Maintain your home

Check your roof area for loose tiles or iron sheets; replace roofing nails with screws.

The roof of your house cops a daily battering from our harsh Australian elements, weather that's rain, hail, wind, or sunshine. You should regularly check the roof, especially after exposure to cyclonic winds.

During a visual assessment of the destructive impacts following a cyclone, the number of houses and buildings that lost roofs is one of the most telling signs. For old houses, in particular, the roof is the most vulnerable part of the building, because of the strong uplift forces roofs must withstand.

Flat roofs are most susceptible to uplift forces than pitched (sloping) roofs. Older houses don't necessarily have the roof tie downs current standards insist upon, so consider asking a building certifier, structural engineer, or builder to inspect your roof 's tie downs to see if they need upgrading to meet current building standards. The important connections that should be checked include roof sheet-to-batten connections, batten-to-truss or rafter connections, truss or rafter-to-wall connections, and tile connections.

Tiled roofs deteriorate with age; the bedding and pointing (or mortar) usually lasts 10 to 15 years. Concrete tiles require new sealant after about 25 years; otherwise tiles can become porous and deteriorate at a rapid rate.

The best way to examine the roof is by climbing into the roof space. Look through the internal roof space to check for any light filtering through defects, holes and cracks; that's where the rain can enter and damage internal ceilings. The timber frame may show white powder or dark water stains, which can be followed back to cracked tiles.

Clear gutters and downpipes of branches and leaves

Gutter cleaning is an essential part of protecting your roof and property from cyclone damage, debris build up and pest infestation. Unchecked gutters and downpipes can create expensive problems. You should schedule regular maintenance in order to avoid unexpected damages or pay someone with expertise.

Taking the time to maintain and repair gutters and downpipes can double the life of your roof drainage system and save you money on repair costs. To maintain a free-flowing roof-drainage system, clean out the gutters and downpipes every three months, before the summer storm season and during autumn, when most trees lose their leaves.

Remove the leaves and branches that have blown onto your roof, as gutters rust very quickly when leaves accumulate and then decompose creating a pond. If you have overhanging trees and shrub, keep these well trimmed to reduce the debris that accumulates in the gutters. Wear gloves when digging into gutters, as you could encounter rusty nails and dangerous 'creepy crawlies'.

Rusted gutters break and you then risk water overflowing into the ceiling. Consider installing leaf guards (wire mesh) if your roof drainage system is exposed to falling leaves to stop leaves clogging pipes. Not all gutter guards are effective, because leaves get caught in the mesh instead of the gutters, eventually decompose, filter through the mesh holes and end up in the gutters.

You can either patch leaks in gutters or replace the damaged section. Aluminium and plastic gutters last longer than galvanized steel. Overlap the patch material in the direction of the water flow and cement the edges together securely.

The eaves, linings, and soffits should be checked regularly for deterioration because animals can peck and chew their way through these, to gain entry into your roof cavity for shelter.  Take care when scaling onto rooves, because they can be very slippery. Make sure someone is there to hold the ladder when you get off the roof.

Check all windows and external doors close and lock securely.

You probably lock windows and doors each day, before leaving, but there's often one that you have to really pull hard, which doesn't quite lock properly. So you already know which entry points to your home need attention. Yes, burglars are probably your main concern, but windows and external doors that don't quite close and lock are also vulnerable to intense winds and torrential rain.

Install head and foot bolts on the inactive door of double entry doors, to act as a brace. Every home has either double or single entry doors made of either solid wood or hollow metal, with or without glass panels. Doors without glass panels can better resist wind pressures and cyclone debris. If you are unsure about whether the entry doors of your home are strong enough here are some simple precautions.

If you have double entry doors, make sure your doors have at least three hinges and a dead bolt security lock, which has a minimum one-inch bolt throw length. Since double entry doors fail when their surface bolts break at the top or bottom where they enter the door header or threshold (floor), check the connections at both places. Be sure the surface bolt extends well into the door header and through the threshold into the subfloor, as this adds strength. If you don't have shutters or metal screens to protect your windows from damage, consider retrofitting with impact resistant glass.

In days gone by we were encouraged to open a window on the side opposite to the oncoming storm to equalise pressure. Researchers now warn that opening windows encourages the wind to enter the building, which increases the risk of building failure. Keep all windows shut!

If there's a cyclone heading your way, stick wide masking tape across your windows from top to bottom and then from side to side. Add two more pieces diagonally to create a star pattern for added strength. During devastating forces of nature, taping up windows with masking tape might not prevent the glass from breaking, but the broken glass won't be blown so far. 

Solar -panels

House attachments such as porch roofs, carports, and screen enclosures can get damaged by strong winds, which then could lead to damage to the main part of the house. Attachments should be built as strong as the house itself, and kept in good repair. Intense winds could tear these from external house walls or smash them into other buildings causing avoidable damage.

Carports, screened enclosures, patio and deck roofs, awnings, external hot water systems, roof-mounted solar panels, and hot water systems all are subject to wear and tear. So, check these attachments regularly for signs of metal corrosion or rotting timber, in particular the hardware that secures the attachment in position, or any hardware that enables folding and extension.

If you have any concerns, arrange for a licensed builder to check the structural integrity of attachments.

Ensure garage door locks securely and will withstand cyclonic winds

Garage doors that lead directly into the house are, in fact, entry doors in the same way that your front door is. However, they represent a more serious threat to your security, because they are usually made of a lightweight metal, to allow easy manual opening and closing.

When installing garage doors, ensure that you choose ones that are adequately 'cyclone rated'. Double-width garage doors are more susceptible to wind damage than single doors, because of the large surface area.

If you don't have a 'cyclone rated' door, the wind may force it out of the roller track, especially if the track is lightweight or some of the anchor bolts are not in place. This occurs because excessive wind pressure pushes the door out of the tracks, enabling strong winds to damage items stored in the garage. If your garage is under the same roof as the house, the rooms adjacent could be damaged also.

To secure your garage door:

  • Check with your local code requirements for garage doors
  • Ask the garage door retailer to retrofit a kit to strengthen your garage door
  • Install temporary horizontal and vertical bracing onto each panel, prior to a cyclone striking your area
  • Consider installing permanent heavier hinges and stronger end and vertical center supports for your door


If you decide to retrofit your garage door with a kit that allows mechanised opening, make sure the door is balanced by lowering it about halfway and letting go. If the door goes up or down, the springs will need adjusting by a professional, because these springs are dangerous.