at risk.
How can you protect your home against El Niño?
1. Inspect your roof.
Gabriel Lugo, franchise operations director of water damage repair company 911 Restoration, tells Realtor.com that homeowners should look for shingles that look bent or deteriorated, or missing altogether: “You don’t have to risk life and limb. Just take a look from the ground.”
2. Clean your home’s gutters and check its foundation.
Those who clean out their gutters periodically can reduce the risk of flooding as well as long-lasting damage to their home’s foundation. Damaged, non-functional gutters may lead to foundation damage due to rain water that remains near the home and filters toward the foundation. After this water accumulates around the foundation, it will soak into the concrete.
A proactive approach is key, particularly when it comes to gutter cleaning and foundation reviews. Remember, it always is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your home, and evaluating these areas regularly ensures you can eliminate them before they escalate.
PRO TIP: “The purpose of gutters is to direct water away from the home. This is important because any water that moves toward the home can cause damage – roof damage, water leaking into the home, flooding, the weakening of your home’s foundation, rotting wood and mold or mildew. These issues can be costly to fix, but you can lower your risk by cleaning and maintaining your gutters.” – New Life Painting
3. Trim tree branches and secure your outdoor belongings.
Tree branches that are too close to your house could fall on or blow into your residence during an El Niño-related weather event. Fortunately, those who hire an arborist to trim their trees or choose to do it on their own can reduce the risk of tree branching falling or flying into their home.
In conclusion, a proactive approach to weatherproofing remains essential for homeowners. Whether you’re taking a few inexpensive steps to seal leaks or investing in storm doors, programmable thermostats and insulated windows that will keep your home safe for years to come, advance preparation is key. Follow this guide and take the necessary steps to protect your home against any severe weather that nature throws your way.