AgCenter: Make home hurricane ready

A durable home that withstands natural hazards like hurricanes saves money, time, the ordeal of making repairs and, potentially, your health. The beginning of hurricane season is a good time to consider ways to make your home tougher if you’re planning any improvements.

Hazard-resistant homes also help communities and the nation by reducing disaster costs, says LSU AgCenter housing specialist Claudette Reichel. They help the environment, too, by reducing waste.

“Katrina, Rita and Gustav were wake-up calls for all,” Reichel says. “It’s a vivid reminder of the importance of making your home stronger, safer and smarter by including hazard-resistant improvements whenever you remodel or restore your home.”

When making any improvements to your home, Reichel says, consider including hurricane and flood-resistant changes.

The most common type of storm damage to homes is roof damage and resulting water damage. When reroofing, investigate the water-, wind- and hail-resistance ratings of the new roof system. Look for UL wind and impact (hail) ratings. Select shingles that have a class rating equal to or greater than the basic wind speed specified in the building code.

When you remove the old roof coverings, inspect the sheathing. Add ring shank nails so the decking is secured every 6 inches and, if possible, install hurricane hardware to connect roof rafters or trusses to side walls.

In south Louisiana, she suggests sealing seams of roof decking with 6-inch-wide roofing tape and upgrading to a tear-resistant, synthetic roofing underlayment material. For the highest level of water protection, invest in a single layer of adhesive-backed, “peel and stick” roof membrane underlayment.

For a vented attic, a hurricane-rated ridge vent combined with securely attached, sturdy soffit vents is preferred.

The most severe hurricane damage to non-coastal homes is typically caused by water entry and uneven air pressure loads when windows break or garage doors collapse.

“Hurricane winds can turn unanchored items into missiles — and that can be just the beginning,” Reichel says. “Most homes that are destroyed during strong hurricanes have no window protection. When wind enters a home through large openings, the pressure that builds inside can lift roofs and collapse walls.”

Operable hurricane shutters can protect glass from flying debris while providing an appealing, authentic design element to your home. Louvered Bahamas shutters hinged above the window offer the triple benefit of storm protection, decoration and the energy savings of an awning-like shade while preserving the view. Other choices include roll-down storm shutters that hide in a cornice until needed and several types of removable shutter and impact screen systems with tracks that can be painted to blend with siding.

“Laminated, impact-resistant glass is a good alternative to storm shutters,” Reichel says. “It offers the added advantage of being storm-ready at all times — such as when no one is home — and home security.”

Attractive garage doors, entry doors and windows with high wind-pressure ratings are now readily available.

If you remodel interior areas, choose materials that can resist damage from flooding, termites and other possible hazards, Reichel says.

Consider ceramic or clay tile or brick with waterproof mortar, solid vinyl flooring with chemical-set adhesives, decorative concrete, pressure-treated wood, fiber-cement and other durable flooring, wall finishes and siding.

“When restoring or adding walls and floors, seize the opportunity to choose more flood-resistant materials,” Reichel says. “If you’re in or near flood hazards, consider creating flood-hardy, drainable, flushable walls with 2 to 3 inches of closed-cell foam insulation — spray foam or rigid board — in the lower wall cavities. She suggests using solid wood and plywood structural materials ( no oriented strand board) and paperless drywall.

If the space does flood, leaving a gap at the base of the drywall behind removable baseboards allows space to flush and ventilate the wall cavities without having to “gut” the walls.

To learn more about protecting your housing investment by making it more durable, visit LaHouse Resource Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and the following websites: www.lsuagcenter.com, www.ibhs.org, www.flash.org and www.fema.gov.

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