5 Ways to Provide Built-In Hurricane Protection

Learn how to protect your home in harsh weather with upgrades and retrofit solutions.

A variety of upgrades and retrofits can be completed to make homes safer. Here are five key ways contractors suggest for securing a home before a hurricane hits:

1. Windows. Three approaches can be taken to securing these vital openings, says Terry Crow, president of Crow Industries in Clearwater, Fla. Impact-resistant windows and doors feature extra-strong framing and glazing that sandwiches a layer of plastic laminate between two layers of glass. When hit by a projectile, the glass fractures but the object doesn’t penetrate. These can be expensive and need replacement after being hit, but they provide the best protection, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A less expensive option is shutters, which can be manually operated or motor-driven and come in roll-down, accordion or swinging styles. An impervious Kevlar-based fabric also has been introduced to protect windows. These systems provide active protection, meaning they must be activated or moved into place to operate (as opposed to the passive protection provided by lamination).
A final option is plywood boards attached with concrete screws, which are inexpensive but must be fit to the openings and require significant installation activity.

2. Garage doors. Flimsy doors can give way quickly, providing an inroad for high winds that can destroy a home. Code-approved doors should be installed, with stanchions that hold the frame to the ground and to the header. "These products are labeled," stresses Dean Jarvis, president of Florida Renovators Inc. in North Largo, Fla. "It’s vital that contractors read the labels and use the code-approved products."

3. Roofing. Although some asphalt shingles have been approved for use in hurricane areas, Jarvis recommends metal. "Dark shingles become too hot and expand and contract, which loosens them, while white shingles that are too light are susceptible to mold growth," he explains. "Metal roofs are great." He uses both standing-seam and v-crimp styles.

4. Safety straps. Some contractors have expanded on the straps used to help secure mobile homes to the ground by creating straps that can tie down low-rise homes. However, "they would be complicated for a two- or three-story design," Crow says.

Straps can be applied in renovation applications with good results, says David Tyson, president of David Tyson & Associates in Charlotte, N.C. "The straps can be used in specific spots to bolt the floor to the foundation during remodeling, and to secure the walls." The straps are applied straight or diagonally across the wall studs. Any time a room is changed, he suggests taking off the drywall and adding the straps. "Drywall is relatively cheap, and the straps can be added from either side of the wall, so it’s a good thing to do during any project."

5. Safe rooms. Although difficult to retrofit into a home, more homeowners are interested in creating a secure room, especially in basement-less homes. Crow suggests converting a small bedroom or large closet by removing the walls and adding concrete walls with a slab roof and steel door. Security straps also can be applied to a small room on all sides to help secure it, Tyson adds. "It definitely can add more strength even to one room."

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