Plan ahead for protection during a storm

HOUSTON — Can your home withstand hurricane-force winds and swirling debris?
Members of the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association say that whether homeowners plan to evacuate or “hunker down” they should consider fortifying homes well in advance of the season’s possibility of severe weather.
“Most people don’t think about it — until a hurricane is coming,” John Pedersen, owner of Anthony Renard Remodeling, said.
While there is no way to avoid bad weather, homes can become safer with a few modifications. Members of the council suggest the following:
Look Up
Pedersen said that making sure the roof is strong is a good first step. Certain roof types are more likely to be damaged by high winds. Gabled roofs, for example, can be strengthened by installing additional braces or hurricane straps. “Don’t forget to check the flashing and roof for leaks,” he said.
Protect Windows and Doors
Wayne Ball, president of Lone Star Building and Construction Services, said the first thing to do when a storm is on the horizon is to cover windows and doors.
“There’s a fabric you can purchase to cover windows,” he said. Wind-abatement screens consist of a strong, lightweight layer of woven fabric typically coated with a geo-synthetic PVC material. “It’s a faster system,” he said.
But for homeowners who prefer plywood window covers, Ball said he often installs a rack in the garage to store pre-cut pieces of wood. “If a storm is coming, there’s usually no plywood available at the store,” he said.
Storm shutters are another effective option, Pedersen said. “They’ve been used for years, and they’re still a good idea,” he said.
Keep Yards Debris Free
Ball said a well-maintained home exterior can be key to protecting a home. He added that all exterior fixtures should be secured to eliminate flying debris.
“You have to keep trees trimmed ahead of time,” he said. “When a storm is coming, no one is going to come trim your trees.”
Make Space for Supplies
Being ready for a storm means stockpiling supplies, Ball said. “You need to store water,” he said. “You also need food and a generator system.”
He recommends having a large generator that can serve the refrigerator and appliances, as well as a small generator and a window air-conditioning unit.
A great remodeling project for a storm-ready home is adding a storage closet for emergency supplies. “Create a space and everything can stay there,” he said.
Add a Safe Room
Pedersen said interior rooms may be retrofitted to create a structurally sound, storm-safe room. “It would be a great remodel project — and a good thing to do,” he said.
Ball suggests giving the safe room a dual purpose. “A media room with no windows could be fortified and braced so it wouldn’t collapse,” he said.
Start Off Right
Pedersen said the most important way to make sure a home is safe is to start at the beginning. “Make sure that when your home is built or remodeled, it is done correctly,” he said. “Most of the things that make your home strong are things that you can’t see.”
For information about the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association, call 281-970-8970 or visit www.ghba.org/consumers.

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