Hurricane preparedness is a project that has to be done each year by millions of residents in the Eastern United States, from the Texas Gulf Coast to New England, who reside within 100 or so miles from the Atlantic Ocean. When hurricane-force winds are propelled against a tree, a sign or your house, the pressure builds up and pushes until it finds a path around an obstruction.
Here are several ways you can reinforce your home's weak points to stand up to a hurricane.
Garage Doors: In a hurricane, one of the most vulnerable areas is your garage door. The larger it is, the more vulnerable it is. It doesn¹t take much of a gust to push in the center of a double-wide garage door and pop it off its roller tracks.
Most manufacturers make reinforced garage doors for potential high-wind environments. But if you bought a cheap one, upgrade kits are available.
These kits consist of several horizontal metal braces that can easily be installed with a drill or screw-driver. To determine how many braces you need, just count the number of panel sections that make up the door and install one brace across the center of each panel.
As an added precaution, park your vehicles inside the garage, close the door, and then carefully back the vehicles tight against the door for additional support.
Protecting Glass Doors and Windows: Windows are the next area that requires early hurricane preparedness, including sliding glass patio doors and large picture windows. These need to be protected from both pressure and debris. An easy way to do that is by making home made storm shutters. Here's how:
- Step 1: If you're making your own shutters, your best choice is 5/8-inch exterior-grade plywood. Measure the size of the window or door and add 8 inches to both dimensions. This will provide an ideal 4-inch overlap on all sides.
- Step 2: Depending on the size of the piece, drill between four and six half-inch holes across the center of the plywood panel. These will equalize the pressure in the cavity between the window and the shutter.
- Step 3: Now it's time for the fasteners. If you have a wood-frame house, it's fairly easy. For windows that measure 4' by 4' or smaller, use 1/4-inch lag screws, 2 inches long. These will penetrate the wood window frame at least 1-1/4 inches. For larger windows, use 3/8-inch lag screws that are 3-1/2 inches long. You want these to penetrate the frame at least 2-1/2 inches. For installation into masonry walls, it's a bit more difficult. You'll need expansion bolts and galvanized permanent expansion anchors. Use the same data listed above in terms of fastener size, but 1-1/2 inches of penetration is adequate for all window sizes.
- Step 4: Install fasteners around the perimeter of the plywood, between 2- and 2-1/2 inches from the edge, at intervals of no more than 12 inches. In the case of wood-frame construction, use a stud finder or other method to make sure you are drilling into the window frame.
- Step 5: In the case of picture windows and glass doors, install plywood as described above, but you'll need to reinforce the plywood with 2x4 horizontal studs. Cut the studs so they extend at least 2 inches past the plywood on each side. Add extra screws to hold the studs in place and make sure the fasteners are penetrating a suitable substrate. If you have double-entry front doors, you may wish to add extra support in the center, where the two doors meet. This can range from adding extra deadbolts or barrel latches at the top and bottom of each door, or the much easier alternative of pushing a heavy piece of furniture against the doors when the storm approaches. For added insurance, tie the two doorknobs together.
- Step 6: Before you put away your shutters, be sure to mark top and bottom as well as the specific window that matches each panel. All the holes will match up when the next hurricane threatens.
There is usually a lot of stress and anxiety associated with an oncoming storm. Start the hurricane preparedness project early and allow enough time to do it right. You don't want to have flimsy shutters or none at all because the home-improvement center ran out of the right materials.
And if you think this is all a grand waste of time and that all you really need to do is place an "X"of duct tape across each window pane, remember the only thing duct tape accomplishes in a hurricane is that it keeps the glass from shattering as it blows out of the frame.
By following these simple steps, you will help to ensure that as little damage as possible is done to your home during the hurricane season.