It seems as if hurricane season is starting earlier and staying later than when I was young. While it was almost unheard of to use the letter "s" to name a hurricane back then, it may just be the new normal now. Whatever the cause, it seems that as we renovate our older homes or build new ones, mitigating the effects of these storms is something we'll all have to address.

Here are some tips for getting your home in a position to ride out a storm.

1. Protect your windows and doors. Whether with impact-resistant glass or shutters, protecting doors and windows against high winds and flying debris is imperative. Hurricane-force winds can hurl objects that act like bullets.

Consider installing shutters or providing a system, such as a track, to easily install shutters in case of an approaching storm. Although the shutter wouldn't be a permanent fixture on the exterior of your home, the track or other fastening hardware would be. So make sure the hardware is integrated with any other exterior improvements you plan to make.

2. Keep your landscape free of debris. Prune trees and remove dead branches well before the hurricane shows up. Also remove any patio furniture and other loose items outside that can get blown around.

3. Design for uplift. Hurricane-force winds can pull buildings apart. Roof structures are particularly prone to being sent flying, a danger to everyone and everything around. So using the correct, and in many places code-mandated, construction fastening system is a must. From tie-downs to lateral anchors, from hold-downs to embedded connectors, the choice of fastener will vary by location and type of construction.

4. Mind the door. Garage doors are real weak spots for hurricane-force winds. If the door gives way, the winds can enter the house and cause the roof to be torn off. Prevent this by making sure the garage door is installed to withstand these forces or brace an existing door to prevent its giving way.

5. Let the water flow. While you should always keep your gutters and downspouts clean, it's particularly important to make sure nothing blocks flowing water during a storm. Let's face it, the water will want to go somewhere. If it's not down and away, it'll be in your roof and attic. Conduct a visual inspection of your gutters and downspouts to be sure nothing blocks the flow of water from your roof and away from your home.

6. Take a "belt and suspenders" approach. Try to keep your basement or crawl space dry with a more-than-basic drainage and sump pump system. Create redundancy in the system with two drain tile layers as well as battery backup, or better yet, have sump pumps backed with emergency power.

7. Keep the power on. While you and your home hopefully will weather the storm, the power grid likely won't. Having a standby generator to produce electrical power can't be beat. While you can install a whole-house system, you don't have to. If the generator is smaller and keeps only the essentials going, you'll be able to withstand the storm's after effects that much better.

Bear in mind that a running generator can be quite noisy. So local building and zoning codes will have an influence on where it can be placed. Make sure you follow these rules and place the generator in a location that won't drive you or your neighbors crazy when it's running.

8. Keep basic supplies on hand. Keep on hand at least a three-day supply of items such as candles, batteries, potable water, foods that don't require refrigeration etc. Put together an emergency kit as recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency well in advance of any storm.

9. Keep the lines open. While we all have cell phones, and landlines are going the way of the dodo, there's nothing like having that old-school phone available in a power outage. Being able to contact friends and family to let them know you're safe is well worth keeping one of these working "antiques" around.

10. Keep up to date. Stay in touch with the outside world with a battery-powered radio or television. Just make sure to have plenty of the correct size batteries on hand.

11. Keep your head above water. For new homes in some coastal areas, building codes require that the structure be raised. While garages and storage spaces can be placed at the ground floors of these homes, the construction should be such that the structure doesn't block a storm surge.


Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish - online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals around the world. Bud Dietrich, AIA, is a contributor to Houzz.

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