Storm Repair

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Severe storms. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. If we’re lucky, they roll in and out of our lives without taking so much as a shingle from the roof. But if your home has suffered significant damage, it may be some comfort to know that in the rubble lays opportunity. Thanks to recent advances in building science, today’s homes can be built — or modified — to better withstand storms. So as you repair, take the extra steps to make your home more storm-resistant. When doing any work, make sure to meet or exceed the building code requirements for high-wind regions. Plus, you can use the opportunity to lower your energy bills by enhancing your home’s energy efficiency, too. Learn how with the Rehab Advisor.

Repairing Your Storm-Damaged Home

Cleaning up water damage? Read PATH recommendations for flood recovery.

PATH prepared these five guides to help homeowners in the Gulf States repair their storm-damaged homes in the wake of the 2005 hurricane season.

Protect Your Home from Hurricanes

Starting fresh? Learn how to build a more hurricane-resistant home.

If windows or doors fail during a storm, the wind rushes inside and pushes upward. Outside, turbulent air over the roof is like a giant hand tugging upward. Together, these forces can blow your roof right off. A truly durable home is built to withstand the forces of wind and water. Strengthen your home by focusing on these few key components:

Start with a concrete foundation
Reinforce your roof and walls
Select shutters for safety and convenience
Use impact-resistant windows
Strengthen exterior doors
Use effective insulation
Remain Safe and Sound

Start with a concrete foundation

Concrete is a popular method of construction in hurricane-prone areas, and for good reason. It withstands wind better than wood, doesn’t retain moisture, and lasts practically forever. Precast concrete walls and foundations are a cut above traditional concrete block These come in many forms, but all are manufactured in a factory rather than constructed on site. This cuts costs and speeds construction, which means a more durable home built faster, for less.

Reinforce your roof and walls

Imagine the difference between the hurricane trying to lift the entire house-one solid structure-rather than just the roof. Hurricane straps, which tie the roof and walls to the foundation, provide this kind of protection. They are most effective when all of the framing is lined up, top to bottom, and must be installed on all exterior walls, as well as any interior walls that help support the weight of the roof or upper stories (“load-bearing walls”).

Gable roofs are much more prone to wind damage than hipped roofsConsider a moderately pitched hipped roof rather than a gable roof for added hurricane resistance. A hipped roof might cost a little more, but it’ll look a whole lot better than a gable roof destroyed by a storm. If you have a gable roof, ask your builder to reinforce it. Many gable roofs fail because the end wall collapses, so reinforcing the gable end wall near the roof ridge helps and is fairly easy. Regardless of the roof type, the roof must be installed properly. For the roof to survive hurricane-force winds, your builder will need to use ring shank nails, which have little rings or spirals along the length of the nail to hold them in. The builder will need to consult the local code to determine how many nails are enough.

Builders suggest reinforcing roofs by securing roof sheathing to trusses.

For more on improving the strength of your roof, explore the Storm-Resistant Roofing Tech Set.

High-wind-resistant shingles also will go a long way toward keeping your roof in place. These shingles are more expensive than your typical asphalt variety, but they will pay for themselves many times over if they keep the roof on and the water out. Some major insurance companies even offer premium discounts when these shingles are used. When replacing shingles, consider reinforcing the connection between the sheathing to the rafters or trusses.

Another alternative is a peel-and-stick roof membrane , which covers the entire roof below the shingles. This will provide excellent protection from rain if the shingles blow off. Again, this membrane is more expensive than standard roofing felt, but much less than the cost of replacing the roof.

Select shutters for safety and convenience

Shutters that actually close over the windows will help keep windows intact and will keep hurricane-force winds and wind-driven rain out. Storm-resistant shutters are either permanent or removable. Removable shutters can be heavy and have sharp edges, so you may need assistance when putting them up or taking them down. The installation of shutters on second-story windows or on vacation homes could also be especially complicated.

Florida home with shutters that withstood the eye of a hurricane in 2004.

What if you’re out of town or have to install the shutters without help? Keep safety and convenience in mind. Metal hurricane shutters are easily installed on most existing homes. In some designs, hurricane shutters can be electrically rolled down to protect the home. Storm-resistant shutters for a standard single-story home with 312 square feet of windows cost about $700. Impact-resistant windows reduce risk.

The Pine Island, Florida, home pictured at left was near the eye of Hurricane Charley, yet was virtually undamaged. The hurricane shutters protected the doors and windows. This home also used a hip roof (no large gables) covered with a very durable metal roof.

Use impact-resistant windows

Impact-resistant windows may prove a better alternative to shutters, but homeowners should weigh the pros and cons of each. Impact-resistant glass is best for windows that are hard to reach or not easily fitted with hurricane shutters. When struck, the laminated glass may crack or shatter, but the glass fragments tend to adhere to a plastic layer and stay in place. Strong enough to resist bullets, impact-resistant windows significantly reduce the risk of window failure, personal injury, or property loss during a hurricane.

