Your home should be a safe place. You want to feel comfortable when your family goes to sleep each night, not worry about the roof over your heads. But those who intend to live in an area where floods, earthquakes or hurricanes are a fact of life need to take extra precautions.
A home search in certain disaster-prone zip codes means learning about local building codes and construction methods designed to withstand the elements. If disaster resilience is a key consideration where you’re searching for a home, here are some examples of features to look for in a house.
As the Seismic Safety Commission of California states in its “Homeowner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety,” preparing your house for an earthquake is much less expensive than dealing with structural damage in the aftermath. If you plan to live in an area prone to earthquakes, you’ll need a house that can withstand the vibrations.
The California Earthquake Authority suggests that walls should be braced, and the house itself should be bolted to the foundation. The state is currently offering incentives to help those in identified high-risk areas make these upgrades to their homes.
Another concern is liquefaction, which occurs when the soil loosens up and loses strength in response to seismic activity. Over time, this process can weaken the ground supporting your house. In addition to a well-built home, those living in earthquake zones should purchase additional insurance. Specific earthquake insurance isn’t part of a standard homeowners policy, but it can be purchased separately.
After Hurricane Andrew, the state of Florida issued stricter building codes to better protect homes against heavy winds, which cause storm damage. In hurricane-prone areas, look for impact-resistant windows and doors. Hurricane shutters can also be placed over windows for additional protection. Also, make sure the roof shingles are highly rated for impact resistance to protect against wind and hail.
Homes in hurricane-prone areas should be secured to the foundation. Newer construction methods using concrete walls offer additional protection against the force of a hurricane. As far as insurance goes, you’ll want to read your homeowners policy carefully. According to the Insurance Information Institute, wind damage related to hurricanes might be calculated as a percentage of the home’s value, or your standard deductible may apply.
Disaster resilience is also important for homes located in flood zones, where elevation is key. FEMA recommends placing utilities higher to prevent water infiltration from affecting the home’s electrical systems. Look for flooring choices that are highly durable and water-resistant, such as porcelain tile. This avoids the need to replace hardwood or carpets should water infiltration occur.
If your home is in a flood zone, you can purchase flood insurance separately from your homeowners policy. The National Flood Insurance Program was established by the U.S. government to protect you in case your home is damaged by a flood. It’s definitely worth looking into if you’re purchasing a home in an area where floods are common.
If you’re considering purchasing a coastal home or downsizing to a beach bungalow, be sure to protect your investment by checking out the latest advances in home construction. Newer homes may offer better protection, but you can also consider upgrading or retrofitting older properties to increase their safety. Discuss insurance concerns with your agent, as “acts of God” aren’t typically covered in homeowners policies.