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Protect Your Home From Severe Weather

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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Severe thunderstorms can produce hail that can do damage to house exterior surfaces, break windows and damage roofs. Straight winds, or downbursts, with winds of 58 miles per hour or greater, can cause significant damage to well-constructed homes, topple or snap large trees and remove roofs from structures. Vertical winds associated with tornadoes can be strong enough to temporarily levitate heavy objects, such as roofs and even homes. Although damage to homes from disasters can't be completely prevented, it can be reduced.

Walk around the home after a rainstorm noting areas with standing water. Note any foundation cracks, missing downspouts and extenders and overflowing or plugged gutters. Direct water away from the foundation. Soil should slope away at a 5 to 10 percent grade. The slope should be visible to the eye. Slope patios and sidewalks to drain water away from the foundation. Correct any problem areas and add additional soil to low spots. Inspect basement windows and window wells for leakage. Have repairs made. Maintain the weatherstripping, caulking and other sealants around openings, windows and doors.

Changes in materials can help reduce damage to homes from wind and thunderstorms. Some insurance companies may even provide reduced insurance costs when certain types of disaster resistant materials are used. For example, some metal shingles and roof types are more resistant to hail, wind and fire.

If replacing existing windows, install impact-resistant window systems, which have a better chance of surviving a major windstorm. Consider operable impact-resistant shutters for more protection.

Doors should have at least three hinges and a dead bolt security lock with a bolt at least one inch long. Doorframes should be anchored securely to wall framing and to the header and foundation. Sliding glass doors should be installed with impact-resistant doors made of laminated glass, plastic glazing or a combination of plastic and glass.

Garage doors are highly vulnerable to wind damage, especially garage doors more than eight feet wide. Permanent wood or metal stiffeners can be installed. Contact the door's manufacturer for recommendations about temporary center supports that can be attached when severe weather threatens and then removed easily. When garage doors are replaced, ask for doors that resists hurricane force and high winds. Correct installation is essential. When attached garage doors fail, the home is exposed to more extensive damage.

If replacing a roof, take steps to ensure both a new roof covering and the sheathing it attaches to will resist high winds. Old coverings should be removed down to the bare wood sheathing. Install a roof covering designed to resist high winds, and shingles more resistant to hail and wind. Ask for shingles that will withstand high winds, hail and compare fire ratings. Correct installation is important.

Seal roof sheathing joints with self-stick rubberized asphalt tape to provide a secondary moisture barrier. If the roof sheathing needs added protection, glue the sheathing to the rafters and the trusses. Correct installation of quality flashing, drip edges, valley flashing and gutters are essential. Glue shingles on to withstand high winds or add additional fasteners. The addition of hurricane clips and straps can make roof structures more secure. Reinforce gable ends of the roof as they are more prone to wind damage.

Downspout extensions should extend five to six feet away from the foundation and direct water well away from the home. Newer, hinged extenders make mowing easier.

Points where the roof and the foundation meet the walls of the house also are important if the home is to resist high winds and the pressure put on the entire structure. Make sure the walls are properly anchored to the foundation. Anchor the roof to the walls with metal clips and straps. If the home has more than one story, make certain the upper story wall framing is solidly connected to the lower framing. A construction engineer or architect can help to determine if joints need retrofitting. Securing or bolting the house sill plates to the foundation and the roof to the wall may result in less wind damage.

Windbreaks also are important to direct wind currents and buffer winds. Weak trees and limbs that may damage the home if hit by high winds should be removed.


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(This resource was updated May 2007 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
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