I have been working in the garden industry for over 40 years and during that time we've had plenty of bad weather. As a result of the heavy rain and strong winds, both GardenSite.co.uk and my garden centre receive a lot of calls from people regarding insurance claims.
Based on experience this is my guide on how customers should go about preventing damage to their property and, if the worst happens, how to make a claim with their insurance companies.
Minimize the Threat
Before stormy weather arrives it is sensible to put away garden furniture, umbrellas, toys, tools and garden equipment. Retract awnings and canopies, secure bins and their lids, close and lock gates. Place anything liable to blow over like bird tables, containers or ornaments on their side or in a safe location. Prune overhanging branches and make sure fence panels are stable and secure. Stake plants and take down hanging baskets.
For larger structures such as sheds and greenhouses, you should prepare for stormy weather even before you buy them.
Although bargains do undoubtedly crop up, the general rule is that the quality of a product is reflected in its price. The old maxim that quality is remembered long after price is forgotten is very true with garden buildings. Products that have been thoughtfully and well designed, built to a high standard, and use good quality materials, will certainly cost more than something that has been poorly designed and badly manufactured but will invariably prove to be a better investment in the end..
Due to the amount of glazing, greenhouses are clearly very vulnerable to damaging winds so, when locating a greenhouse; make sure it is not in an exposed position. Ensure that the greenhouse has a secure level base and this in turn has firm foundations. Site your greenhouse at right angles to the prevailing wind so that the wind goes over rather than through it.
Glass that has been blown out is the major problem. Check whether all the panes are fixed securely, replace any broken or missing ones and make sure that clips are all in place and any sealant is still viable.
When choosing a greenhouse, it's wise to go for toughened safety glass. Although standard horticultural glass is cheap and lets in lots of light, it is easily broken even during cleaning and splinters into dangerous shards. If it does break, which is unlikely, toughened glass will only shatter, which is much the safer option. Check whether the clips holding in the glass are all still there, if not replace them. Adding a one or two more to each pane will provide extra strength.
Polycarbonate glass offers better insulation but is more expensive and crucially may be more vulnerable to storm damage.
Shut all doors and vents, so that wind can't funnel through the greenhouse and blow the glass out from the inside.
Remove anything from the garden that is likely to be blown against the glass and check the stability of adjacent tree branches before they come crashing down.
Make sure that any structure is fixed to a stable, secure and level base. A base may come as an integral part of the structure or may have to be bought separately and should in turn be fixed to firm foundations.
Acrylic panels can be purchased online here, as long as you know which size panels you require. Replacement toughened glass panels can be ordered with us directly, after measuring which size panels you require just give us a call on 0121 355 7701 and we'd be happy to provide you with a free no-obligation quotation.
As for horticultural glazing, as this is more widely available, we'd recommend contacting your local glazier. Most of the time, you'll be able to take your replacement panels away with you.
Although there is of course a lot less glazing, guidelines for the prevention of damage are similar to greenhouses.
Perhaps the most important is making sure that the shed is securely fixed to a strong base or foundations. Don't leave the door open, as the roof can easily be torn off or the whole shed can sail away in a gust of wind if it is not secured properly. Check the glazing and replace any defective clips or putty.
Choose a greenhouse or shed that has been designed with the consumer in mind. Whether there is adequate staging or opening vents may not have any bearing on its longevity and resistance to storm damage but it will reflect on the overall quality of the product and the thought that has gone into its manufacture.
If the design has been carefully considered, then this will indicate that the materials will also have been well chosen for both appearance and strength.
Locate any structure in a sheltered position. If it's exposed in a vulnerable location, open to the worst of the elements, this will result in you picking up the pieces after the storm has passed. With greenhouses you may have to compromise, the most sheltered position won't be the sunniest.
Be careful and not be fooled by what might appear to be a sheltered position but turns out to be a wind tunnel, great for testing aerodynamics but a greenhouse isn't a racing car, you don't want it to go anywhere fast.
An evergreen hedge, something like a laurel, will protect your shed or greenhouse from strong gusts of wind. It's permeable so will lessen the strength of the wind without re-directing and concentrating into a stronger gust. Windbreak netting is an instant solution and has the same effect as a hedge. Again a compromise may have to be made with the amount of sunlight that is blocked out.
Siting the shed or greenhouse at right angles to the prevailing wind is another tip, so the wind goes over rather than through the structure. A greenhouse with its doors open in the face of a strong wind is a recipe for disaster.
To ensure your fencing remains in place, it is important to use good quality fence posts. Make sure they are sunk deeply into the ground and well secured.
Carefully check all posts for damage when making a claim, as they may have suffered splitting or damage which may not be easily seen.
When not properly shut during high winds, gates can swing open, damaging the gate, its hinges and the gate post. So ensure all your gates are shut and locked.
Listen To The Weather Forecast
Even though weather forecasts are reliably unreliable, they are worth listening to particularly if bad weather is looking likely. This is when the Met Office will issue storm warnings on the basis of 'Be Aware', 'Be Prepared' and 'Structural Damage Is Likely'.
When you are warned to take action, close all the doors and windows as previously mentioned and ensure that they will stay closed. Disable any automatic vents in greenhouses as these may open if the weather is still warm.
Be Prepared With A Pump
If you live in a flood risk area, and five million people in the UK do, a Flood Pump will be invaluable. Located permanently anywhere a flood is likely, the automatic float switch will turn the pump on when water reaches a depth of 400mm.
Waders and gauntlets that are kept handy will also be useful.
If you live in a flood area there is a dedicated Government Flood Risk Website to warn of any impending deluge
Repair And Insurance
Check over a structure only after the storm has passed, repairing and replacing any missing or damaged fixtures and fittings, together with cracked or missing panes. For glass, it's probably best to go to a local glazier, Garden Centres will not generally stock it but may be able to supply acrylic replacements.
Making A Claim FAQs
Most household and business policies cover flood and storm damage up to a specified amount.
When Should You Contact Your Insurance Company?
You should contact your insurer as soon as is possible. Most operate a 24/7 helpline enabling you to tell them what has happened. Insurers expect this to happen after a big weather event and should be able to deal with your claim fairly easily. The great storm of 1987 cost insurance companies £2bn and the floods of 2007 set them back more than £3bn.
When Should I Get Repair Work Done?
Your insurer will usually advise you to go ahead straight away with repairs, especially if it means preventing further damage. However always check with your insurer first. It's always a good idea to take lots of photographs of the damage, as you may be asked to send these to your insurer, and remember to keep any receipts.
Who Will Assess the Damage?
If the damage is large scale or serious enough, the insurance company will send a loss adjuster. Once they have visited your property, they will provide a timetable for the repair work and tell you who will be doing it.
Who Can Give Me An Insurance Quote?
Our Garden Centre Greenhouse team can help you put together a FREE Insurance Quote for your insurer, which can be emailed to you or posted. You can call our store damage team 7 days a week (9am - 5pm) on 0121 355 7701 or email [email protected]
If you want to do it online, simply follow these easy 5 easy steps:
1. Find a Greenhouse and/or Accessories on www.GardenSite.co.uk
2. Add them to your Shopping Basket
3. Click the “Insurance Claim Quote” button in the Shopping Basket (right hand side)
4. Fill in your contact details
5. You will be issued with a quotation reference and receive your quotation by email