Hurricane-Proofing Your Home

By Samantha-Rae Tuthill, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
5/8/2012 2:36:34 PM

A hurricane is one of the most damaging things that can hit your home. Strong winds can blow apart windows, debris can crash through walls and storm surge can submerge the lower levels of your house in water.

Fortunately, there are improvements you can make to your house to help protect it from violent storms.

Residents in Dare County prepare for last fall's Hurricane Irene. Photo courtesy of County of Dare.

Eighteen hurricane-prone states currently have building code laws that dictate certain requirements for hurricane protection. Of them, Florida and Virginia are ranked highest for the strength of their codes, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida codes for hurricane-proofing your home focus on the roof, the doors and the windows.

Roof
Having the roof ripped from a house or collapsed is perhaps the most damaging hit that a hurricane can deliver, besides leveling the entire building. Without the roof, the interior of the house is exposed to winds, rain and debris. The structure of the house may not even be able to stand once the roof is detached. To ensure safety, roofs in Florida are restricted to certain shapes that allow optimal drainage and they must follow strict load requirements based on the kind of material the roof is built of.

To make changes to an existing roof to increase its security against a tornado you can install roof tie downs and anchors. You can hire a professional to this for you, or if you have enough experience in home improvement you can do it on your own. However, if taking on this project on your own it is crucial that you do the necessary research. The kind of tie downs and anchors you use, how many you will need, how you install them, what size to get and many other specifications depend on the type of soil around your house and what wind zone you are in. Contact local building and code officials to learn what requirements you should follow before attempting the installation yourself.

Another option is to glue your roof down at the support beams with a heavy-duty construction adhesive. Be sure that your shingles are well attached and glue down the ones at the roof's edges. You can also tie support beams together and to the walls in your attic by using steal strapping ties.

Whatever method you choose, reinforcing your roof will add extra insurance to your home's ability to withstand a strong storm. Just be sure you are following all building law, codes and instructions carefully. Doing it incorrectly will not give you the protection you are expecting and could even make things worse.

Windows
Your windows make your home incredibly vulnerable during a storm. Debris can come crashing through them, or even just the speed of the wind itself can cause them to break.

Photo courtesy of nhburdick

Storm shutters are a great way to protect your home during a hurricane. Sturdy shutters that are installed properly can be locked to protect glass window panes from the winds and debris that will be flying during a hurricane. There are a variety of style options when it comes to adding shutters, but it's important that their functionality is the highest priority when choosing which shutters to use and how to install them.

Impact-resistant storm windows are another great option for adding protection to your home. There are a variety of storm windows to choose from. There are options when it comes to material, style, strength and whether they are to be installed internally or externally. With all of the options present for storm windows they can fit almost any budget. The most important thing to keep in mind when installing storm windows is the frame. Improperly installed storm windows with weak or ill-fitting frames will not give you the security you are relying on.

Doors
The most important door to reinforce to protect your home from a hurricane is the garage door. Consider replacing a standard garage door with one that is storm resistant. If this is not a feasible option for you, you can reinforce your garage door to protect it from letting wind burst through your home. You can either research and gather the materials needed for your specific type of door, or you can purchase a retrofit kit and follow its instructions for protecting your garage door. Bracing your door can greatly reduce the amount of damage done to your home.

For your other entryway doors, you also have the option to replace them with storm-resistant models. If that isn't possible, make your own adjustments to secure your doors. Start by replacing any weak hardware with sturdier pieces, like the hinges and screws. You can also use a bracing system of poles to add some quick reinforcement. Bracing kits are also sold for these kinds of doors that you can install yourself. Heavy-duty dead bolts can be added in place of your old locks.

If you have a patio, porch or lanai, it is important that any connecting doors are also secured. For sliding glass doors you should consider replacing the panels with storm resistant glass and getting heavier frames. Protection boards can be added to large glass areas for reinforcement. You can also purchase storm screen to protect large doors and areas that would be vulnerable to storms.

While these adjustments will improve the chances of protecting your property during a hurricane, they are not a fail-safe means of ensuring personal safety. If you are able to evacuate before a hurricane comes through, you should.