Even though hurricane season is coming to an end, that doesn't mean your worries are over. In fact, you may be able to improve your home's condition in the intervening month, so you can feel more confident, when next season does come around. If the news has taught us anything, it's that we can count on hurricanes every year and that being prepared does pay off. So, how do you prepare for the possibility of such a devastating natural disaster? You can start by strengthening and fortifying the weakest points in your home.
Begin By Fortifying Your Entry Points with New Doors and Windows
Unless you've already updated them, chances are your home isn't equipped with impact windows or impact doors. Most doors are hollow vinyl or wood that won't stand up to intruders of the human or the environmental variety. One forceful push can do a great deal of damage. The same goes for your windows. These are the weakest points in your home, which is why these areas should be addressed first.
Impact doors and windows are specifically designed to withstand hurricane strength winds. Even when 250-mph winds ram an object at the glass of your impact windows, the glass is engineered to crack into a spiderweb formation, much like the windshield of a car. This prevents the window from shattering altogether, which would open up your home to flying debris, rain, and more strong winds.
You will need to plan ahead, because this can be a time-consuming process. After you select your impact windows and doors, it will take at least three weeks for the products to arrive. You should allow another six to eight weeks for installation. If you have a large number of windows and doors to be replaced, it may take the installers longer.
Add Protection From the Outside
Additionally, accordion shutters can add an extra layer of protection that may prevent any damage to your windows. While some experts recommend sealing windows from the outside by nailing plywood over them, this can cause damage to the siding and window frame. Nailing plywood may also go against the laws established by your home owner's association, or may violate local ordinances.
Accordion shutters solve a number of problems for your home, especially in regard to protecting your windows. Once closed, the shutters act as a barrier that can block winds and flying debris from directly impacting your windows. Even if debris does it the shutter, they will act to slow the speed at which the winds hurl the debris, so impact against the glass will be lessened. Shutters may be able to save you from having to replace your windows, which are much costlier than the shutters themselves.
Installing shutters can take up to three weeks, excluding the week or more it takes to get the building permit. You may also want to account for an additional two weeks, if the shutters will have to be ordered and transported from another location.
Consider Storm Panels
Another option to consider to protect your home's weakest points is to install storm panels, which are available in either metal or plastic. In either case, the panels can be bolted into place to provide immediate protection against an impending storm. Alternatively, tracks can be mounted outside along the window frames, allowing you to slide the panels into place, when needed. This second option may be preferable, because it allows the homeowner to add or remove the panels more easily. If you live in an area frequently subjected to tropical storms, the ability to attach storm panels within minutes may be of extreme importance.
The plastic panels offer an added benefit over the metal panels in that they can be selected in a variety of shades. Made from polycarbonate plastic (Lexan), plastic panels can be ordered in opaque, translucent, or clear styles. Adding the translucent or clear style of panel can allow you to let light into the home and allow you to see the surrounding area, throughout the storm. This can eliminate the fear and anxiety that comes with decreased visibility, especially among children.
The process of installing panels can take several months to complete. The permit application process will take at least one week and the delivery of supplies can take an additional one to two weeks. The actual installation process will vary, based on the number of windows and the size of the installation crew, but you should expect a minimum installation period of one to two weeks.
Protect Larger Openings
While your windows and doors are the home's weakest entry points, larger openings, such as balconies, entryways, and porches, can make your home vulnerable as well. By adding hurricane screens to these areas of the home, you can further fortify the structure against wind damage. While the screens can be ordered to accentuate the color or style of the home, they serve well in hurricane-strength winds.
Typically, hurricane screens are tested to withstand winds up to 276 miles per hour and, once installed by professionals, can be lowered into place with ease. The features that make screens attractive to many homeowners is their lightweight construction and their translucent nature. This means the home is protected, while still allowing light to pass through, just as it would with a traditional screen. Again, the ability to see out beyond the screen adds a sense of comfort and reduces the anxiety storms can instigate. Many people find screens to be the most cost-effective way of protecting large openings to the home.
Once your permit has been approved and you receive the products, it can take a few days up to two weeks to install the screens. Usually, there will be fewer areas that will require screens, so this process may go a little faster. The installation company you use will be able to give you a more precise estimate.
Don't Forget About the Garage
Many people do forget that their garage door makes a large target for hurricane winds and flying debris. Most garage doors are weak and unsupported, so it won't take a very strong wind to push them inward. It may be wise to replace your current garage door with a reinforced roll down, especially if your garage door has windows that weaken the overall structure. A heavier roll down door will be a better defense against hurricane winds and experts suggest using a single hurricane-strength door to replace the double doors common among most older garages.
In addition to installing a heavier and stronger garage door, you might also consider purchasing a support system. A vertical bracing system can help support the door from the back to prevent the buckling that can cause garage doors to give way under the pressure of high winds. These types of brackets are usually constructed from aircraft grade aluminum to provide a maximum level of strength and support.
In this case, the permit approval process may be the longest part of the process, taking a week or more. Once the parts arrive, it will only take the installation crew up to four hours to install a 16' door. A larger door may take longer, just as multiple garage doors will significantly increase the time it takes to install the new door.
Now is the time to upgrade your home and to prepare for the next hurricane season. Making upgrades to the home now and in the coming months can help you protect your property and your family, when the next round of hurricanes do begin to assault your area. While there's no way to stop tropical storms from happening, reinforcing your home's weakest points is the best way to guard against extreme damage. It's an investment that will pay off next year and for many more years to come.