October 15, 2019
If you live in a hurricane-prone area, it’s crucial to take the right steps to make your home less vulnerable to the destructive forces of one of these storm systems. Your garage door, for example, is an element of your home that becomes a serious Achilles’ heel in the midst of a hurricane. It’s far more susceptible to wind damage than other areas of your property are. In fact, if wind gets into your garage during a high wind event, high internal pressure can build up and cause serious structural damage to the rest of your property.
To avoid this worst-case-scenario situation, it’s important to understand the key aspects of what makes a garage door wind-resistant. Whether or not your garage door can withstand wind pressure will be determined by the area where you live and its building code standards.
Keep reading to get a full overview of the wind-resistant garage doors available on the market today and what you can do to make sure you have adequate storm protection.
- Be Prepared: Hurricane-Force Wind Regulations
- Important Wind-Related Terms to Understand
- Determining your Garage Door’s Wind Code Ratings
- Can You Hurricane Proof Your Existing Garage Door?
- Hurricane Door Options
It’s important to understand whether or not your specific garage door meets the wind-load regulations for your region. Your local building code authority is a good resource to use to figure out this information. In certain zones, you’ll be required to have a garage door that can withstand well over 100-mph winds. In some areas, like Broward County in Florida for example, you are required to have garage doors that can stand up to 140-mph winds.
For context, it might be helpful to understand just how fast wind speeds are during a hurricane. These storm systems are divided by Category designations according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
- Category 1: 74-95 mph sustained winds
- Category 2: 96-110 mph sustained winds
- Category 3 (major): 111-129 mph sustained winds
- Category 4 (major): 130-156 mph sustained winds
- Category 5 (major): 157 mph or higher sustained winds
What you might notice in these Category designations is the term “sustained winds”. Believe it or not, winds can go even higher with gusts 20%-25% higher than those sustained numbers. Hurricane Irma’s highest measured wind speed, for example, was 177 mph. It was one of the most destructive Category 5 hurricanes to hit the U.S. to date and caused $108 billion in damage.
With that information in mind, it’s clear how important it is to be familiar with the model of garage door you have — even if you just moved in — so you know whether or not it's appropriate for your region.
Before we jump into how to hurricane-proof your garage door, there are some wind-related terms that you’ll want to know as you shop for new garage doors or a retrofitting system. We’ve gathered some of the most important below:
- Test Load: The amount of design pressure the garage doors are tested to.
- Wind Load: The level of force affecting the surface area of the door by the wind. Typically, it’s measured in pounds per square foot (PSF). As a note, wind speed is measured in 3-second gusts.
- ASCE-7: The American Society of Civil Engineers design standard. ASCE7 is the foundational basis for wind load calculations used in building codes across the country.
- International Building Code: This is a model building code that much of the U.S. has adopted with some slight local variations.
- Design Load: The design pressure rating of a door. It will have both positive and negative values.
- Mean Roof Height: The distance above the ground level of the midpoint of the roof.
- Negative Wind Pressure: The pressure that pulls your garage door away from the rest of your home.
- Positive Wind Pressure: The pressure of wind blowing against your garage door.
While you’re shopping for hurricane-resistant garage doors, you’ll likely run into the term “Wind Code”. The Wind Code was created to measure a building or structure’s ability to withstand wind. Each regional building authority has its own standards for garage door strength ratings based on local weather tendencies.
For example, Florida has three different regions of wind-borne debris levels that range from 130 mph to 140 mph. The zones are then further stratified by an area’s urban, suburban, rural or coastal location.
If you’re unsure of the exact model of your garage door, it’s best to consult a professional garage door technician who can conduct an inspection and give you accurate information. If you need help finding a technician to determine if your existing garage door meets your local wind requirements, Ygrene’s independent network of contractors can answer your questions. you can contact one of Ygrene’s knowledgeable contractors.
Can You Hurricane-Proof Your Existing Garage Door?
Retrofitting an older model of garage door with new hardware may not provide the structural support needed for new building codes. Again, it’s better to consult an expert contractor to find out whether or not this is the case for you. In addition, if you do decide to retrofit your existing door, you’ll likely need a professional to install the new hardware, springs, and tracking since there will be a significant weight difference.
If you decide to stick with your existing doors, there are many bracing kits available that will help keep your door and the rest of your home intact. Because garage doors are very fine-tuned and weight-sensitive, it’s a good idea to leave the installation to experts.
FEMA lists garage door failures as one of the top reasons for internal home destruction during a hurricane since it may allow both wind and water to enter your property. Because of their large size, garage doors present a much bigger risk than regular access doors and windows.
There are two ways you can ensure that your garage door is hurricane-ready. One method is installing bracing before the hurricane hits and the other is investing in a storm-ready garage door system.
Add-on systems require the installation of long posts in the floor and ceiling to reinforce and brace the garage door before the storm hits. Then, you’ll need to remove them again when the storm is over to use the garage door as normal.
The second method is installing hurricane-proof garage doors that don’t require any extra setup because the reinforcement is built right into the structure of the door. This type of garage door is a great choice for vacation homes in particular since it gives owners the peace of mind that the door is secure.
Storm-ready systems mean no advance setup is required and can be timesaving in the event of a sudden high wind notice or evacuation warning. Think of it this way: it’s one less thing to think about during an emergency.
It’s always best to get a professional garage door technician to install your hurricane-proof garage door. After all, installing new garage doors is a much more involved process than typical DIY house projects like installing crown molding or putting in new bathroom tile.
Here are the steps to select the hurricane-proof garage door that’s right for your home and region:
- Contact your local building code authority for the specific wind code requirements for your areas.
- Find out the wind speed miles per hour your door needs to be rated for.
- Determine Structure Exposure either B or C.
- B is defined as urban and suburban areas, wooded areas or other areas with closely spaced objects. Exposure B is usually the default unless the building site meets the definition of another exposure.
- C means open terrain with scattered obstructions including flat open ground, grasslands, and shorelines in hurricane-prone regions.
Below is a chart that can help you find your Wind Code “W” rating for your garage door based on your exposure zone and the construction of your home:
- Find your Mean Roof Height.
- Up to 15 feet high, one-story structure.
- 16-25 feet high, two-story structure.
These measurements will help determine the right wind-resistant garage door for you. Again, it’s best to consult a trusted garage door technician before choosing a specific model.
Above all, make sure you choose a garage door that has heavy-duty hinges, rollers, springs, and tracks to keep the door intact during a high-wind storm event.
If you’re wondering how to prepare your house for a hurricane, there are plenty of ways to reinforce and brace your property. Besides hurricane-proof doors, access door and hurricane window protection is another important part of keeping you and your family safe. If you’re ready to make storm protection upgrades to your home, Ygrene can be your financing partner to help make sure that your most important asset is kept intact at a cost-effective price to you.