How to protect your home from storms

author-avatar By on March 22, 2021
How to protect your home from storms

What would summertime in Australia be without scorching hot summer days followed by the sweet relief of an afternoon thunderstorm?

While those storms are great at cooling things down after a disgustingly hot day, they can also get really dangerous - especially in Queensland.

January’s 2020 hail storms caused an estimated $1.8 billion worth of damage to homes and with La Niña already wreaking havoc across most parts of the country, the Bureau of Meteorology (or BOM as we like to call it) has forecast a wet summer ahead, with flooding, storms and cyclones likely.

However, only 26% of Australians have checked what their insurance policy covers them for and just a third (29%) are planning to check their insurance policy is up to date, according to research from Allianz.

Meanwhile, three quarters of the population (74%) have no idea what their insurance policy covers them for, despite BOM warnings that this year's summer season is set to be one of the most extreme wet weather events in the last seven years.

According to Allianz, last year’s storm and flood season cost Australians $2.8 billion in damage. It’s inevitable that we’ll see some bad storms this year so rather than adopting the old ‘she’ll be right mate!' attitude we’re known for, start protecting your home against storm damage now.

Buying a home or looking to refinance? The table below features home loans with some of the lowest interest rates on the market for owner occupiers.

Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, fixed, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. If products listed have an LVR <80%, they will be clearly identified in the product name along with the specific LVR. The product and rate must be clearly published on the Product Provider’s web site. Monthly repayments were calculated based on the selected products’ advertised rates, applied to a $400,000 loan with a 30-year loan term.

How to storm-proof your property

1. Trim your trees regularly

In heavy winds, trees can get blown around and if the winds are bad enough, completely uprooted. The last thing you want is a tree as an unwanted house guest so make sure you trim your trees regularly and get rid of any loose or unstable branches. Not only are they a threat to your property, they also threaten neighbours' properties - not to mention your life if you get impaled by one.

2. Keep your gutters clear

If your gutters are full of debris, they can get blocked in heavy rain and that rain has nowhere else to go except back down the roof or the walls. That can lead to damage to the foundations of the home which means expensive repairs. At least twice a year you should aim to clean out the gutters or pay an expert to come over and do it for you, especially if your home is more than one storey high.

You can also buy gutter guards that keep leaves and twigs out of your gutters and downpipes.

3. Make sure your roof is in good condition

It’s easy to forget the roof of your home but you shouldn’t because in a severe storm, it can cop major damage if it hasn’t been looked after.

If your roof is showing any signs of damage, such as missing or damaged tiles, the roof is sagging, there’s corrosion around the gutters, the roof flashing is loose, there’s discoloured areas on the roof or the timber is rotting below the roofline, it means you could be at increased risk of getting a leaky roof in a severe storm.

Depending on how bad the damage is, a quick repair could be all it takes to fix the roof. As a general rule of thumb, if your roof is under 20 years old most issues can probably be repaired or restored, which can add on another 10-15 years to the life of your roof. If your roof is over 20 years old, you should book in a professional to inspect it. Roofs generally don’t last beyond 30 years so if yours is nearing the end of its life, it may be time to completely replace it.

4. Consider cyclone-proofing your home

Speaking of roofs, if you live in North Queensland or any other area of the country prone to cyclones, you may want to consider getting cyclone straps for the roof. Made of galvanised steel, cyclone straps can be ‘doubled up’ for twice tie down capacity requirements to keep your roof firmly in place in strong winds.

You may also want to consider installing cyclone shutters. Cyclone shutters are very similar to the shutters that shops use to close their stores at night. Most are made of aluminium and you’ll want to make sure they have been tested to withstand Category 3 and 4 cyclones.

5. Secure loose items

Before a storm hits, bring inside or secure any loose items such as outdoor furniture, kids toys, and trampolines which can all become missiles in bad storms.

6. Secure your car

If you know there’s a storm coming, protect your car by parking it inside your garage or carport if you’ve got one. If you don’t, you could ask a neighbour if they’ve got room in their garage, or you could park your car undercover at your local shopping centre. You could even buy a hail cover for your car if you have no other choice but to leave it outside.

