Hurricanes wreak havoc because they combine two of nature’s most destructive forces: wind and water. Having proper home insurance coverage and knowing what to do to support your claim will help you repair hurricane damage much more quickly. We’ll walk you through some proactive measures you can take to prepare for a potential hurricane and what to do if you find yourself dealing with home repairs after one hits.

Before the Storm 

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, it’s best to be proactive. Prepping documentation ahead of time and having a thorough knowledge of your home insurance policy and its limits can go a long way in the event of a natural disaster. Let’s look at some of the steps you can take before a hurricane happens to make the recovery process go more smoothly. 

Create a Home Inventory

Our experienced team recommends that all home insurance policyholders should compile an inventory of their possessions before a storm happens. If you don’t currently have an inventory, start one as soon as possible.

A home inventory is a list documenting your home’s contents, including detailed descriptions of items, serial numbers, purchase dates and cost, replacement costs, and photos of your possessions. Organize the inventory by room and update it every year — this keeps your inventory accurate and up to date. 

Keep your inventory in a safe location, such as a fireproof safe or as a password-protected file stored in the cloud. You want to be able to access it even if your home is damaged.

Plan Ahead with Flood Insurance

The primary cause of hurricane damage is water from extreme rainfall and storm surges. However, standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. You need separate flood insurance to be covered for damage from heavy rains, overflowing rivers and lakes, and rising seawater. 

If you’re living in a FEMA-designated high-risk flood zone and your mortgage is from a federally-backed lender, you must carry flood insurance. Our experienced team recommends investing in flood insurance even if it isn’t federally mandated for your area, as even just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage to your home. If you need flood insurance, buy it as soon as possible, as many policies don’t activate until up to thirty days after purchase. 

Further Hurricane Preparedness

It’s always best to prepare for a hurricane ahead of time. Create an emergency supply kit if you live in a hurricane-prone area. Keep the kit in an accessible location and include supplies such as nonperishable food, bottled water, batteries, cash, important personal documentation, and medication. 

If you find your home in the path of a hurricane, listen closely to all evacuation directives from local officials. Take the time to secure and prepare your home so that storm damage is minimized. Steps include securing your outdoor furniture, clearing rain gutters, boarding up your windows, and moving your car away from trees or structures that could topple over in high winds. 

Emergency Kit
Image Credit: Canva

After the Storm 

Dealing with hurricane damage can be overwhelming, but taking the time to be thorough and make use of the documents you’ve assembled before the storm will help when navigating insurance processes for repairs and reimbursements. Here’s what you can do to effectively document your home repair claim while prioritizing safety for you and your family. 

Photograph and Document Damage

Your first step after a hurricane is to document the damage to your home thoroughly with photos. This will help you demonstrate the extent of the damage and substantiate your claim when you meet with insurance adjusters. Be sure to photograph not just obviously damaged areas but also the surrounding areas to provide context. For example, if a tree fell on your roof, take pictures of the tree, the damaged roof section, and any rooms inside affected by damage.

In your damage documentation, be as specific as possible in your descriptions. Note information like brands, model numbers, purchase dates, and approximate replacement costs for appliances and electronics. You should also document the location and dimensions of all structural damage. This detailed inventory will give insurance adjusters a clearer picture of your case.

Make Emergency Repairs

Refrain from making or ordering permanent repairs to your home until an insurance adjuster reviews the damage. Any kind of comprehensive repair should wait for the adjuster’s assessment and the approval of your insurance company. Although it may be tempting to start reconstructing your home, do only what’s necessary to prevent further damage, such as boarding up broken windows or placing a tarp over your roof to keep rain out. 

In our experience, it’s also best not to clean up or throw out damaged items because the adjuster may need to inspect them. Keeping these items in place will provide context for how the damage to your home occurred. 

File a Claim ASAP

Insurance companies sometimes operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so you want to file a claim as soon as the storm passes, and it’s safe to inspect your home for damage. You can contact insurers via phone, online, or through mobile apps in most cases.

Image Credit: Canva

When starting your claim, provide your damage documentation, the photos you took, your home inventory list, your policy number, and contact details. Be sure to ask about the adjuster assignment and other next steps in the process and overall timelines so you know what to expect. 

