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  • Writer's pictureMaria Luisa Castellanos

Want to pay less for your homeowners’ insurance? Miami residential architect explains

Detail for bracing gable ends on a house
Detail for bracing gable ends on a house

Do you know that Florida's Citizens Insurance Company has asked for another 12% increase for homeowners next year and 50% for houses that are not owner-occupied? And the Florida Legislature passed a law that starting January 1, 2024, anyone with home coverage over $600,000 is required to have flood insurance. You can read more about that here.

So how can you mitigate against this increase in insurance or harden your house so that it will fare better under hurricane conditions? Let us, Miami residential architects and experts in coastal construction tell you how.

First, you can make sure all your windows and doors are impact resistant. I know you wanted that new kitchen and the remodeled bathrooms, but while you are remodeling your house, make sure that this is a line item on your scope of work. This is extremely important. When the wind gets into your house during a hurricane, it creates total havoc in the house. I saw it myself after Hurricane Andrew. Your first line of defense are your windows and doors.

Second, make sure you have a watertight roof. If the waterproofing membrane of your house is broken before or during a hurricane, it is likely to rain in your house. This in itself will ruin your ceilings and walls, not to mention your furniture.

If you put in impact windows and doors in all your exterior openings, or if you have a concrete roof, your homeowners’ insurance policy quote will go down by a substantial amount. Note that you will get credit for one or the other but not both.

If you have a gable-end house, make sure the trusses or rafters above the ceiling are reinforced at the ends. Something as simple as 2x4 bracing of the last two trusses will go a long way to ensuring you will not lose your roof during a hurricane. New construction very often avoids gable ends in Florida, but if you have a classic Florida house that was constructed in the '50s or ’60s, you will find that gable ends are quite common. You can see the attached detail above that a carpenter can use to reinforce your existing roof.

If you have a house with sloped roofs, you can check (or hire a contractor to check) to see how the trusses or rafters are connected to your tie-beam. A tie-beam is a piece of concrete as wide as the concrete block wall and about 1’-0” deep that runs at the top of the wall, just below the trusses or rafters. This tie-beam, as the name implies, ties all the walls together. Today, the requirement for the connection is that each and every rafter or truss must be attached to the tie-beam with a metal strap. In new construction the size and length of the strap will be designed by a structural engineer. However, in an existing house, unless you are willing to take the entire roof apart, the best we can do is assure ourselves that each truss is actually strapped to the tie beam. In old houses, it was common practice to toe-nail the trusses to the wood plate that was secured to the tie-beam or strap every other truss. This is not good enough for resistance to a substantial hurricane.

When hurricane season starts, it is good practice to trim trees but to trim them the right way. Trees should be trimmed at the connection of two branches and not as though it was getting a crew cut. The idea is to trim the trees so that the wind will pass through the branches and not knock down the tree. Hatracking is illegal and can weaken and hurt the tree.

Example of hatracked tree

Hatracked tree example at left from:

Here is the correct way to prune a tree. Follow these instructions.

Lastly, when hurricane conditions are predicted within a few days, start collecting all the loose objects around the house. Any potted plants, trash containers, outdoor seating, etc., should be brought inside the house. These objects will be projectiles that can damage your house under high wind conditions.

We hope that these ideas will help you harden your home against hurricanes and at times reduce the cost of your homeowners’ insurance.

Should you want to remodel your house and include these items discussed above, call me, Maria Luisa Castellanos, architect and principal of United Architects, Inc., at 305-439-7898 to discuss your project.

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