Make sure your home and contents insurance policy is up-to-date

During Queensland’s 2011 floods, many homeowners were devastated to discover their insurance claims were rejected because of ambiguous policy clauses regarding what constitutes a flood (most policies don’t cover flooding caused by riverine or inland floods, only flash or storm water floods).

Make sure this doesn’t end up happening to you by checking your insurance policy covers storm-related events and what terminology your insurer uses to regard what constitutes a flood. While policies will vary from provider to provider, many policies won’t cover storm surge-related damages if you live in a coastal area (excluding tsunami damages). Read the product disclosure statement (PDS) thoroughly so you know what you are - and aren’t - covered for. Keep in mind that if you live in or near a flood zone, your premiums are likely to be much higher.

See also: What is flood insurance and how much is it?

While you’re at it, don’t forget to check your contents insurance policy is up-top-date and that you’re covered for outdoor items, such as the barbeque and outdoor furniture.

It’s not just your home you need to protect in a storm - your car also needs to be insured against storms. If you’ve got comprehensive car insurance, most providers will provide flood cover as a standard, but it’s best to double check your policy to make sure you’re covered.

Safeguard your sentimental items

According to Allianz, less than half (42%) of Australians have a plan in place to protect their cherished sentimental items like photos and letters.

Of those who have experienced a natural disaster, over half (53%) regretted not being more prepared, and a quarter said the loss of cherished items had an impact on their mental health, leading some to feel disconnected from their heritage, robbed of their identity, and worried they'd forget their family.

“The impact of losing a treasured item filled with memories can be more devastating than losing a replaceable object," said Dr Sarah McKay, Allianz Wellbeing Advocate and neuroscientist.

"Our sentimental items are the embodiment of our memories, relationships and travels – they help to form our identity and our legacy. When we lose a sentimental item, a common response is to grieve for the item and feel a disconnection to the memories associated with it, which may impact our mental health.”

What's more, Allianz research revealed most Australians (74%) said they wouldn't be able to access their irreplaceable sentimental items in a hurry if they needed to. 

This is why it's important to store photographs, letters and other important documents electronically via cloud-based services, such as Memories.com.au.

You should also add these files to a hard drive and share it with a trusted family member, as well as storing the physical versions in a home-safe that's fire and flood-proof. 

Savings.com.au’s two cents

Storms in Australia are no joke but if you take steps to storm-proof your home now and check your insurance is up to date you’ll be right as rain.


Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Disclaimers

The entire market was not considered in selecting the above products. Rather, a cut-down portion of the market has been considered which includes retail products from at least the big four banks, the top 10 customer-owned institutions and Australia’s larger non-banks:

  • The big four banks are: ANZ, CBA, NAB and Westpac
  • The top 10 customer-owned Institutions are the ten largest mutual banks, credit unions and building societies in Australia, ranked by assets under management in November 2020. They are (in descending order): Credit Union Australia, Newcastle Permanent, Heritage Bank, Peoples’ Choice Credit Union, Teachers Mutual Bank, Greater Bank, IMB Bank, Beyond Bank, Bank Australia and P&N Bank.
  • The larger non-bank lenders are those who (in 2020) has more than $9 billion in Australian funded loans and advances. These groups are: Resimac, Pepper, Liberty and Firstmac.
  • If you click on a product link and you are referred to a Product or Service Provider’s web page, it is highly likely that a commercial relationship exists between that Product or Service Provider and Savings.com.au

Some providers' products may not be available in all states. To be considered, the product and rate must be clearly published on the product provider's web site.

In the interests of full disclosure, Savings.com.au, Performance Drive and Loans.com.au are part of the Firstmac Group. To read about how Savings.com.au manages potential conflicts of interest, along with how we get paid, please click through onto the web site links.

*Comparison rate is based on a loan of $150,000 over a term of 25 years. Please note the comparison rate only applies to the examples given. Different loan amounts and terms will result in different comparison rates. Costs such as redraw fees and costs savings, such as fee waivers, are not included in the comparison rate but may influence the cost of the loan.

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Emma Duffy joined Savings.com.au as a Finance Journalist in 2019 after spending a year as the editor of The Real Estate Conversation. She's passionate about empowering people to make smart financial decisions and improve the financial literacy of Australians by translating complex finance topics into understandable, relatable content.

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