In the UK, we typically receive the most home insurance claims caused by bad weather in the first three months of the year. And if you live in the country, you’ll understand why. Our weather can be unpredictable – from snow to thunder and lightning – so being proactive and preparing your home in advance can be critical.
In this useful guide, we’ll take you through the steps to prepare your home ahead of storm season, including what to do before, during and after a storm.
What is classed as a storm?
Storms can be defined as a period of bad or aggressive weather, usually with high wind speeds, heavy rainfall, snowfall, or hail showers.
The Beaufort wind force scale is used in marine forecasts and measure wind intensity based on observed sea conditions. There are a total of 12 scales (with 12 being the highest), and each scale has a slightly different intensity of storm factors:
- Mean wind speed
- Limits of wind speed
- Wind descriptive terms
- Probable wave height
- Probable maximum wave height
- Sea state
- Sea descriptive terms.
In the UK, we name our storms that are due to have a detrimental effect to cities and towns across the country. The reason we give them names is so that there is better communication of what’s to come through the media and government agencies. This better informs us of how to prepare our homes and belongings.
In the last year, there have been storms named Bella, Fleur, Gavin, Oscar, Ravi and Wilson.
How to find out if a storm is on the way
Usually, we first hear about a storm approaching through the media – on the news online or on social media, on the TV or via the radio. There’s typically a bit of notice so that we’ve got time to get prepared. It’s worth noting that doing checks every now and then on your home and belongings would eliminate any rush or panic to get things ready specifically for a storm. When adverse weather is predicted, the Met Office issue frequent weather warnings.
How to protect your home against storm damage
Here are some top tips for preparing your home for a storm, or for general maintenance ahead of storm season.
Clear branches and trim trees
Pruning or cutting back your trees is one of the main items of preparation. Branches can easily snap or break off in a storm. They can drop or be carried in wind, and cause significant damage to your home or belongings. Weak points of a tree will always be affected first, so your general maintenance checks can include checking for these frail areas. Remove any that you don’t think look strong enough to survive a storm.
If the weak areas of the tree are too big or tricky to manage yourself, you might need to enlist the help of a tree specialist. Remember: using machinery or climbing ladders can cause serious injury.
Check and secure fences and other outdoor objects
Fences can bear the brunt of a storm, so it can be a good idea to repair or strengthen yours ahead of a storm.
If you’re installing a new fence, it’s worth researching the best type of fence panel to withstand high winds. They can also be torn from their base in the ground if they’re not firmly rooted.
Clear weeds and rubbish away from the fence panels. Make sure there’s adequate drainage around to prevent the base of your fence from getting waterlogged, as wood posts can rot if they’re not maintained properly. Minor damage can be patched up with spare wood and nails, and during warmer months a fence preservative could be applied to help protect the wood.
Put away or secure outside furniture
Big pieces of outdoor furniture can be affected by storms just as much as smaller items such as plant pots.
It’s a good idea to secure larger items, such as tables, chairs, and trampolines, that may be picked up or knocked over in wind. However, avoid using other heavy objects to weigh them down as this can be dangerous. It might also be worth covering or protecting certain items that could get damaged by heavy rain or hail.
Smaller pieces may need to be secured or brought inside too, such as lights, potted plants, toys, and ornaments.
Check your roof and skylights
Checking your roof ahead of storm season can be critical to prevent extensive damage during or after a storm. Some things to check include:
- Signs of leakage where the walls and roof connect (look for cracks, missing mortar or other openings)
- Walls and ceilings inside where the walls and roof are connected, including any eaves
- Tiles (ensure they’re not cracked, or that there’re no gaps or missing tiles)
- Skylights or roof windows (check the seals and joints to ensure there’re no gaps or deterioration).
If you’re unsure or can’t get access safely to your roof, it might be worth enlisting the help of a roof specialist.
It’s worth making these checks as part of your general year-round maintenance. If professional work is required, it can be costly or take a lot of time, so spotting issues before they become problematic could save money in the long term. If fixes aren’t put in place in advance, then a storm could cause further damage to your home.
