Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 with an average of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes hitting landfall in North America each year. Within six months, billions of dollars of damage occur, and thousands of people are left paying to repair or completely rebuild their homes.
In this blog post, we explain how you can hurricane proof your home by building with stronger materials. Plus, we cover some steps you can take and items you can buy to protect yourself and your home if large-scale renovations aren’t in your budget.
What Causes a Hurricane?
A hurricane is a tropical storm system that gets stronger by absorbing the warm, moist air over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. As the storm system moves across the ocean, it forms a low-pressure area underneath, causing air to rush in. When wind speeds within a tropical storm hit 74 miles per hour or more, it’s then classified as a hurricane. In addition to high winds, hurricanes also bring torrential rain, thunderstorms, and storm surges.
In the United States, the top 10 most hurricane prone states are Florida, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, New York, Mississippi, and Virginia. These states are located near the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is a warm Atlantic Ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and flows up the eastern coastline of the U.S.
In Canada, it’s a similar story: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec are all prone to hurricanes because they’re coastal provinces that are closest to the Gulf Stream.
The Importance of Futureproofing a Home from Hurricane Damages
Hurricane severity is measured using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The scale issues a hurricane a 1 to 5 rating based on its maximum sustained wind speed and can be used to estimate potential property damage.
|Category||Sustained Winds||Expected Damage|
74 to 95 mph
119 to 153 km/h
96 to 110 mph
154 to 177 km/h
111 to 129 mph
178 to 208 km/h
130 to 156 mph
209 to 251 km/h
Using this scale, the importance of hurricane proofing your home is clear: Even a Category 1 hurricane can cause significant damage to your property. As climate change makes Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes more common season after season, your home’s risk of facing major or total damage increases. To protect yourself from expensive repairs or a complete rebuild, it’s important to take proactive steps to minimize the potential damage a hurricane can cause to your home.
Hurricane Proofing Your Home Starts with Choosing the Right Building Materials
If you're building or rebuilding a home in a hurricane-prone state or province, traditional materials like wood, asphalt shingles, fiberglass insulation, and drywall won’t cut it. In fact, while they’re affordable options at first, they’ll lead to costlier repairs if your home is ever damaged by a hurricane.
To protect your home and to spare yourself from a future headache, it’s best to invest in high quality, durable, moisture-resistant materials upfront if you can.
Use Steel Framing Instead of Wood Framing
Steel framing has a long history of being used in commercial buildings, but its popularity is increasing in residential homes in hurricane-prone areas.
In a Category 5 hurricane, wood-framed homes are expected to be destroyed with total roof failure and wall collapse. However, steel-framed buildings have been shown to withstand winds of 170 or even 180 miles per hour.
Steel-framed buildings are also simply better performing than wood: Steel won’t be vulnerable to changes in temperature, humidity, or pests like termites, and it will never grow mold or mildew. Following a hurricane, the structure of your home is more likely to still be standing unlike others made from wood.
Install a Metal Roof Instead of Asphalt Shingles
No roof is fully wind- or rain-proof, but some are more susceptible to damage than others. Asphalt shingles are an affordable and easy-to-install roofing option, but most shingles can only withstand 110 mile per hour winds and aging or weathering will decrease their effectiveness over time. They’re also prone to leaks.
A metal roof is a more expensive option, but it gives your home the best protection against extreme weather conditions: It can withstand up to 160-mile-an-hour hurricane-force winds, heavy rain, and hailstorms.
Upgrade to Impact-Resistant Windows
Windows are a weak spot in every home because high winds and flying debris can easily break the glass, letting wind and rain enter your home and cause major damage.
Many window manufacturers now sell impact-resistant windows which are specially designed for hurricane-prone areas. Impact-resistant windows typically have a heavier frame that can withstand projectiles of up to 150 miles per hour and while the glass may crack, the pieces won’t fly out of the frame — they’ll adhere to a plastic interlayer.
If you’re working on a new build, it’s also important to check your local building code — many coastal cities require new homes to be built with high-impact windows anyway.
Clad Your Walls and Ceilings with Protective PVC Instead of Drywall
Most homes in North America have drywall installed on their walls and ceilings but, in hurricane-prone areas, drywall shouldn’t be an option.
