Is Your Home Hurricane Ready? Home Improvements that Protect Your Investment

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, Floods September 30, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

A durable home that withstands natural hazards saves money, time, the ordeal of making repairs, and potentially your health.  When making improvements to your home, consider including these hurricane and flood-resistant changes.

Roof and Attic

The most common type of storm damage to homes is roof damage and resulting water damage. When re-roofing, investigate the water, wind and hail resistance ratings of the new roof system. Look for ASTM wind ratings and UL impact (hail) resistance ratings. Shingles that have been evaluated in accordance with ASTM standards can have a Class D (90 mph), F (110 mph), G (120 mph), or H (150 mph) rating for wind resistance.  Select shingles that have a class rating greater than the wind speed risk in your location.  For impact resistance, look for UL 2218 Class 4 shingles or FM 4473 for rigid roofings.

Remove the old roof coverings and inspect roof sheathing. Analyze underlayments and fastening methods along with roofing material properties. Add ring shank nails so the decking is secured every six inches and, if possible, install hurricane hardware to connect roof rafters/trusses to side walls. It’s also a good measure to brace gable end walls to roofing members to prevent collapse from very high wind.

Consider sealing roof decking seams with six-inch-wide roofing tape as a secondary defense against water damage.  It is highly recommended to upgrade the roofing underlayment to a synthetic roofing underlayment material which is extremely tear resistant. Invest in a single layer of adhesive backed, peel-and-stick roof membrane underlayment for the highest level of water protection. If using felt paper, use either #30 weight or two layers of #15.

Use a hurricane rated ridge vent combined with well attached, sturdy soffit vents in vented attics.  Use strong soffit materials that are well fastened to framing and not just resting in a J-channel.  Never combine a ridge vent with a power vent, turbine or gable vent; that could lead to reverse airflow and water intrusion.

Windows and Shutters

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. Most homes destroyed during strong hurricanes had no window protection. When wind enters a home through large openings, the inside pressure can build, lifting roofs and collapsing 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. There are also 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. It offers the added advantages of being storm-ready at all times (such as when no one is home) and home security benefits.

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


Choose appliances that can be installed above a potential flood level. A front loading washer on a platform, or over a built-in drawer, has multiple advantages: energy and water conserving, a more convenient height, storage space and protection from low-level flooding. A separate wall oven and cooktop are convenient and high above the floor. Elevate a new water heater on a sturdy platform indoors or in an enclosed garage. Install the outside air conditioner compressor unit on a sturdy platform or elevated concrete pad above flood levels and secure it from wind with metal strapping.

Walls and Floors

When remodeling, choose materials that are resistant to damage from flooding, termites and other hazards.  Consider ceramic or clay tile, brick with water-proof 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.  If you live in or near flood hazards, consider creating flood-hardy drainable, flushable walls with two to three inches of closed-cell foam insulation (spray foam or rigid board) in the lower wall cavities, solid wood and plywood structural materials and paperless drywall.  Leaving a gap in the drywall behind removable moldings allows space to flush and ventilate the wall cavities without having to gut the walls.

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