An insurance adjuster will assess visible damage, examine your documentation, determine repair and replacement costs, and finalize the claim payout amount.

Communicate openly with adjusters and provide supplemental documentation if requested so you can avoid lengthy payout delays.

Secure Safe Lodging

If your home is uninhabitable, find safe temporary lodging where you can stay while permanent home repairs take place. You should also know your loss of use coverage or contact your insurance agency immediately to determine if you have this coverage, what its monetary value is, and any time limits associated with it. The loss of use coverage in most homeowners policies is designed to help pay for living expenses like hotel costs, restaurant meals, laundry, and other expenses you may incur while unable to live in your storm-damaged house.

Keep all your receipts, and be sure to submit documentation of all temporary housing expenses related to your displacement as quickly as possible. This will allow your insurance company to reimburse you quickly. 

Hurricane Deductibles

Insurance providers typically include a hurricane deductible in coastal area policies. This deductible is usually percentage-based as opposed to a fixed dollar amount. For example, while some home insurance deductibles are usually $500 to $2,000, hurricane deductibles are 1% to 5% of the home’s insured value, and this amount may be higher in coastal areas. 

For example, a $300,000 home with a 2% hurricane deductible means the policyholder pays the first $6,000 of damage repair costs before insurance coverage starts. This protects providers in the case of widespread simultaneous claims while reassuring policyholders.

Contact your insurance agent to confirm what your policy states and the deductible percentage. This will tell you what out-of-pocket costs you would face if a hurricane damaged your home. 

So, Are Proper Insurance Coverage and Preparation the Best Defenses Against Hurricane Damage?

No insurance payout undoes the emotional toll of a hurricane strike. However, having comprehensive homeowners and flood insurance tailored to your risk profile is vital protection against financial consequences as you recover from a hurricane. Being proactive by documenting your possessions thoroughly before a storm strikes and creating emergency response plans to efficiently handle insurance claims, repairs, and temporary relocations after the storm can go a long way. 

You can protect your finances and your family by planning thoroughly, securing specialty insurance, and using every available resource to brace for the realities of escalating hurricane dangers. The more prepared you are, the faster you can return to normal. 

FAQs About Preparing for Hurricanes

How often should I update my home inventory?

Update your home inventory annually to document new purchases, reflect changing home values, add serial numbers, and make other needed changes. Also, update your inventory after major remodeling or renovation projects.

What should I do if I discover roof damage after a hurricane?

Don’t attempt to climb on a storm-damaged roof — it’s extremely dangerous. Rope off areas underneath compromised roofs to avoid injury from falling debris. You can use tarps secured with boards or ropes to create temporary waterproof barriers if roof damage is allowing water intrusion, but only if it doesn’t require you to climb on the roof. Take photos of visible roof damage from the ground to share with your insurance adjuster.

Does standard homeowners insurance cover food spoilage from power outages during hurricanes?

It depends. You can purchase endorsements to add coverage for food spoilage due to power outages from storms or utilities failing. But policies often have exclusions, so read yours closely and be aware of exactly what your policy will cover.

What should I do if I discover mold growing in my home after a hurricane?

You should contact your insurance company right away, as you may have coverage for professional mold remediation. Contain, document, and monitor areas of mold growth and communicate with your insurance company as it may ask you to make temporary repairs.

If a water leak is causing mold growth, take steps to shut off the water immediately to contain further growth. Don’t try to tackle major mold problems yourself using harsh chemicals. You should have an industrial hygienist test the air inside your home to assess whether toxic black mold is making your home unsafe to live in.

Does homeowners insurance cover hurricane damage to fences, docks, or sheds?

Standard homeowners policies provide limited coverage for secondary structures and property improvements like sheds, fences, pools, and docks. You must usually purchase separate endorsements to get more robust coverage options for high-risk assets like docks exposed to storm surges. Speak to your agent about potential gaps in your current insurance policy so you can purchase additional needed endorsements.

Editorial Contributors
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Nikki Stavile

Nikki Stavile is a writer based in Tucson, Arizona. As an avid backpacker and passionate environmentalist, her work often focuses on sustainable movements at the personal and societal level.

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Lee Ann Merrill

Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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