Hurricane-Proof Your Home

Do you live in a hurricane zone? These ideas will help you strengthen your home against dangerous, destructive weather.


Beef up your home to better withstand hurricane winds with these modifications.

Enlarge Image Strengthen your doors to protect your home.
  • Strengthen double doors. If you have double doors in which one door is active and the other is fixed, it's a good idea to reinforce the fixed door at the top and bottom. Some door manufacturers provide reinforcing kits.
  • Pay attention to garage doors. In high winds, double garage doors can pull out of their tracks or collapse from wind pressure. If garage doors fail, high winds can enter your home and blow out doors, windows, walls, and even the roof. Make sure your garage doors are reinforced at their weakest points; in most cases, this involves installing horizontal bracing on each panel. If you're building a new garage or installing a new door, use heavier-than-standard hinges and stronger center supports than standard.
  • Don't forget the storm shutters. Installing storm shutters over all glass surfaces is one of the most effective ways to protect your home. You can have them built, or do it yourself.
What You Need:
Enlarge Image Use 5/8-inch exterior-grade plywood to build strong shutters.
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Bolts (see Note below)
  • Wood or masonry anchors (see Note below)
  • Large washers
  • 5/8-inch exterior-grade plywood
  • Saw
  • Permanent marking pen or small can of exterior paint and paintbrush

Notes on bolts and anchors: Wood-frame houses: For 3 x 4-foot or smaller windows, use 1/4-inch lag bolts and plastic-coated permanent anchors. The lag bolts should penetrate the wall and frame surrounding the window at least 1-3/4 inches. For larger windows and doors, use 3/8-inch lag bolts that penetrate the wall and window frame at least 2-1/2 inches.

Masonry houses: For 3 x 4-foot or smaller windows, use 1/4-inch expansion bolts and galvanized permanent expansion anchors. The expansion bolts should penetrate the wall at least 1-1/2 inches. For larger windows and doors, use 3/8-inch expansion bolts.

Instructions:

1. Take measurements and cut plywood to size. Measure each window and each door that contains glass. Add 8 inches to both the height and width to provide a 4-inch overlap on each side of the opening. Cut a piece of plywood to the measurements for each opening. 2. Drill holes in plywood. Drill holes 2-1/2 inches from the outside edge of the plywood at each corner and at 12-inch intervals along each side. Drill four holes in the center area of the plywood to relieve pressure during a hurricane. 3. Install anchors in home exterior. Place the plywood over the opening, and mark each hole position on the outside wall. Drill holes and install the anchors (for bolt and anchor details, see Notes above). On wood-frame houses, make sure the anchors are secured in the solid wood that frames the door or window, and not in the siding or trim. 4. Check for fit. Install plywood and bolts to make sure they fit properly. 5. Remove and label shutters. Mark each shutter so you will know where it is to be installed (for good measure, you may want to mark the top side as well). 6. Store the shutters and bolts in an accessible place. A sturdy plastic container with a tight-fitting lid can help keep bolts from becoming lost.

  • Install additional truss bracings, especially if your roof is gabled. Homes with gabled roofs are more likely to suffer damage during a hurricane; the end wall of a home with that type of roof is especially vulnerable. If the end wall is not properly braced, it can collapse, causing major roof damage. In most homes, gabled roofs are built using manufactured trusses. In many cases, the only thing holding the trusses in place is the plywood roof sheathing fastened over them. Truss bracing usually consists of 2x4s that run the length of the roof. Braces should be installed 18 inches from the ridge, in the center span, and at the base, with 8 to 10 feet between braces. Insist on gabled end bracing, which consists of 2x4s placed in an X pattern from the top and bottom centers of the gable to the top and bottom center braces of the fourth truss.
  • Don't skimp on hurricane straps. Regardless of your roof type, hurricane straps are designed to help hold the roof to the walls. Ask your builder to install hurricane straps of galvanized metal. Don't wait until after your house is constructed; although some people attempt hurricane-strap installation as a do-it-yourself project, the straps are difficult to fit, and improperly placed, they can turn into sharp projectiles in a strong wind.
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