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You spend so much time, effort, and money on making your house a home — decorating your walls with family portraits, buying top-of-the-line appliances to cook and store your favorite family recipes, and choosing just the right couch for year after year of movie nights. Protecting that valuable investment means being proactive about home resilience — the ability of your home to withstand the extreme weather and natural disasters, which have become more frequent in recent years.

In our first article in the Resilient Home Series, we covered how to protect your home from fire. Now we’ll explore how to protect it from storms.

Resilient Home Storm Chart

Rain, Rain Go Away

Yes, we all know what a storm is, but to be clear: In terms of home resilience, a storm is a severe disturbance in the atmosphere, resulting in some combination of wind, rain, snow, sleet, lightning, thunder, and hail in varying levels of intensity.

Within this category, different types of storms within the U.S. include hurricanes, tropical storms, derechos (thunderstorms with high winds which travel in straight lines), blizzards, ice storms, hail, and tornadoes. Of these storm types, tornadoes cause the most fatalities, while hurricanes cause the most severe property damage. According to climate risk technology firm ClimateCheck, the threat of storms has and will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. And unlike certain extreme weather types, storms hit everywhere.

Know Your Enemy

So how can you protect your home? The first step is to understand the kind of storms your home is most likely to be exposed to based on your location. It hardly makes sense for a Kansas City homeowner to fortify his house for a hurricane or for a Phoenix homeowner to protect her house from a blizzard. In general, northern states face blizzards, southeastern states fight against hurricanes and tropical storms, and midwest states suffer tornadoes.

To know for certain, find a reliable source of aggregated data that examines historical trends, as well as forecasted long-term conditions. To provide homeowners with just that, Pearl has integrated ClimateCheck® into our free Green Door app. ClimateCheck provides a score between 1 (the lowest risk possible) and 100 (the highest risk possible) in the areas of storm, heat, fire, drought, and flood based on projected 2050 hazard risk relative to the rest of the contiguous United States, making it easier to pinpoint risk and generate customized recommendations as part of a Home Investment Plan.

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Batten Down the Hatches

If you do reside in an area at risk of severe storms, there are precautions you can take to increase your home’s resilience and protection from the elements.

Keep a Lid on It

Let’s start at the top of your home. Shingles should be high-wind rated to the specification of your location, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Fortified Home Standards.

Consider reinforcing your roof’s connection to the rest of your home if high winds are prominent in your location.

“Install steel connectors, strapping, or screws at roof-to-wall connections to increase a roof's resistance to uplift caused by high winds and hurricanes,” says Kerry Harp, Senior Sustainability Analyst at Pearl Certification. “Pay attention to not only the roof, but also to dormers and any other roof projection. If possible, secure roof sheathing to rafters or trusses using dense screw patterns, clips, and straps to also increase the uplift resistance.”

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you’ve probably heard of hurricane straps, which are used to securely connect your roof to the framing of the house. These straps are typically made from stainless or galvanized steel and come in a variety of styles for different types of roof/wall connections.

Keeping the hood on your home spick and span can also help it withstand storms. Call a contractor to seal any gaps if you spot any signs of moisture or rotten wood in your attic. Routinely clean your gutters by running a hose through to check the flow, and set maintenance reminders in Green Door to receive scheduled notifications.

Install extensions on your downspouts to route water away from your home, and depending on where you nest, you may need to disconnect downspouts from the sewer to avoid backups during heavy rainfall.

If your home lacks impact-resistant windows and hurricanes occasionally make house calls in your corner of paradise, install proper hurricane shutters and panels. “Storm shutters are tested by ASTM standards for uniform static pressure, large missile impact, and cyclic window pressure loading,” says Harp. “These rigorous laboratory tests imitate the pressures and effects of flying debris during a large wind event, such as a hurricane. These types of shutters are impact-resistant and come in many different styles. Their purpose is to block flying objects and debris from hitting and damaging a home’s openings.”

Don’t forget that skylights and solar panels require protection too. Windows should be properly sealed and weep holes (the passage for water to escape a building envelope) cleaned to prevent water intrusion.

Hold the Door

Being the impolite guests that they are, hurricanes and other severe storms may bypass your front door and head straight for your garage door. “Some hurricane-prone areas require impact- or hurricane-resistant garage doors,” says Harp. “Check your local jurisdiction to determine the requirements for your home.”

Ideally, weak garage doors should be replaced with new, code-approved models. But if your pocketbook doesn’t allow for a new door, install a garage door bracing kit to reinforce it against high winds. Reinforcement brackets bolster the area of your garage door that is being pushed and pulled during opening and closing. Your garage door should be trekking along a 14-gauge-weight track at minimum, which should be securely mounted with screws at every screw slot. But take note that reinforcement measures can cause your garage door to put on a little weight — Harp recommends working with a professional contractor to adjust the springs.

Doors, garage doors, and windows are all rated for design pressure (dp), meaning the level of pressure that they can withstand. Many of our friends on the coast require hurricane-resistant windows; check your local building code for specific requirements.

For pedestrian doors, reinforce them with heavy-duty deadbolts or sliding bolts, as well as longer hinge attachments to secure the door to the frame. If you have a screw loose, replace it with a longer one.

Fortify Your Perimeter

A muddy lawn, mildew, puddles, a damp or water-stained basement, or putrid drains indicate drainage issues. Siphon problemsome water away from your home by installing French drains (perforated pipe) around your property’s perimeter. Consider flood vents — bi-directional vents placed near the bottom two feet of your home — which can allow water pressure to equalize on either side of an exterior wall. And whatever you do, don’t make the path to your home easy for water; divert it away by regrading low spots.

Finally, keep outdoor fuel tanks, sheds, playground equipment, and other outdoor structures where they belong by anchoring them into the ground. When storms enter the weather forecast, remove loose debris, outdoor furniture, toys, gardening equipment, and any other unsecured items from your yard. If left outside, these items could be transformed into battering rams in a high-wind situation.

Make Your Own Path

Rock and gravel pathways or driveways can cause serious damage in a storm and can even result in injury. Instead, opt for secured surfaces, such as pavement, or softer materials with less power to cause damage, such as mulch, grass, or dirt.

Aging trees could potentially fall during a storm, causing significant damage to outdoor structures or even your home. Consult an arborist to determine if aging, damaged, or unhealthy trees should be removed.

Downed power lines can be even more treacherous, so keep any trees near power lines properly pruned. Trees near your home should also be regularly trimmed to prevent their leaves from clogging your gutters.

Formulate a Plan of Action

Improving your home’s resilience against storms begins by understanding your home’s specific risk. Log in to Pearl Certification’s free Green Door app to complete your ClimateCheck assessment and determine which home improvements to prioritize. You’ll soon be well on your way to a safer, more resilient home!

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