Hurricanes are like no other storms on earth, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety. These ferocious weather systems bring torrential rain, flooding, storm surges and devastating winds that damage homes, destroy treasured keepsakes and disrupt family life.
You don't have to be blown away when a hurricane hits, however. It's never too early to prepare and you can take several basic steps right now to protect your family and your home from disaster.
Does your home meet building codes?
Find out if your home meets current building code requirements for high-wind regions (for example, the International Residential Code, which is promulgated by the International Code Council). Experts agree that structures built to meet or exceed current model building codes' high-wind provisions have a much better chance of surviving violent windstorms.
Preparing Your Home for a Storm
If you're handy with a hammer and saw, you can do much of the work yourself. Work involving your home's structure may require a building contractor, however, or even a registered design professional such as an architect or engineer.
When Working Outside
If you have gravel or rock landscaping material in your lawn, consider replacing it with shredded bark, which will be far less damaging to your home's windows when blown around.
Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed, to reduce the chance that limbs could be blown into your home. Cut weak branches and trees that could fall on your house.
When Building or Remodeling
Windows: If you are replacing your existing windows, install impact-resistant window systems, which have a much better chance of surviving a major windstorm. As an alternative to new window systems, install impact-resistant shutters that close over window openings to prevent flying debris from breaking windowpanes.
Entry doors: Make certain your doors have at least three hinges and a dead bolt security lock with a bolt at least one inch long. Anchor door frames securely to wall framing.
Patio doors: Sliding glass doors are more vulnerable to wind damage than most other doors. If you are replacing your patio doors or building a new home, consider installing impact-resistant door systems made of laminated glass, plastic glazing or a combination of plastic and glass. When a hurricane threatens, an easy, temporary and effective step is to cover the entire patio door with shutters made of plywood or oriented strand board (OSB).
Garage doors: Because of their size, garage doors are highly susceptible to wind damage. A qualified inspector can determine if both the door and the track system can resist high winds and, if necessary, help to replace them with a stronger system.
Garage doors that are more than 8 feet wide are the most vulnerable. For this size garage door, install permanent wood or metal stiffeners. Or contact the door manufacturer's technical staff for recommendations about temporary center supports you can attach and remove easily when severe weather threatens.
Roofs: If you are replacing your roof, take steps to ensure that both the new roof covering and the sheathing it attaches to will resist high winds. Your roofing contractor should:
- Remove old coverings down to the bare wood sheathing.
- Remove enough sheathing to confirm that rafters and trusses are securely connected to the walls.
- Replace damaged sheathing.
- Re-fasten existing sheathing according to the proper fastening schedule outlined in the current model building code for high-wind regions.
- Install a roof covering designed to resist high winds.
- Seal all roof sheathing joints with self-stick rubberized asphalt tape to provide a secondary moisture barrier.
If you want to give your roof sheathing added protection, but it's not time to re-roof, glue the sheathing to the rafters and trusses. Use an adhesive that conforms to Performance Specification AFG-01 developed by APA -- The Engineered Wood Association, which you can find at any hardware store or home improvement center.
Gables: Make certain the end wall of a gable roof is braced properly to resist high winds. Check the current model building code for high-wind regions for appropriate guidance, or consult a qualified architect or engineer.
Connections: The points where the roof and the foundation meet the walls of your home are extremely important if your house is to resist high winds and the pressures they place on the entire structure.
- Anchor the roof to the walls with metal clips and straps (most easily added when you replace your roof).
- Make certain the walls are properly anchored to the foundation. A registered design professional can determine if these joints need retrofitting, and a qualified contractor can perform the work the design professional identifies.
- If your house has more than one story, make certain the upper story wall framing is firmly connected to the lower framing. The best time to do this is when you remodel.