Check your chimney
It can be common for there to be weak spots around your chimney and vents, so make sure to check in and around these. Again, it’s worth adding this to your list of year-round general maintenance. Some things to check include:
- General wear and tear
- Seals (check there are no gaps or cracks)
It's worth noting here that checking your chimney can be a dangerous task, so seeking the help of a professional may be worth looking into if you are unsure or unable to complete checks yourself safely.
Check gutters and drains
Blockages can be caused year-round to guttering and drains, especially from natural occurrences such as leaf fall and moss build up. It’s worth checking year-round to make sure there are no areas of concern. Always try to rectify any breakage or damage well in advance of storm season.
Joints should be checked to make sure there are no leaks, and that they’re strong enough to withstand adverse weather conditions. If damage is left unrepaired, it can cause further harm such as weakened walls, water damage inside your home, and general roof failure.
Lock your car away (or park out of harm's way)
If possible, moving your car away from areas of potential damage could be a good idea ahead of a storm. If you have a garage or a car port, it would be worth utilising it for your car for the duration of the storm. After all, damage to your car could be costly to fix. Some things to consider moving your car away from are:
- Nearby trees
- Unstable fences
- Loose items (such as garden furniture)
- Unstable fenceposts or poles.
Are you covered for storm damage?
It’s worth considering your home insurance options ahead of the winter season. If you live in an area particularly effected by storms, such as high-risk flood or high snowfall areas, consider your policy options and get the level of cover to suit your needs.
If you already have a MORE THAN policy, you can go to the policy wording section on the customer help and support page to check what level of cover you have. While we don’t cover fences, gates and hedges against storm damage, it’s worth checking what we do cover.
What to do during a storm
Storms can be a worrying time for us, but here are some tips for what you might want to do while the weather is bad outside.
Keep an emergency kit to hand
It might not be wise to head outside during a bad storm, so having an emergency kit to hand in case anything goes wrong can be a good idea. This will, of course, depend on the severity of the storm. An emergency kit could be useful if a severe storm is occurring, however you may not need to reach for a kit in the event of a light storm, such as thunder and lightening or moderate to heavy rainfall.
It’s worth considering all eventualities such as your electric supply cutting out or contacting someone for help. Some items to have to hand might include:
- Useful contact numbers
- Phone charger and battery pack
- Candles, matches and lighters
- Food and drink that doesn’t require cooking or heating
- Warm clothing and layers
- Buckets and bowls for any surprise leaks.
You also might want to have some indoor activities ready for all the family while you’re sitting out the storm – board games, card games, or even some colouring in.
In case of flooding
If your home is prone to flooding, properly filled and placed sandbags could effectively prevent or reduce flood water damage. They might also help give you peace of mind if flooding is due overnight – acting as a barrier to divert moving water around, instead of through, buildings. Sandbag construction does not guarantee a water-tight seal but is satisfactory for use in most situations.
Buckets and bowls may also come in handy, in case you need to catch a leaky roof or tip water out that has come inside. Keeping up to date with the Environment Agency (and signing up for flood alerts) can help you prepare for different eventualities and can also help you to track the progress of the storm.
Advice for after a storm
The storm has passed, and now you’re checking for any damage occurred. We’ve put together some tips of what to check and how.
Check for any damage
It could be wise to think about carefully and safely checking your home and belongings for any damage that may have been caused by a storm. This can include:
- Roof tiles and joints
- Gutters and pipes
- Outdoor furniture
- Windows and doors
Make a note of any damage, and think about whether it’s something you need to submit a home insurance claim for.
Follow up promptly
If you spot any damage to your home, it’s best to follow up on this promptly to avoid further risk, and also to get any necessary claims underway.
MORE THAN's Home insurance includes Home Emergency Assistance, which covers you up to £200 for certain eventualities, 24/7 phone support, plus a fast call out from a MORE THAN authorised tradesperson.
If you are already a MORE THAN customer you can get in touch to discuss any concerns about your home or contents.