When deciding what to do first to protect your home from storms there is no quick simple easy answer. Every home is built differently, at different times and in different places. There is no way to guarantee a house will not be damaged. during a storm. We can though take some logical steps to decide what to do to help protect homes.
The biggest problem with storms and water intrusion. For a building to survive a storm surge takes special design and construction to withstand the immense forces of surges of water. It is nearly impossible to mitigate the damages of these forces. Proper planning and construction techniques will help but are never certain. This is the biggest reason to evacuate when a storm is approaching. Water intrusion can also come from loss of roof covering. Keep a roof in good shape and replaced is a great way to protect a home. The water damage from a failed roof covering can leave the building intact but still huge damages and unlivable.
Catastrophic building failure can occur from a roof that isn’t properly attached to the structure. We call this the roof-to-wall connection. This is how the roof trusses or rafters are held to the walls. Correcting deficiencies or upgrading these connections can go a long way to holding a roof/wall structure together.
Wind-borne debris does plenty of damage in a storm. This is usually rather wide-spread and not only causes damage but leads to moisture intrusion and can lead to structural failure. Protecting a buildings windows and doors is imperative to hold a structure together in a high wind event. The wind pressure on the exterior of a home great, but when added together with pressures that could build from the failure of an opening causes those pressures to multiply. Wind blowing into a failed window or door opening causes pressure on the interior of the home to rise greatly which gets added to the pressure on the exterior. The best way to mitigate the damage of windows and doors is to add opening protection such as impact shutters or impact rated windows and doors. Starting with the largest is always best but insurance companies do not give credits on your insurance unless ALL openings are protected. When replacing your roof it is important to replace skylights with impact rated skylights. If replacing a door, especially a garage door it is always advisable to install an impact rated door. In some areas, like the wind-borne debris region and high-velocity hurricane zone, it may not just be highly recommended but required to protect openings.
Knowing what to do for a particular home first can be tricky. Most often we recommend starting with keeping a roof covering in good shape, then ensure that the roof-to-wall connections are as strong as reasonably possible. Next ensuring the windows and doors are protected is a generally a great idea. There are several other items that can be done to help a home withstand high winds, but more often than not those items require the home to be rebuilt or to be done while a new roof covering is being installed. To understand what would be best for your home, you should start with a wind mitigation report. This will list items that could be improved. Then looking at the feasibility of those items, costs vs. benefits. Start with a wind mitigation from the My Safe Florida Home Program provided by the Florida Chief Financial Officer’s(CFO) office and the Office of Insurance Regulation(OIR).
Getting a wind mitigation report(OIR-B1-1802) from the state may be free and will help you decide what to do to your home next. There may even be grants available to get improvements done.