In the previous decade alone, an estimated 7,348 major natural disasters caused $2.97 trillion in economic loss. The previous 20-year period saw only 4,212 natural disasters cause $1.63 trillion in damage.
More than 3.3 million Americans lost homes to natural disasters in a single year, another strong indication that harsh weather events are on the rise. These events can cause major property damage through natural factors like wind and fire. Prolonged water exposure after a flood can also compromise building materials and damage a home’s infrastructure.
Today, weatherproofing your home is critically important to give the structure the best chance to survive in extreme weather.
Understanding the Threats of Extreme Weather
Extreme weather is changing, seemingly growing more frequent and more intense. In years past, you could anticipate certain weather events based on your location. For example, cities like St. Louis, located near the Mississippi River, were prone to experience flooding after heavy rainfall. Warm, moist air in the central United States — particularly states like Kansan and Oklahoma — often experience tornadoes during the early spring and summer months.
Weather events have grown less predictable over time. Extreme heat waves in the Northeast, setting all-time temperature records, have shown that many locations are now vulnerable to new extreme weather events;
Homes in cold climates, constant flooding danger, and those suffering through a drought can take a beating. It’s not only homes in Phoenix that are subject to triple-digit temperatures. No matter the extreme weather events that traditionally affect you, it’s important to prepare your home for new temperatures and weather phenomena. This helps fortify your home against anticipated and unanticipated weather threats.
Here are some of the common extreme weather events that affect homes each year:
- Extreme heat: Heatwaves can strain a home’s exterior and interior, particularly for homes not built to withstand high temperatures. Thermal expansion due to high temperatures can crack foundations, warp roofs, and damaged windows and doors. It can also heavily strain air conditioning units and other cooling systems.
- Extreme cold and winter storms: Cold temperatures can freeze pipes, which often burst and cause additional damage. Snow accumulation, particularly on roofs, can cause structural collapse. Freezing conditions also require heavy heating system usage, which can strain temperature control units and other electrical systems in the home.
- Flooding: Floodwater will quickly damage a home, ruining items like furniture, bedding, and vehicles. Water also damages a home’s internal systems, from plumbing to electricity. Over time, water exposure will lead to mold growth across walls, floors, and the foundation.
- Tornadoes: Tornadoes can cause blunt-force damage to a home. High winds often remove roofs, windows, vehicles, and other external elements of a home. They can also generate projectiles that could further damage your home or anyone inside.
- Hurricanes: Wind and water damage from hurricanes can make them particularly devastating. Hurricane damage often includes torn roofs, shattered windows, and mold growth.
In many cases, homes are simply not built to withstand this kind of damage. Wind, rain, or extreme temperatures will cause all sorts of damage. However, there are still steps you can take as a homeowner to limit this damage and make your home more resilient against weather-related challenges.
How to Protect Your Home
There are several important steps in protecting your home against extreme weather events. Start with proactive improvements to fortify your home.
Seal or Replace Windows
Windows are one of your first lines of defense against extreme weather. A compromised window is one of the fastest paths for extreme weather to enter your home.
Look for signs that your windows might need some work. For example, you might need to replace your windows if you can feel a draft or see a water leak coming through them. If you have trouble opening and closing your windows — or if you see condensation building on the panes — it might also be time to replace them.
Here are some types of windows that typically perform well during extreme weather events:
- Vinyl window frames that survive years in desert elements;
- Double or triple-pane windows that improve thermal insulation;
- Fiberglass frames that reduce heat transfer.
Sealing or replacing your windows gives your home a better chance against extreme weather.
Evaluate Exterior Doors
Doors are also an important priority in your home. They protect the people and items inside from threatening weather, acting as a physical shield against the elements.
Look for clear signs that your door might need to be replaced. For example, check for noticeable drafts around your door’s frame. After rain, check to see if your door allows any water to seep inside.
It’s important to choose a door that will stand up to extreme weather. Look for doors built with protective steel or fiberglass, to minimize the chance that weather conditions reach the inside of your home.
Inspect Your Roof
The roof helps preserve the integrity of your entire property, guarding against airborne weather elements like snow and rain. It also helps trap heat inside the home, reducing pressure on heating and cooling systems.
It’s important to proactively examine your roof for any required repairs. Look for visible holes, indentations, or signs of leakage. Check for any missing or damaged shingles. Compare sides of your roof to check for any sagging or uneven surfaces. Closely examine your roof for any deterioration that might signal a need for replacement.
Strong roof building materials can help protect your home against extreme weather elements. Use asphalt shingles, metal panels, and concrete tiles to build a roof that lasts. Consider membrane roofing for any flat roofs that receive a lot of UV exposure.
Consider Walls and Insulation
Your home’s walls and insulation play a major role in controlling interior temperatures. Walls help protect against extreme weather while your insulation preserves a comfortable environment inside the home.
Insulate your exterior walls to reduce heat transfer. Apply rigidly or spray foam to preserve interior heat and temperature consistency across the home. For more even heat distribution, insulate flooring to improve comfort during cold weather events. You can also weatherstrip your walls to prevent any air or water leakage.
Extra Measures for Preparedness
There’s always more you can do to protect your home against extreme weather. For example, make sure you follow local weather news channels, broadcasters, or publications that give updated descriptions of weather in your region.
Here are some more measures to protect your home from extreme weather:
- Install a backup generator: Backup generators provide reliable power if your home loses electricity. They help keep your lights and appliances running, which is extremely important in preserving your food and the home’s internal temperature.
- Use a sump pump for flooding: Sump pumps detect water build-up and work to relocate water away from the home. This tool helps prevent initial flood damage and the water accumulation that so often produces mold growth.
- Practice fire-wise landscaping: It’s important to organize your property in ways that limit drought and wildfire effects. This might mean installing fire-resistant plant species and creating distance between trees to prevent a potential fire from spreading through vegetation.
- Prepare an emergency evacuation kit: Your extreme weather emergency kit should include any urgent items you might need. Add identification documents, medication, food, water, bandages, and any other items you might need for small children and pets.
Many forms of weather-related home improvement are rather simple. Most only require your time and financial investment. However, some renovations — like examining the integrity of your roof — are better left to the experts. If you’re at all unsure about a particular home improvement, contact a renovation expert for more information.