Keeping Water, Wind, and Debris Out of Your Home

Floods November 04, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

A home's exterior must repel or shed rain and other moisture. If moisture does enter the structure or building envelope, it must be able to dry. During storms, branches, loose yard items, and debris can smash against roofs, walls, and windows. In addition to reinforcing the structure, protect other parts of the home.


  • Install impact-resistant shutters over windows and glass doors. Plywood or other panels can be used as temporary shutters at lower cost. However, they must be adequately fastened or they will blow off. Install permanent hardware or hooks to the house frame members or studs to allow for fast and secure attachment of the panels.
  • Use impact resistant glass in windows and doors. Safety film can be cut to fit and inserted over existing window glass to help reduce minor wind damage and prevent shattered glass. However, safety film is not sufficient protection against high and hurricane-force winds and heavy debris impact.
  • Use at least three good quality hinges to secure doors. Use quality locks and deadbolts. Double doors should be secured with head and foot bolts that penetrate into the door header and subfloor. Use several solid wood or metal braces to secure the door from the inside as a temporary solution.
  • Use out-swing entry doors rather than inward swinging doors. An out-swing door is more likely to remain in place as the force of water pressure pushes on it because the door is pressed against the structural frame.
  • Quality caulking and weatherstripping will help keep wind-driven water out. Inspect caulking and weatherstripping yearly. Use quality sealant at form joints and other seams and joints where water may enter. Pay attention to where walls are attached to the foundation and to the roof. Use gaskets at the sill plate attachment.
  • Correct flashing and sealants are essential for preventing water from entering around windows and doors, and at any foundation, wall and roof seam.
  • Install deeper fascia or face boards extending below the soffit to act as a drip edge directing water away.
  • Install check valves in plumbing to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home if sewer lines are connected to storm drains.
Check valves may prevent water backup in drains that have backup problems. FEMA Photo: 1225441, Leif Skoogfors, FEMA


  • Soil around the foundation should slope at a 5% to 10% grade well away from the house to reduce water at the foundation. Downspout extenders should direct the water at least 5 to 6 feet away from the home. This helps keep crawlspaces, foundations, and basements drier. Note that splashguards may overflow and be too short and too small.
Extenders direct water well away from foundation. Photo: University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Shirley Niemeyer.


  • If water runs from higher sloping yards or areas toward the foundation, swales correctly installed with drainage materials around the home may help direct minor flooding toward street drains. Check with the local building codes and housing officials about requirements to construct levees, berms and floodwalls to stop floodwater from entering the house. These work best with slow moving water and water less that 3 feet deep.
Direct water away from the home. Sketch: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Community and Information Technology.


  • If the crawlspace is accessible, regrade the soil in the crawlspace from the center to the outside of the house to help drying. The soil should be slightly higher at the center, slope downward, and out so that the water will drain outward. Depending on the climate, humidity levels, and frequency of water entry, a cover over the exposed crawlspace soil may help prevent soil moisture movement into the crawlspace. After the crawlspace is dry, cover the soil with 6 mil plastic vapor barrier or sheeting, overlapping and sealing the seams. Depending on climate, codes, flood zone, and risk, closed or open crawlspaces are used.
  • In flood-prone areas, houses with crawlspaces usually have air vents in the foundation to promote ventilation and to allow the crawlspace to dry when moisture levels are high. However, these are not flood vents because they are typically too small or incorrectly located. Flood vents are normally closed, but automatically open as the flood water level rises. The opening of the vents prevents too much water pressure from building up and causing damage to the foundations' exterior. Flood vents must be kept free of debris, be adequate in number, large enough to provide for the force and flow of water, and low on the foundation to allow for drainage after a flood. Crawlspaces must be dried after the water has drained.
Flood vents. Photo courtesy of H.A. Aglan, Tuskegee University.

• Flashing is critical to keeping water out. Use higher and wider flashing when possible. Flashing must be properly installed and lapped to shed and direct the water downward.

• House wraps (building paper, fibrous materials, and other materials) reduce air infiltration and help to prevent water entrance when rain or moisture does penetrate the siding materials. House wraps should allow any moisture that does get in to escape or evaporate. Before installing a house wrap, become knowledgeable about available types, their capacity to allow water to drain, and codes and recommendations for the climate area.

For more information on protecting the roof, read Wind-resistant Roofs and Attachments



There are actions you can take to reduce potential damage to the house structure and its contents. These include protecting the roof from damage and lifting off, preventing house structure shift or damage from water forces, wave action and wind, and taking actions to keep out water, wind, and debris. Consult a housing professional or structural engineer for more specific information and recommendations for your home.

For more information on reinforcing and strengthening an existing or new structure against wind and water, read:

Preventing Lift Off of the House Roof or its Components or keeping the roof on.

Preventing or reducing house structure shift and damage from flood or wind forces and water surges.


Additional Resources

Federal Emergency Management Agency. Home Builder's Guide to Coastal Construction. Asphalt Shingle Roofing for High-Wind Regions. Technical Fact Sheet #20, Aug. 2005.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction. Roof Sheathing Installation. Technical Fact Sheet #18.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. Home Builder's Guide to Coastal Construction. Roof Underlayment for Asphalt Shingle Roofs. Technical Fact Sheet #19. or visit FLASH

Federal Emergency Management Agency. Home Builder's Guide to Coastal Construction. Storm-Resistant Roofing.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction. Use of Connectors and Brackets. Technical Fact Sheet #17.

Parker, D. (2006). Post-Hurricane Opportunities. Hurricane Season. Home Energy, pp. 38-40.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Durability by Design: A Guide for Residential Builders and Designers.

For more related information on protecting your home, visit the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety Disaster Safety Web site.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.