August 7, 2018
The number of intense hurricanes hitting North America has increased steadily since the 1970s. While homeowners in coastal communities may not have to deal with more hurricanes, they will have to deal with stronger storms in the future.
Research shows that prior to the 70s, strong storms such as 2017’s Hurricane Harvey would occur about once every century. Since then, that average has increased to once every 16 years. That means that most people will experience another Harvey-like hurricane in their lifetime – and it increases the need to hurricane-proof your house.
It’s Easier Than Ever to Hurricane-Proof Your House
What can you do to get ready for the next dangerous storm? You could move to another part of the country ... or, you could make some home improvements to hurricane-proof your house. These upgrades give your home a better chance of surviving the winds and rains that accompany strong hurricanes.
There is some good news for people who want to prepare their homes for a major hurricane.
First, many of these storm-proofing upgrades – such as hurricane clips for the roof and storm shutters for the windows – are easy to install on existing homes. Second, property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing programs may be able to cover 100% of the upfront cost of your hurricane-readiness improvements. PACE programs are meant to help homeowners pay for efficiency upgrades, and they also often cover improvements that give a home greater climate resiliency.
Protect the Roof
If you decide to hurricane-proof your house, start at the top and work your way down. Roofs are usually connected to the house with so-called toenails. These are nails that are driven in at an angle. This connection is strong enough to withstand regular weather, but not necessarily tornados and high-category hurricanes. Hurricane clips, usually made from steel, strengthen the connection between the roof and the home’s rafters and trusses. This makes the roof less likely to lift off the frame in high winds.
These metal connectors sometimes go by different names, such as “hurricane straps” or “hurricane ties.” Regardless of the name, they should all do the same thing: strengthen the connection between the frame of the house and the roof.
Strengthen the Garage Door
According to CNN, 80% of hurricane damage begins when wind enters the home through the garage door. This is due to the fact that most garage doors are made of lightweight material, which helps with initial costs, safety and the efficiency of the open-close cycle.
So what are the options if you have a lightweight door, but you live in a hurricane zone? Impact-resistant garage doors are often a good investment. These replacement doors are built to withstand hurricane-force winds. Another option is to get a vertical bracing system. Garage door manufacturers may sell such systems for their specific doors, or contractors could install generic supports that are custom cut to fit your door.
Preparing the Windows and Doors for a Storm
Like the garage door, a home’s windows and doors are often weak points that could fail to withstand high winds. To remedy this and better hurricane-proof your house, you can install impact-resistant windows. These have heavy frames and a laminated surface that keeps them from shattering. Some versions have two panes with a shatter-proof membrane in between them.
Another window-protection option is to install shutters. When closed, these shutters will protect the glass from flying debris and keep the wind from breaking the window and compromising the home’s structure. Shutters are available in many different forms. Perhaps you’ve seen people preparing for a hurricane by nailing pieces of plywood over their windows. A more solid alternative is panel hurricane shutters. These are removable panels that the homeowner can place in tracks installed around the windows when needed.
Permanent shutters come in different forms. Some roll down like a garage door, while others have panels that open outward when not in use. These are effective, though some may require extra reinforcement with bolts or bars. The added advantage of permanent shutters is that they can provide shade on sunny days. This shade can lower solar heating in the home and perhaps save on air conditioning costs.
Hurricane-proof doors, likewise, offer extra protection against wind and debris. These “impact-resistant” doors should have heavy deadbolts or other features that will keep them closed during periods of high wind. Some experts recommend replacing wood doors with aluminum or fiberglass doors because these are better able to withstand winds and direct impact from debris.
What Else Can You Do?
The U.S. government’s Ready campaign has a few additional suggestions for homeowners during hurricane season. Ready suggests basic exterior storm preparation. This includes clearing gutters and making certain that they are securely fastened. You should also secure downspouts. Though heavy rain may flood the gutters eventually, if they’re working properly they’ll move as much water as possible away from the house.
Ready also advises homeowners to trim or remove trees that could potentially fall on the home during a hurricane. If flooding is a concern, you should remove important documents, electronics, and anything else of value from the lowest level of the home, if possible.
You also may want to explore the possibility of purchasing a generator so that you can have power even if the electrical grid goes out after a storm.
PACE Financing for Climate Resiliency Improvements
In addition to efficiency improvements, PACE financing programs can help homeowners increase the climate resiliency of their home. Preparing to handle more-frequent storms caused by the changing climate is a major aspect of climate resiliency, so such upgrades might qualify for financing.
Find out if PACE is available in your area by checking your eligibility online.