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5 Ways to Hurricane-Proof Your Home

Damage done in Texas by Hurricane Ike.
Pool, Getty Images

As Hurricane Isaac recently demonstrated, hurricane season is in full swing, and even a storm with a low rating on the severity scale can do serious damage. That’s why, if you live in a hurricane zone, you should always be making improvements to your home to make it more hurricane-resistant.

Innovative building materials and methods—circular designs, concrete cloth, insulating concrete forms (ICFs), structural insulated panels (SIPs)—can help new homes withstand brutal storms better. But what if you have an existing home you want to improve? There are options. In order to make it stronger against wind, rain, tornadoes and storm surges, you can spend a little money, or you can spend a lot. You can make improvements in stages based on your budget, and you can decide which improvements are most appropriate for your style of home. We’ve gathered some ideas that should be of some help, no matter what your particular situation.

Reinforce Your Doors

House in the Ninth Ward damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

In the same way the doors of your home are entry points for you, they are also entry points for hurricane winds. And once those winds get into your house, their favorite thing to do is to start destroying the structure of your home. To keep the winds and pressure out of your home, you need to reinforce your doors. For less than $50, you can install additional bolts on your doors to help them repel high winds. You can purchase and install stronger doors that are better able to hold up against the force of flying debris. If you have double doors, make sure you reinforce the latches that keep them shut. And don’t forget your garage door. There are kits and supplies available to make it stronger through improved materials and horizontal bracing. If your garage is attached and the door blows off, other structural improvements to your home may not matter.

Make Your Windows Stronger

House being repaired after damages from Hurricane Katrina.

Windows, like doors, serve as entry points for strong winds and high pressure—and they’re more vulnerable to damage from debris. If you want to hurricane-proof your home, strengthening your windows is vital. You can install new, impact-resistant windows that are made of glass similar to that on cars, so they can withstand heavy impacts. They also have stronger frames than traditional windows. Your other option for window protection during a storm is shuttering them. You can easily create your own, temporary plywood shutters, build temporary concrete cloth shutters, install window clips for retaining those shutters, or purchase professional-grade shutter systems that stay on your home year-round. When it comes to shutters, something is always better than nothing.

Strap Your Roof

A roof being fixed after being damaged by Hurricane Isaac.

This may take a little more time, assistance and money, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Adding hurricane clips or roof straps to your roof will reinforce it and help keep it on your home if the pressure changes quickly and drastically. Wind gusts against your roof and can cause it to lift, and the opposing outward pressure can blow the walls of your house out. A professionally installed roof strap or DIY clip system can help keep your roof in place. Also, if you have a gabled roof, adding bracing to the gable ends will improve your roof strength in high-wind situations.

Keep Your House on Solid Ground

A rescue worker searches damaged homes after Hurricane Ike.

Both high winds and storm-surge flooding can cause your house to shift from its foundation, but now there are cable-tie systems that can actually pin, or tie, your home to its foundation. Installation is only possible on new homes (or if your home is undergoing major renovation); it can also be expensive and must be done by a professional. But it’s worth the effort if you consider the severe damage that occurs when your house leaves its foundation, especially in a flood. For a DIY project, consider using bolts to more firmly attach your home to its foundation.

Build a Safe Room

Resident surveys damage after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, TX.

This is your most expensive option, but something to consider very seriously if you prefer to ride out a storm rather than evacuate. After you’ve made improvements to the overall structure of your home, if you want an even more secure place to protect yourself and some irreplaceable belongings, a safe room is the way to go. You can use the new building materials like SIPs, ICFs and concrete cloth. You can also employ the foundational techniques described above on a safe room that you can’t do on existing construction. Entirely prefabricated structures, like the Dupont Storm Shelter, are available. Or you can find that area in your home that is the most protected by walls and reinforce it further to create an even stronger, central safe space.

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