Strengthen exterior doors

Failure of the lock set, doorjamb or hinges frequently causes doors to blow in. If your local building code allows it, install your front door so it swings out instead of into the house. Out-swinging doors are more resistant to high winds, and do a better job of keeping water out of the house. The deadbolt should be at least one inch long and should penetrate into the stud framing, not just the doorjamb. To strengthen the hinge side, ask your builder to install at least three hinges with the hinge screws penetrating through the doorjamb into the studs. Installing slide locks (also called head and foot bolts) at the top and bottom of door will further strengthen the door. These are absolutely necessary for double doors. Locks must be mounted securely to the subfloor and door header, not just into the trim.

When we think of doors, garage doors don’t always come to mind, but they are often the weakest point of a home. If your garage door fails, this becomes a huge entry point for wind and rain, and could help blow your roof off. Double garage doors are also much more likely to collapse from strong winds than single doors. A simple solution is to install new hurricane-resistant garage doors . Retrofit kits are also available. These kits include horizontal and vertical bracing to strengthen the door. However, the bracing increases the weight of the door, which may require you to also reinforce the hinges or opening mechanism.

Because sliding glass doors are larger than windows, they are more vulnerable to wind and flying debris. They, too, should be fitted with impact-resistant glass. If these doors cannot be replaced, then at the very least install hurricane shutters over them.

Use effective insulation

If your insulation gets wet, not only will it be far less effective at insulating your home, it may be a host for mold. Conventional fiberglass insulation is very difficult to dry, so it usually must be replaced if it gets wet. Non-moisture-absorbent insulation , such as sprayed-foam insulation, dries more readily, although it costs more.

Ask the Builder:

Did you align the framing so that there is a continuous line from the roof trusses down through the wall’s studs and to the foundation? (This will improve the strength of the home and help keep the roof on.)
Can you design my roof to be hipped rather than gabled?
Will local code allow me to have out-swinging exterior doors?
How much extra will impact-resistant windows cost? Hurricane shutters?
Will you use a construction adhesive (certified by AFG-01) to glue the underside of the roof to the rafters or trusses?
Can you use baffled ridge vents and off-ridge vents instead of unbaffled vents? (Unbaffled vents tend to allow wind-driven moisture to enter attic spaces or the cavities of cathedral ceilings, causing moisture damage and mold growth.)
Will you design the fascia board to extend and terminate below the underside of the soffit? (This helps keep water out of the eaves.)
Will you use water-resistant materials that can dry out easily?

Remain Safe and Sound

An approaching hurricane usually means one thing: it’s time to evacuate. In the event that evacuation is impossible, a safe room can serve as shelter. The safe room is commonly made from 8-inch concrete block reinforced with steel rebar, which will stand strong in high winds, if a tree falls on the house, or if debris blows in through windows, doors or the roof. But remember: staying in the home is your last resort.

In the aftermath of a hurricane, getting back to everyday life can take time if your home has been severely damaged. A safe room can serve as a back-up shelter as you undertake repairs. These interior rooms can also provide useable space all year ’round by doubling as a master bedroom closet, a bathroom, or laundry area.

Hurricane Safety Tips

Keep flashlights, batteries, a portable radio, non-perishable food, and drinking water on hand.
Never use candles or matches inside the home, as gas lines may have ruptured.
Turn off electrical equipment you were using when the power went out.
Remember that downed or damaged trees can conceal live power lines.
Keep listening to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for instructions.

Another option to keep you safe in future storms is a prefabricated shelter . Designed to withstand the high wind and flying debris of Category 5 hurricanes and F5 tornadoes, these shelters are available for in-home and exterior installation.

While you’ll have shelter in a safe room or shelter, you may not have power unless you plan ahead. Ask your builder to provide a natural-gas fired generator in case the lights go out and the fridge turns off. The generator will also allow you to use fans and dehumidifiers if the house floods, which will help prevent mold and rot . Because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning, never use a generator inside a home or garage.

Ask the Builder:

Will you include in the plans for my home a backup generator connected to the refrigerator, select lighting, and outlets in the safe room?
Is it feasible to locate all electric outlets and switches 12 inches above the projected flood elevation of my home?
Have you located my gas-powered generator in a well-ventilated space outdoors and away from HVAC equipment?

After the Storm

No matter how many hurricane-resistant features you invest in, it’s wise to ask licensed contractors or a home inspector to assess the damage if you are hit by a major storm. They should look for electrical damage, inspect gas lines, remove uprooted trees, and check the plumbing. That’s the ideal world. The reality may be different, since building pros are usually in great demand after a damaging storm, busily repairing everyone else’s home. But if you work with your builder to prepare for that storm now, it’s likely you’ll be able to wait.

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