Hurricanes are among the most powerful natural forces on earth. According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, just one hurricane can produce winds capable of churning out about half as much energy as the electrical-generating capacity of the entire world. In the face of these gigantic storms, it may seem like there’s not much that can be done to protect your home from wind damage. There are, however, steps you can take to help safeguard your property.
Water, in general, is a concern for roofs, especially in areas with constant heavy downpours. During hurricanes, wind-driven rain can do lasting damage to your roofing system, even if the signs of wind damage aren’t present. Therefore, having a high-quality waterproofing underlayment for your roof system is critical.
Aging and weathering can decrease the performance of most roofing systems, so it is important to have your roof inspected regularly, especially if you live in a hurricane-prone area. For the highest level of wind-rated shingle, look for shingles that are rated to ASTM D3161 Class F or ASTM D7158 Class H1. Metal roofing can be a great option for wind-resistance, as it offers superior wind, fire, and impact resistance compared to many typical roofing products.
There’s no way to have a hurricane-proof house, but you can make your home hurricane-resistant. Start with securing your house from the inside out. Hurricane or tornado straps, for example, literally strap the roof to the frame of house, so it doesn’t fly off with hammering winds. Twist straps are typically used to create a tension connection between two wooden members and resist any sort of uplift caused by wind. It’s something to consider if you’re buying in a hurricane zone.
Windows, Doors, and Garages
Invest in exterior materials—such as windows and doors—that can survive the pressure and debris from 250-mph winds (the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s threshold for hurricane-resistant products).
If you live in an area where hurricanes most frequently occur, consider investing in hurricane shutters to protect your windows. Otherwise, putting plywood over your windows is a tried-and-true safety measure. It is recommended to use 5/8" thick, CDX (exterior-grade) plywood, or thicker.
Impact-resistant garage doors typically have a steel or fiberglass veneer and are designed to withstand the impact of hurled objects. ‘Hurricane-proof’ doors feature a fortified steel track system and twist-resistant framework. You can also reinforce doors with a variety of do-it-yourself kits. In addition to the garage, investing in hurricane shutters not only offers extra protection, but also a discount from most insurance companies.
According to FEMA, garage doors can be a major weak point contributing to hurricane storm damage in homes. It is recommended to purchase hurricane-resistant garage doors rated to withstand winds up to at least 130 mph. In places like Florida’s Miami-Dade County, codes require garage doors to withstand 150 mph2.
If you live near the coastline or a large river system, storm surges are also something homeowners should pay attention to. A storm surge is water that is pushed onto the shore by a hurricane, which can cause water levels to
swell several feet in just a few minutes. According to Weather Underground3, storm surges can have tremendous power. One cubic yard of sea water weighs 1,728 pounds—nearly a ton—meaning a one-foot storm surge is powerful enough to sweep cars off the road. Large branches and other floating debris can act like battering rams against your property.
If you live in a known floodplain, deploying sandbags around your property prior to a major storm can save you from significant repairs later. To properly assess flood risk to your property, you can hire a surveyor ($200 to $500) to provide accurate elevation measurements. High-accuracy LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data is also available at the NOAA Coastal Services Center4. Their sea level rise viewer allows you to visualize community-level impacts from coastal flooding and sea level rise.
In the Event of a Hurricane
In addition to structural preparations, there are others measures you can take to protect your property during a hurricane. These include trimming overhanging trees near your home, creating an evacuation plan, and placing important documents in a weather-proof container.
When the hurricane arrives, move to a safe area and avoid windows. If an evacuation order is issued, getting out of the area should be your priority. For more information on how to prepare for hurricanes, visit Ready.gov/hurricanes.