Claudette H. Reichel, Claesgens, Mark A.
The aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita is a wake-up call for all whose homes were spared. It’s a vivid reminder of the importance of making your home stronger, safer and smarter, according to LSU AgCenter housing specialist Dr. Claudette Reichel.
The expert says to include hazard-resistant improvements whenever you remodel or restore your home.
"A durable home that withstands natural hazards saves money, time, the ordeal of making repairs and, potentially, your health," Reichel says, adding, "Hazard-resistant homes help communities and the nation by reducing disaster costs. They help the environment, too, by reducing waste."
Reichel says to consider certain hurricane and flood-resistant improvements when making changes.
The greatest damage to non-coastal homes from hurricanes is typically caused by water entry and uneven air pressure loads that blow out windows. Hurricane winds can turn unanchored items into missiles. Most homes destroyed during recent hurricanes had no window protection. When wind enters a home through broken windows, the pressure can build inside, lift roofs and collapse walls.
Reichel says operable hurricane shutters can protect glass from flying debris while providing an appealing, authentic design element to your home. Louvered Bahama 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.
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.
The housing expert advises choosing 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 conservation, 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. Install a new water heater and outside air conditioner compressor unit on a sturdy platform or elevated concrete pad above flood levels.
Roof and Attic
When re-roofing, investigate the water, wind and hail resistance ratings of the new roof system. Look for UL wind-resistance ratings or systems that are certified to meet south Florida or Texas standards. Analyze underlayments and fastening methods along with roofing material properties.
Remove the old roof coverings, inspect roof sheathing, add screws or ring shank nails so the decking is secured every 6 inches. Install hurricane hardware to connect roof rafters/trusses to side walls.
Reichel says it’s also a good measure to brace gable end walls to roofing members to prevent collapse from very high wind.
In south Louisiana, consider sealing seams of roof decking with 6-inch-wide roofing tape and using a double layer of roofing felt paper. Or, invest in a single layer of adhesive backed waterproofing membrane underlayment.
For a vented attic, Reichel recommends a hurricane-rated ridge vent combined with soffit vents. She says never to combine a ridge vent with a power vent, turbine or gable vent, since that could lead to reverse airflow and water intrusion.
Walls and Floors
When restoring or adding walls and floors, seize the opportunity to choose more durable materials. To resist flood damage, consider creating drainable, flushable walls with closed-cell foam board insulation in the lower wall cavities.
When remodeling, choose materials that can resist damage from flooding, termites and other possible hazards. Consider ceramic tile or 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.
Additional information about protecting your housing investment by making it more durable is available at several Web sites: www.lsuagcenter.com; www.LousianaHouse.org; www.LouisianaFloods.org; www.ibhs.org and www.fema.gov.