Gerri Willis Commentary:
Top Tips by Gerri Willis Column archive
Hurricane-proof your home
5 Tips: Invest in these common sense safety precautions.
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist


NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - As another hurricane comes our way, preparing our houses for the worst may be the best investment we can make.

In today's top 5 Tips, we're going to tell you what you can do to keep your home safe from the ravaging forces of a hurricane.

1. Secure your garage

About 80 percent of residential hurricane damage starts with wind entry through garage doors, according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Many garage doors are made of lightweight materials to conserve weight and expense, which makes them vulnerable to high winds.

Look for a sticker on the inside of your garage door that gives you a pressure rating. If you don't see a sticker, chances are you'll need to reinforce your doors. Consumer beware: There many products out there claiming to provide protection. But they may not be up to code and they can be quite expensive, says Kerri Caldwell of "Hurricane Protection Magazine." In some cases, you may be paying over $15 a square inch to shield your garage.

It makes better sense to replace your garage door system with impact resistant garage doors. This can cost you about $1,200. A cheap way of reinforcing your garage is to use plywood or steel. You can also hire a contractor to reinforce your garage, but you should expect to pay about $600, according to the Federal Emergency Management Association.

2. Reinforce your windows

Forget about taping your windows, it's a waste of time. If you live in a hurricane or storm-prone area, you may want to think about installing impact resistant windows, recommends Leslie Chapman-Henderson of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. These windows are designed to withstand flying debris.

Keep in mind, you'll be paying for the extra protection. Impact resistant windows may cost twice as much as regular windows. These windows are designed to withstand the impact of a standard missile traveling at 34 mph.

If you don't live in an area that has a lot of hurricanes, you may think about investing in storm shutters. For the best shutter protection, install permanent shutters that carry the Miami-Dade building code approval. This is the highest standard a product can carry, according to Tim Reinhold of the Institute for Building and Home Safety.

Storm shutters can cost $50 to $60 per square foot of window. You can also use plywood shutters. According to the Red Cross, these shutters can offer a high level of protection if you install them properly. But make sure the plywood is at least 3/4 inch thick.

Shutters come in a variety of styles including accordion shutters, aluminum shutters and rollup shutters. For more information on types of shutters available and how much it may cost you, check out www.flash.org.

3. Glue your roof down

During a hurricane, the wind may almost seem to be ripping the roof off your home. So give your roof a bit of reinforcement. With some glue, you can increase your roof's resistance to wind.

The Federal Alliance for Safe Home recommends you go to your local home improvement store and get premium flooring adhesive. Using a caulking gun, put a small bead of glue to the underside of your roof where the roof and the support beams meet. Be sure to look for an adhesive that has been tested and has a strong rating like APA AFG-01 ASTM D 3498.

4. Check your trees

Every year falling trees and tree limbs cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage as well as personal injuries and deaths. Homeowners are the first line of defense against problem trees.

You'll need to regularly check for signs of damage or disease including cracks in the trunk or major limbs, insect infestations, trees that look one-sided or that lean significantly, branches hanging over the house or near the roof, limbs in contact with power lines or mushrooms growing from the bark, which can indicate decay.

5. Secure your stuff

If you have furniture and other outdoor equipment on your patio or deck, bring them inside when strong weather threatens. Don't forget trash cans, grills, toys, and potted plants. Keep them from becoming flying objects that can cause additional injury or damage during storms with high winds.

"You would be very surprised about what people don't think about," says Chapman-Henderson. "We saw garden gnomes wedged into palm trees. We saw an old record sliced into a tree. We saw sailboats in the tops of trees after Hurricane Andrew," she said.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to 5tips@cnn.comTop of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.