HGTV Dream Home 2013: Weatherproofing Techniques

The HGTV Dream Home 2013 builder details advances in coastal home building technology.

Weatherproofing Techniques at HGTV Dream Home 2013

When HGTV Dream Home 2013 General Contractor Craig Gentilin began his homebuilding career 25 years ago, carpenters still pounded nails with hammers, cell phones were a luxury and plans were drawn with pencils and rulers, not computers.

Still, of all the changes in building technology Craig has witnessed over the years, nothing compares to advances in weatherproofing in hurricane and earthquake zones, both of which apply to the HGTV project on Kiawah Island. “The engineering is so different now,” he says. “We used to account for just gravity, but now we’re factoring in lateral seismic forces and the uplift effect of extreme wind gusts."

Then: Spike Nails

Centuries ago, builders cut mortise-and-tenon joints where framing timbers met, then drilled holes through the entire assembly and hammered in wood pegs to lock the pieces tight. But by the time Craig was learning the trade, nails were the fastener of choice, and if he needed something extra strong, he’d reach for a larger nail.

Now: Hurricane Strapping

In a hurricane or earthquake, the forces on the house aren’t just pulling down, but sideways and even upward — over and over again. And that can yank nails right out of wood. So the HGTV Dream Home 2013 team used metal strapping, thick steel brackets that sandwich each structural joint and lock in place with numerous bolts. In this manner, the roof is connected to the top floor, which is connected to the upper walls, which are connected to the second floor, and so on, down to the foundation.

Then: Hurricane Shutters

Today an ornamental feature that frames windows and adds visual interest, shutters were originally designed to latch over and protect windows from rain and flying debris. In coastal regions, insurance companies have in recent years demanded that homeowners install heavy-duty metal shutters for hurricane protection.

Now: Impact Glass

There are no shutters at HGTV Dream Home 2013. Instead, Craig’s team installed state-of-the-art windows, made by Gayko, a German manufacturer sold by Henselstone. These energy efficient models, complete with dual panes, argon gas filling and a low-E coating, feature an invisible plastic layer that’s designed to keep the window intact even under the toughest conditions. Windows are lab tested to withstand — without puncture or water invasion — the impact of a 2x4 shot from a cannon.

Then: Soft Mortar

Early concrete, more pliable than today’s Portland cement, proved an advantage during earthquake situations as the material could handle movement without cracking. It took engineers years to figure out how to properly design buildings to withstand seismic activity using modern concrete, which in so many other ways outperforms older lime-based cement.

Now: Beefy Support Structures

Rather than a full foundation, which would fill with water during a rainstorm, HGTV Dream Home 2013 is built on 16- by 16-inch piers, supported at their bases by 1-foot-deep by 2-foot-wide footings. Rebar (metal reinforcement rods) buried inside the concrete is in some cases 3/4 inches rather than the usual 1/2 inch thick. These oversized structural elements (larger than standard construction specs would require) ensure the home’s stability during quake and flooding situations.

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