How to Prepare Your Home for Climate Change

Climate change has caused an uptick in severe weather in recent years. And the problem is only expected to get worse.

A recent report by research and technology group First Street Foundation found that 8.1 million U.S. residents are expected to experience temperatures in excess of 125 degrees Fahrenheit as soon as 2023. And by 2053, 107.6 million Americans could be in an extreme heat belt. Climate change could make weather events like hurricanes more severe in the future, increasing the chances of homes sustaining damage from wind and flooding.

Homeowners insurance group Hippo recently found that one in three homeowners have already experienced damage from severe weather or issues related to climate change. Yet only 40% have made updates to their homes to protect against similar damage in the future.

Whether you’re a current homeowner or a prospective one, it’s important to account for climate change impacts — and make sure your property is equipped to withstand severe weather. The good news is that there are steps you can take to renovate your home to adapt to climate change.

— Adapting your home to extreme heat.

— Adapting your home to hurricanes.

— Adapting your home to floods.

— Should climate change and extreme weather impact your homebuying decision?

[Read: What Are Climate Migrants and Where Are They Moving?]

Adapting Your Home to Extreme Heat

Extreme heat isn’t just uncomfortable to live with. It can actually damage your home.

Too much heat and humidity can cause issues like mold and warping of wood floors. The former could cause health issues for those who occupy your home, and can be very costly to mitigate.

Protecting your home from extreme heat starts with upgrading to the most efficient insulation you can install. Mallory Micetich, home care expert at home improvement network and information company Angi, says spray-foam insulation is generally your best bet. “It can go inside your walls and fill in every nook and cranny,” she explains.

Next, upgrade your windows. Double and triple panes will offer better protection than single-paned windows, so it’s worth making that investment, says Micetich. You can also purchase sun-blocking film to put on the outside of your windows, which should help keep your home cooler.

Additionally, think about updating your siding. Homes that tend to experience extreme heat often do well with stucco over vinyl siding, which has the potential to melt and warp. Darker siding will generally absorb and retain heat, so going with a lighter color is a better bet if you’re worried about extreme temperatures.

You can also protect your home from humidity by upgrading to a more powerful HVAC system or installing a whole-house dehumidification system. These are all big investments, but they might spare you a world of damage down the line, says Micetich.

Finally, says Micetich, focus on your attic. Heat can seep into your home via your attic, so adding ventilation and fans is essential.

[What Items Need Climate-Controlled Storage?]

Adapting Your Home to Hurricanes

Hurricanes can pack a double punch of wind and water, both of which can cause major damage. Micetich says that if you’re buying a home in an area that’s prone to hurricanes, you must have a really well-maintained roof. That means not having any loose shingles or weak spots that could cave if a storm hits.

If your roof is more than 10 years old, Micetich says, and is reaching the end of its lifespan, consider replacing it with more durable materials. Metal roofs are safer than shingles in terms of hurricanes. But, Micetich says, “They’re much more expensive, so they’re not always an affordable option.”

Another important step you can take to protect your home from hurricanes is to install storm shutters and doors. “Broken glass coming inside your home poses a danger to you,” says Micetich, so this is an investment worth making. Similarly, you may want to upgrade to storm-rated garage doors, which are double-reinforced.

Finally, says Micetich, “Think about what you have in your yard. Your home can withstand a lot. … But it’s often trees that cause a lot of the damage.”

Removing dead or dying trees could prevent disaster in the event of a storm. And if you’re in the process of building a home, planting trees farther away could prevent damage later on.

Adapting Your Home to Floods

Flooding is already an issue for homes in low-lying areas, and climate change is only likely to make the problem worse. Micetich says one of the most important steps you can take to protect your home from flood damage is to invest in a sump pump and flood vents. A sump pump can remove excess water that starts to pool in the lowest level of your home, while flood vents prevent hydrostatic pressure buildup that can destroy walls and foundations.

Of course, a sump pump can only work if your home has power. If you live in a storm-prone area, you may want to invest in a standby generator, says Micetich — one that automatically kicks on when the power goes out.

Not only can a standby generator keep a sump pump going, but it could be crucial to minimizing post-storm damage. “You need a dry home after flood damage,” says Micetich. And drying out a home often means using tools like wet/dry vac, dehumidifiers and fans to circulate air, none of which will work if your home doesn’t have power.

Micetich also recommends sealing basement walls every few years so water is less likely to seep through. Additionally, she recommends assessing your lawn and making changes to the way it’s graded if water pooling seems to be an issue.

“You don’t want water sitting on your lawn or rolling in toward the foundation,” she explains. So if you’re seeing that regularly, it’s important to consult a landscaper to gain better protection from major storms.

[READ: How to Prevent a Flooded Home.]

Should Climate Change and Extreme Weather Impact Your Homebuying Decision?

It’s always a good idea to see if a home is in a flood zone and take that risk into account before moving forward with a purchase. The problem, though, is that while your home might fall outside a flood zone today, 20 years from now, it could end up being far more flood-prone as climate change rears its ugly head.

Similarly, many homes that don’t typically experience heat waves today could end up subject to extreme temperatures down the line. That’s why it’s important to consider not just a home’s location when you’re in the process of buying, but also, how well-equipped it is to withstand weather-related damage.

To that end, assess a home’s current setup before making an offer. Is it well-insulated? Does it have a strong roofing system? Does the basement have a sump pump already, and is the home well-ventilated?

Also, Micetich says, it’s a good idea to get an energy audit — whether you’re buying a new home or own one already. That can tell you how well your home’s various systems are equipped to deal with factors like extreme heat (or cold).

More from U.S. News

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