Since this is National Severe Weather Preparedness week I will outline some ways to prepare your existing home to withstand hurricanes. The ASHRAE Guide for Buildings in Hot and Humid Climates recommends designing and constructing buildings in hurricane-prone areas using the following steps in order of priority: keep the building from blowing away; keep the rain out; elevate the structure above the flood plain; building with materials that tolerate soaking; and design the wall assemblies to easily dry when they become wet.
The ASHRAE priorities might not be practical when retrofitting an existing house. Therefore consider using the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety's Fortified Home Hurricane Standards for upgrading your house. The minimal standards for this are focused on the roof. If the roof has less than five years life left it should be replaced. When replacing the roof, the existing shingles should be removed and the new roof should comply to the following:
More advanced solutions include stabilizing gable walls and installing connections to prevent uplift. All doors with glass and windows should be pressure and impact rated. If the existing opening does not meet the requirements, you can protect the opening with qualified opening protection systems. This can be as simple as pre-cut 5/8-inch marine grade plywood to custom made shutters.
Another important preventive measure is to keep trees trimmed of dead wood. Dead wood is the first to become detached and a potential missile attacking the house.
Jane Frederick is an architect and co-owner of Frederick + Frederick Architects in Beaufort.