Richard Bogren, Reichel, Claudette Hanks
LSU AgCenter housing specialist
A resilient home is one that can be quickly restored at minimal expense to a safe, healthy and comfortable home after a natural disaster. It not only saves money, time and the stressful ordeal of damage restoration, but it also allows families to rapidly restore their normal lives instead of coping with long-term displacement and financial strain while competing with everyone else for qualified contractors, materials and financial assistance. It provides families a sense of control over their lives during turbulent, post-disaster times.
The following hurricane and flood-resistant home improvements can ramp up your home’s and family’s resilience. They are also a good investment to protect your home and add value while also doing your part to reduce the great impact a disaster has on the community and nation, especially during this time of dealing with the economic toll of the pandemic.
The most common type of storm damage to homes is roof damage, which then often results in water damage. Today, hurricane-resistant shingle roofing is readily available and cost effective. Check your roofing for signs of wear. And when it’s time to reroof, upgrade to a wind-resistant system. Note that the warranty life, such as a 40-year shingle, is not an indicator of wind or impact resistance. Wind- and hail-rated roofing materials are made differently and pass standardized wind and impact tests.
Look for ASTM wind ratings and UL impact (hail) resistance ratings. Shingles that have been wind tested 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 roofing materials.
Make sure the roofing installers precisely follow the manufacturer’s high-wind installation instructions, including the specialized starter strip instead of using flipped or trimmed shingles as a starter. A common cause of premature roofing failure, even with wind-tested shingles, is overdriven nails from using improperly adjusted nail guns, so specifying hand nailing reduces that risk.
Always remove the old roof coverings and inspect roof sheathing when installing a new roof. In high wind zones, add ring shank nails so the decking is secured to framing every 6 inches and, if possible, install hurricane hardware to connect roof rafters or trusses to side walls. It’s also a good measure to brace gable end walls to roofing members to prevent collapse at the top plate joint from very high wind.
Consider sealing the seams of roof decking with 6-inch-wide roofing tape as a secondary defense against water damage if the roofing were to get damaged. It’s highly recommended to upgrade to a synthetic roofing underlayment material, which is extremely tear resistant. Or, for the highest level of water protection, install adhesive-backed “peel and stick” roof membrane underlayment. Also, consider adding a thin felt paper on top to make reroofing easier in the future without damaging the underlayment.
If it’s too soon to reroof, you can still improve the wind resistance of your current shingles by reinforcing the first course on the eaves and the gable edge shingles. Apply three 1-inch-diameter dabs of roofing cement under each edge shingle near its edge. This needs to be done at least two weeks before a storm for the cement to adhere properly, so don’t wait until the storm warnings.
If you have a vented attic, a hurricane-rated ridge vent, such as a TAS 100(A) tested product, combined with well-attached, sturdy soffit vents are recommended. Standard ridge vents and soffit vents that rest in a J-channel tend to fail in storms, resulting in water entry and damage. Use strong soffit materials that are well fastened to framing every 12 inches. Never combine a ridge vent with a power vent, turbine or gable vent because that could lead to reverse airflow and water intrusion.
The most severe damage to homes from strong hurricanes and tornados is typically caused by uneven air pressure loads when windows break or garage doors collapse. Very high winds can turn unanchored items into missiles — and that can be just the beginning. When wind enters a home through large openings, the pressure can build inside, lifting roofs and collapsing walls.
Most homes destroyed during strong wind storms had no window protection. 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. Roll-down storm shutters hide in a cornice until needed, and several types of removable panels and impact screen systems with tracks can be painted to blend with siding.
Impact-resistant laminated glass windows are an alternative to storm shutters when you need new or replacement windows. They offer the added advantages of being storm-ready at all times, such as when no one is home, and home security benefits. Also, they are now readily available in many styles, framing materials and price points with Energy Star labels for added comfort and savings.
Attractive garage doors, entry doors and windows with high-wind design pressure ratings are also available and recommended. A standard garage door is typically the most vulnerable and largest opening in a home, so is most likely to be the cause structural failure of a house during a strong storm.
Choose appliances that can be installed above the possible flood level. Elevate your water heater and outside air conditioner compressor unit on sturdy platforms or elevated concrete pads above the possible flood level and secure them from wind with metal strapping. A front-loading washer on a platform, or over a 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.
When remodeling, choose materials that can resist damage from flooding, termites and other possible hazards. Consider ceramic or porcelain tile or brick flooring with waterproof mortar, decorative concrete finishes or interlocking solid vinyl flooring tiles with no adhesive that can be removed after a flood to let the slab or subfloor dry, and then be re-installed. Choose building materials such as pressure-treated woods, fiber-cement and paperless drywall.
When restoring or adding walls and floors in or near flood hazards, consider creating “flood-hardy” washable, drainable, dryable walls with solid wood and plywood structural materials, a partial fill of closed-cell foam insulation of spray foam or rigid board in the lower wall cavities, and paperless drywall. Leaving a gap in the drywall behind removable moldings, or using removable wainscoting, makes it possible to flush, sanitize, drain and ventilate the wall cavities (using a dehumidifier to speed the drying process) to avoid having to “gut” the walls and replace wet materials. See more details in the Flood Recovery section of the LaHouse Resource Center website.
To learn more about making your home more resilient and protecting your housing investment, visit LaHouse Resource Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge when LSU reopens and visit these websites: www.LSUagcenter.com/LaHouse, www.ibhs.org, www.flash.org and www.fema.gov.