How to reinforce key points of your home in preparation for damaging winds associated with hurricanes and tropical storms.
If you live along the coast where there is a chance for hurricane and tropical storm damage, there are a few key steps you can take to prevent damage from high winds and rain.
High winds cause most of the damage to houses during a hurricane. Hurricanes are measured by the sustained wind speed that the storm produces. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used to rate hurricanes from a category one to a category five.
A Category 1 hurricane has winds that are between 74-95 mph. A Category 5 hurricane has winds that are greater than 155 mph. Hurricane winds typically cause the most damage by compromising the weakest areas of the house such as windows, doors, pitched roofs and garage doors. Reinforcing these critical areas will minimize the damage to a home.
The methods employed to reinforce the home can be either permanent or temporary. Permanent measures can be incorporated with other home improvements or building additions. Temporary measures are typically used to minimize damage on windows and doors.
Windows and Glass Doors
To reinforce windows you can use hurricane shutters or reinforced glass. Shutters made of wood that are attached to the house can protect windows and glass doors. When using shutters is that they need to be securely anchored to the structure of the home and closed firmly when in use.
Hurricane shutters can be permanently attached to your home or they can be stored away and installed in the event of an emergency. If you don't have shutters you can use ¾ inch plywood to cover all glass windows and doors temporarily.
Installing windows and glass doors that are made of impact-resistant glass is also an effective way to limit damage to them. The impact-resistant windows and doors are made with a more sturdy frame and the glass is glazed and better able to resist wind pressure and damage made by wind-driven debris. Debris that hits these windows or doors can crack them, but they will be able to stay intact and not break apart.
Types of Hurricane Shutters
Accordion Shutters - They often are stored away in a box at the side of the window or door and are pulled out and locked either in the middle or to the other accordion panel.
Awning Shutters – Similar to Bahama shutters, awning shutters are solid panels that fold down to cover the window in the event of a storm.
Bahama Shutters – Are louvered shutters that can be used to shade the windows as well as provide protection.
Roll-down Shutters - PVC or metal louver shutters that are housed in a box above windows and roll down along a set of tracks on either side and lock at the bottom. If they are motorized they can be operated with a switch. For large windows and doors reinforcing rods must be inserted after they are opened to maximize the shutter’s strength.
Storm Panel Shutters – Corrugated steel panels that interlock and are inserted into a track that is fixed to the structure above and below the window opening.
Entry and Garage Doors
Most residential single entry doors are made of solid wood, hollow steel, or fiberglass. Typically the door should be strong enough to withstand hurricane force wind and debris damage. If you are not sure if the door is strong enough you should take steps to reinforce it. Make sure the entry door has at least three hinges. It should also have a 1 inch dead-bolt lock installed.
A double-entry door may not be able to withstand hurricane force winds. You should install head and foot bolts on the inactive door. Make sure the surface bolt is long enough to extend into the door header and through the threshold into the subfloor.
Double garage doors, unless they are tested and hurricane-resistant, can fail in a hurricane force wind. Single garage doors are stronger, but they can also fail and should be reinforced. There are garage door reinforcement kits available for many brands of garage doors. Check for the kit at a local building supply store or garage door installation company.
Garage door reinforcement kit
A failed garage door
If time is short, you can reinforce your garage door by using 2x4 or 2x6 studs. Make two T-Braces with the studs that go from the floor to about 12 inches above the garage door or the garage ceiling if it is not too high. Use a few pieces of scrap wood to form a brace on the wall or ceiling so that the flat surface of the brace (The top of the T) is up against the back of the garage door. Install a cleat into the concrete garage floor behind the T-brace by drilling a hole into the floor with a masonry drill bit. Install a lead shield into the hole and screw the stud into the floor with concrete screws. Unplug the garage door opener to prevent accidental operation until after the braces are removed.
Reinforce garage doors with 2x4 studs and a nailing cleat on the floor
Gabled roofs pose a high risk to failure during a hurricane. Gable trusses are usually attached directly to the top of gable end walls. The bottom of the truss should be securely nailed to the top of interior walls and braced to adjacent trusses with 2x4s in as large an “X-brace” as feasible. The bracing will help prevent the end wall from being destroyed.
Shingles can also be damaged during a hurricane. This usually occurs when shingles have not properly adhered to the underlying shingles. Before a storm, have your shingles inspected to make sure the adhesive has properly attached.
If the inspecting reveals the shingles have not adhered properly, you can apply quick-setting asphalt cement to them. Use either a putty knife or caulking gun and apply cement under each shingle tab in two places. Use care not to bend the shingles any farther than necessary. Any damaged or missing shingles should be replaced.
Hopefully these tips will help you to reinforce the most susceptible areas of your home to prevent costly hurricane damage.