Protecting Your Home

Strengthen your roof and garage door

Here in Hawaiʻi, if you live in a home that was built recently, your roof probably already has hurricane ties installed. But if your home was built or permitted before the 1991 Uniform Building Code was adopted, you should consider strengthening your roof.

Older roof designs rely on a relatively small number of nailed connections between the roof rafters and the upper sill plates (at the top of the vertical outside walls of your house). This design can withstand conventional winds, but is vulnerable to the upward force of much stronger hurricane winds. Installation of hurricane ties can greatly increase the roof’s resistance to uplift from strong winds. These devices are inexpensive strips of sheet metal that have been formed to accommodate a variety of roof-to-wall transitions. They are available in hardware stores and are easy to install. As few as a dozen ties strategically placed at the rafter/wall connection can substantially increase the likelihood that your roof will survive hurricane winds. A full set of ties is still a modest investment: between $400 and $600 for a 1200 square-foot house. This is a small investment to make, considering the amount of damage your house could sustain if a hurricane were to destroy your roof.

Another method for tying down a roof is to literally tie it down with rope. On Kauaʻi , one enterprising resident tied ropes to the bases of plumeria trees and ran the ropes cross-wise over his roof. Neighbors on all sides lost entire roofs, but his sustained only minor damage. Although this method worked for him, the hurricane ties have a longer and better history of success.

Two-car garage doors pose a problem because they wobble in high winds and can blow out of their tracks or collapse. Some garage doors can be strengthened with retrofit kits. Installing horizontal bracing can reinforce some garage doors. Backing a car up against the inside of the garage door in the event of a hurricane can also help resist strong winds.

Secure your windows against hurricanes

If a hurricane threatens, you definitely should cover your windows. As hurricanes approach, many residents nail sheets of plywood over plate glass windows. This is an excellent idea, as it prevents flying debris from breaking windows and exposing your house to winds and rain. In fact, during Hurricane Iniki, many homes lost roofs only after a window was breached because this allowed the wind to rush in and lift the roof from below.

However, if you choose to board up your windows, you must do a fool-proof job, not a halfway one. Plywood should be 5/8” thick and installed using bolts and masonry anchors. You also can purchase manufactured storm shutters.

Pick up the lawn chairs: Clear your yard of possible debris

Hurricane winds are most dangerous because they can pick up objects like lawn chairs, garbage cans, and even lumber and sheet metal and hurl them into your house and car. Before a hurricane strikes, make sure you have picked up everything in your yard that a 74 mph wind could turn into a missile—garbage cans, bicycles, BBQ grills—and place them inside an enclosed garage or basement. Even small boats can become airborne in strong winds. For objects such as these, some owners partially fill them with water and tie them down to help stabilize them in strong winds.

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