Hurricanes and floods do more than just damage homes and businesses. They can also devastate the entire homesite from building wall to property line. In this field lies a number of costly components both living and man made. While the focus is typically on the house itself, the exterior landscaping, improvements and infrastructure are also an expensive and vital part of the picture.
A landscape is composed of more than just trees, plants and lawn. There’s pavement, irrigation systems, outdoor lighting, drainage structures, shade structures, out buildings, garden art and water features. Each of these represents a significant investment in both time and money. Each of these should be included in your storm loss calculations.
PLANTS Landscape plants are different from other outdoor homesite improvements because they take time to mature and reach their ultimate beauty. Certainly they can be replaced, but this is with small, nursery grown juveniles. A boxwood hedge that took a decade to fill in and appear lush will require another decade after replanting to reach its full beauty and usefulness. A mature tree can take even longer, and in the case of southern live oaks, centuries pass before they achieve the homesite’s former glory. Trees contribute so much to a home’s value, offering beauty, shade and majesty. The loss of even one of these giants can have a significant impact on property values.
Obviously mature trees can’t be replaced with equals so there will be losses that are never truly recovered in your lifetime. But this inability to replace with a tree of equal value means you have some opportunities to declare losses on your tax return. In the aftermath of such enormous storms, pay attention to the individual components of your yard and make notes to ensure these details aren’t lost. They are your record of changes, damage and destruction of your financial investment in the landscape of your home.
PAVING Inspect pavement for cracks or heaving. Swelling, wet clay soils can tilt slabs. Falling trees and debris can crack the concrete, or more expensive special paving such as stone or tile. Cracking can destroy an entire patio or sidewalk requiring it to be removed and replaced with a new pour. Knowing how many square feet of damaged concrete you have helps with more accurate insurance claims.
IRRIGATION Review your irrigation system if applicable. Determine if the pipe is still in the ground. Note whether the sprinkler heads are still at their optimal elevations. Often sediment will build up or soil is washed away leaving the heads either too high or two low. To regrade and reset them may present a considerable work effort.
LIGHTING Whether it’s low voltage or 110 volt, outdoor lighting is often destroyed by storms. Lights in trees suffer most, but those on ground inundated may be a total loss. While inexpensive plastic systems may be easy to replace, upscale twelve volt can be pricey and should go into your assessment. Costly 110 volt outdoor lighting requires an electrician to replace or repair making this your biggest cost item.
LAWN EDGING Some homes edge lawns with poured in place concrete mow strips. When disturbed these are highly vulnerable to cracking and will heave out of position if inundated. To replace them requires forming and a new pour, so determine the number of linear feet of mow strip to help you calculate replacement values later on. If you’ve experienced severe damage to the house or if you’ve lost it altogether, the landscaping may seem inconsequential.
But you have a right to every penny of compensation due, and a few minutes spent now may pay off in the long run. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your yard is no more valuable than the trees. If you consider the aggregate value of your landscaping in its entirety, it might surprise you.