Prepare your home for storms

Get a builder to check structural integrity of your house.

In tropical and subtropical climates, houses deteriorate over time because of exposure to sun, rain and winds. To avoid home deterioration and costly repairs, schedule regular inspections and maintenance.

Does your house meet current building standards? Changes to Australian Building Standards in 1981, aim to significantly reduce damage from cyclones and severe storms. In particular if your home was built before 1981, arrange a professional builder to check your building and identify ways you can increase the structural integrity of your home to withstand high winds during storms. 

No house can be classified as a storm-proof house. However, if you understand the effect of strong winds and plan ahead to maintain and protect your house, you can reduce the likelihood of it being damaged during intense winds. 

As part of your storm preparedness, arrange for a builder to assess whether the structural design meets the Queensland Building Code Appendix 4 design standard. The roof is the most vulnerable part of the house because it has to withstand strong uplift forces and current building codes stipulate improved interior tie-down standards for improved structural strength. 

If your house survived a recent severe storm, a building inspection will determine if any damages were incurred that might you more vulnerable to the next one. Engage a qualified practitioner such as a building certifier, structural engineer, architect or builder to inspect your house if you have doubts about the structural integrity. 

Ask the builder to check for rust, loose fixings, and rotten timber and termite attack. Other key components to check for wear and tear are:

  • Roof
  • Gable ends walls
  • Doors and windows
  • Garage doors
  • Water ingress areas
  • House attachments, and
  • Outdoor objects and equipment.


For most Australians, our homes are our largest financial investment. Home is where you spend a lot of your time, so make time for regular home inspections and maintenance.

Researchers at the Cyclone Testing Station, James Cook University - Townsville, found that the most common types of cyclone damage to Australian houses were:

  • Damage due to failure of rusted fasteners, connector plates, roof battens and other components
  • Damage caused by failure of rotten timbers
  • Garage doors being blown in or out
  • Roofs being blown away in whole or in part
  • Collapse of unreinforced masonry walls
  • Damage to inadequately built housing in exposed locations such as hills and sea frontages
  • Flying debris breaking doors and windows, resulting in further damage from water leakage and strong winds
  • Doors and windows blown open due to inadequate fixing to walls or inadequate locks and door sets
  • Damage to ceilings and walls due to water ingress through the roof, doors, windows, vents, etc.
  • Failure of attachments such as guttering, fascias and eaves, and
  • Damage caused by falling trees.


Check the condition of your roof and any attachments.

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 high winds and storms.

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. For a tile roof, the bedding and pointing (or mortar) usually lasts 10 to 15 years.

Extreme weather events or general movement of soil around the house can reduce the life expectancy of bedding and mortar. When replacing, repositioning or mortaring defective tiles, always place the back of the foot on the tile joins. Tiled roofs deteriorate with age also and concrete tiles, in particular, require new sealant after about 25 years, otherwise can become porous and deteriorate at a rapid rate.

Metal roofs can rust quickly once their protective coating is scratched. During daytime, pinprick rust holes will show up like stars at night, from the roof-cavity. Check for metal and lead flashing metal fatigue, rust, and deterioration. Corrugated iron roofing sheets should be fixed with screws, which will secure the roof better than nails. Metal roofs can lift at the laps and joints so check screws are secure at these points.

If you plan to enter the roof cavity, watch out for unexpected lodgers, such as possums or carpet snakes.

Is your roof pitch poor? Poor roof pitch (slope) is the most common cause of roof drainage problems.

While you're on the roof, or moving long ladders, watch out for overhead powerlines.

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.

External blinds and awnings that protect windows and prevent direct sunlight entering are a great idea. However, awning fixtures can rust and come loose in high winds, so check they're secure at the beginning of summer.

Check for any corrosion, rotten timber, or loose fittings.

At any time, rotten timber can pose a serious safety hazard if any weight-bearing materials, such as flooring, decking, joists and stairs are compromised and subject to breakage. Warping weatherboards and vertical cracks to brickwork may indicate subfloor failure. It is important to maintain a good protective paint or stain coating on all exposed timberwork, otherwise deterioration such as splitting and rotting will occur, and again this can compromise the protective perimeter.

Gradually warping weatherboards may result because of their exposure to the elements or the house frame drying and warping. These are not severe problems and but need annual checking because they can compromise the protective perimeter. Seal any significant gaps that develop, in order to prevent damaging water or pests from entering.

Any termite damage to the external walls or footings will compromise structure strength and stability. Call a professional to check for termite infestation, which can cause thousands of dollars damage to timber frames and timer homes. The Building Code of Australia provides a range of termite management measures that can be used, including chemical or physical barriers or a combination of any of these. A qualified termite management contractor should perform annual inspections or more often, in high-risk areas.

External blinds and awnings that protect windows and prevent direct sunlight entering are a great idea. However, awning fixtures can rust and come loose in high winds, so check they're secure at the beginning of summer.

Does your house have a pitched, or gabled roof? If so, the external end wall takes a tremendous beating during severe storms. When a house has a pitched roof, the triangle formed by the upside-down 'V' and the front or back external wall is called the gable end wall. Once the gable end wall is damaged, strong winds, rain or hail can enter the house causing much internal damage.

Gable end walls are easy to strengthen and deserve high priority on your retrofit list. Typically, gable end trusses are directly attached to the top of gable end walls. The bottom of the truss must be securely nailed or screwed to the top of the wall and braced to adjacent trusses. This prevents wind from pushing or pulling the gable end at its critical point, where the gable truss is connected along the gable wall. Without adequate bracing, the end wall may be destroyed during high intensity winds.