Superstorm Sandy: 6 recovery tips for homeowners

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | November 1, 2012

Superstorm Sandy is projected to become one of the costliest storms in U.S. history. The storm's sheer size created a wide swath of destruction that extended many miles beyond its actual center.

If you live in an area affected by this mega-storm, without a doubt your primary concern has been the safety of friends and family. But once that danger passes, what about your home? If it's suffered damage, how do you go about beginning to recover from the storm?

Assessing Superstorm Sandy's damage to your home

Hurricanes can be a particularly destructive natural disaster as they may pose the triple threat of water, wind, and even fire damage. 

Many houses in Sandy's path were flooded from storm surge or overflowing rivers and storm drains that weren't able to handle the torrential rain. The hurricane's winds damaged roofs and siding, blew out windows, and quite a few trees were toppled onto homes. And as if the flooding and wind damage wasn't devastating enough, the fires that appear to have been ignited by downed transformers and loose electrical wires were equally as destructive.

damaged tree

If you believe that your home was damaged during the hurricane, investigate with caution. A house that's been altered structurally by flood waters or high winds could be unsafe to enter until repairs have been made. And though you might be eager to save as many personal belongings as possible from the water that's in your basement, standing water and damaged wiring pose the very real risk of electrocution.

Don't jeopardize your safety or that of your family by rushing into your house until you or a professional have had a chance to thoroughly assess the possible damage and potential risks.
superstorm Sandy car damage

6 tips for recovering from Sandy's wrath

Depending on the amount of damage to your home, the road to recovery from a natural disaster may seem impossibly long and difficult -- just getting your house back to a semblance of how it was before the storm could feel as if it might take forever. However, there are many resources that can provide assistance, and you may be surprised at how quickly even the most severe damage can often be repaired. The following tips may help you get started:

  1. Security. If Sandy has damaged doors or windows to a degree that your home can't be secured, consider moving your valuables to a safe location until repairs have taken place. In the event that this isn't feasible, give some thought to hiring a security company to guard your home until it can be safely locked up.
  2. Minimize additional damage. While Superstorm Sandy may have passed, additional damage is possible if portions of your home are exposed to the elements. Once your home is safe to enter, close off any broken windows, missing doors, or exterior wall openings with plastic sheeting, plywood, or other materials that can help prevent rain from entering. If the storm created the potential for roof leaks, hire a contractor to perform a temporary fix or at least cover your belongings and flooring where water intrusion might occur.
  3. Insurance claims. Contact your home insurance carrier as soon as possible to discuss how their claim system works. When a storm of this magnitude hits, your carrier may suspend their normal claims process and give you a little more latitude to initiate repairs. In any event, composing a list of damages and taking photos of the affected areas of your home is usually recommended. It's also a good idea to ask your insurance carrier if they maintain a list of preferred damage repair contractors.
  4. Public adjusters. As you can imagine, Sandy's destruction is going to keep insurance claims adjusters very busy for the next several months. The National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters suggests hiring a public insurance adjuster to help expedite your claim. The advantage: public adjusters work for the homeowner rather than the insurance company. However, keep in mind that your carrier may be under no obligation to accept the public adjuster's claim. You should also ensure that the public adjuster has all the proper licensing required by your state.
  5. Hiring a contractor. Storm damage repair is a specialized field within the construction industry. While many general contractors should be able to repair wind damage to your home, water and fire issues are often another matter. An experienced flood damage contractor may be able to save personal possessions that you think are beyond hope and should have the equipment to head off potential mold and mildew growth -- always a very serious concern when rooms are flooded. Contractors that specialize in repairing homes that have suffered fire damage can often remove odors and discolorations the smoke and flames left behind on your fixtures and belongings. Choose a licensed contractor with experience in repairing the type of damage Superstorm Sandy did to your house. Most storm damage contractors are also used to working with insurance companies, which can be a big help.
  6. Temporary quarters. If your home is unsafe to occupy, find temporary living quarters for your family. Make sure your insurance carrier, repair contractors, and friends and family have your new address and telephone number.

The personal loss and property destruction caused by a storm like this can be devastating. While it may provide little solace as you survey the damage, many families have endured similar natural disasters and rebuilt their homes even better than they were before. These tips can help you get started on the road to recovery from the scourge that was Sandy.

About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I., and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time. He spends his time writing, remodeling his old farmhouse, and in animal rescue.