Hurricane season is upon us. Each year, Floridians eye June first with wariness and not a little bit of apprehension, because they know that hurricane season can bring some truly awful property losses. The first step to protecting a home from hurricane damage is an inspection to make sure that it’s fit to weather the storm. If it isn’t, then some residential hurricane retrofitting is in order. Here are four key questions to ask in assessing how hurricane-tough a home really is:
1. Where are the leaks?
In terms of financial expense, water damage can far outstrip wind damage in the final totals. Make sure there is adequate caulking and weather stripping around windows and doors. Double-check the openings for external gas lines, outlets, faucets, vents, and light fixtures, and apply silicone sealant to any gaps you find. Block, brick, and stucco-façade homes should have thick layers of latex paint or weather-proof coating to keep water from seeping through.
2. How secure is the roof?
The roof is the first line of defense during a hurricane. Sadly, people very often lose their roof in whole or in part during a storm. Securing the shingles to the deck with at least 6 roofing nails will keep them attached far more securely than staples will. Tiles should be fully set into the mortar or adhesive and screwed down to prevent them from being blown off. To keep the entire roof attached to the house, hurricane-strips and ½-inch bolts should be used to attach each roof rafter to each exterior wall.
3. Are your windows stormproof?
Windows are the most vulnerable part of a house. If you are remodeling your home, install storm-rated windows with the highest DP rating you can afford. If you are content with your current windows, there is a variety of impact-resistant shutter options to choose from to keep your windows safe. Look for the IHPA (International Hurricane Protection Association) logo that indicates if the product is compliant with the Florida Building Codes. Plywood is a hassle to install and remove for each storm, but it’s better than tape, which is useless for keeping windows intact during a hurricane.
4. If the house structure strong?
The lower story of a house should be bolted to the foundation. If it isn’t, bolts and connectors need to be added to keep the house from blowing off or over. Multi-story homes should have metal floor-to-floor connector straps. Homes with a gable end wall are very vulnerable to hurricane winds because gable walls tend not to be terribly strong. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to fortify the gable end wall to withstand hurricanes, and this retrofit will significantly strengthen the structure of the entire house.
For more information on residential hurricane retrofits, consult retrofit guide at floridadisaster.org. Many insurance companies offer rebates and incentives for homeowners to retrofit their properties. If money is a factor, there are many state and national grant programs to help homeowners hire professionals to retrofit their homes.