Drywall is made from gypsum and paper, which are highly absorbent materials. Depending on the extent of the hurricane damage, your home’s drywall can be exposed to flood waters containing sewage and chemical waste for days or weeks, leaving a moldy and hazardous mess that needs to be completely replaced.
For your home, basement, and garage’s walls and ceilings, PVC panels like Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard are a safer and more durable option. The non-porous panels are 100% waterproof and will never grow mold or mildew. Since they won’t absorb water, they can withstand long-term exposure to flood water without ever showing signs of damage. Plus, when you’re ready to return home, you can easily clean and disinfect the panels with soap and water or with high-strength chemical cleaners. No replacement or patching is necessary.
5 Items to Have on Hand to Help You Weather Any Storm
If you’re not able to start from scratch or make major renovations to your home, there are still items you can buy to help protect you and your home from damage ahead of hurricane season:
- Sump Pump. A sump pump is a device designed to move water from inside your basement to the outside of your home. It sits in a hole or pit — known as a “sump” — below the surface of your basement floor and has valves that can sense water levels and water pressure. When the water level gets too high, the pump automatically starts pumping excess water out of the basement and into a pre-determined drainage area.
- Home Generator. Power outages are common during hurricanes, and they can often last a long time. If the power goes out, a home generator can keep your fridge, freezer, sump pump, stove, HVAC system, and your phone running.
- Surge Protector. When lightning hits a power or telephone line, it can cause a voltage spike that enters your home through your cable TV, satellite dish cable, or through incoming telephone or electrical service lines. This causes a power surge, which can destroy any electronic devices you have plugged in like computers, modems, and TVs. A surge protector is designed to absorb the voltage spike or direct the current into the ground, so it never reaches your devices.
- Water Barriers. Water barriers like sandbags or expanding flood barriers can be quickly placed around your home to direct water away from your property and prevent flood damage.
- Emergency Supply Kit. Ahead of a hurricane warning, make sure your emergency supply kit is well-stocked and kept in an accessible place. A basic kit should include bottled water, non-perishable food (including pet food), medication, personal hygiene items, a battery-operated flashlight and radio, spare keys for your home and cars, extra cash, and a standard first aid kit. For a full kit breakdown, check out this guide created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Ready Program.
5 Affordable, Last-Minute Ways to Prepare Your Home for an Incoming Hurricane
If a hurricane is in the forecast for the coming days, it’s time to batten down the hatches by taking these steps:
- Cut plywood panels to match the size of your windows and sliding glass doors. As a storm approaches, these panels can be quickly nailed to window frames to reinforce the windows and keep glass out of your home if they break.
- Strengthen any vulnerable areas around your home by sealing cracks in the foundation and reinforcing loose or damaged shingles on your roof.
- Cut weak or dead branches from trees and shrubs surrounding your property to prevent them from falling onto your home.
- Move patio furniture and any other yard fixtures into your shed or garage to prevent them from becoming projectiles in high winds.
- Fill up clean water containers with drinking water in case you lose your water supply during the storm. You can also proactively fill up sinks and bathtubs with water for washing.
Note: You should always be ready to evacuate your home if authorities say so. Protecting your property isn’t worth risking your safety.
For When All Else Fails, Make Sure Your Home Insurance Has You Covered
One inch of water can cost more than $25,000 in damage to a home, so it’s important to have flood insurance if you live in a hurricane-prone area.
However, flood damage that’s caused by a hurricane isn’t covered by homeowners' insurance policies in the U.S. or in Canada. To protect your home, you’ll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy or add an endorsement to your existing policy to cover water damage from natural disasters.
In the U.S., FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is an option for homeowners in high-risk flooding areas. The NFIP is delivered by a network of 50 insurance companies and can help protect your dwelling and its contents in the case of a flood.
Part of the NFIP requires new homes to be built with flood resistant materials. Flood-resistant material is defined as “any building product capable of withstanding direct and prolonged contact with floodwaters without sustaining significant damage.” Prolonged contact means at least 72 hours (about 3 days), and significant damage means any damage requiring more than cosmetic repair. In this case, cosmetic repair includes cleaning, sanitizing, and resurfacing of the material. The cost of cosmetic repair should be less than the cost of replacement of affected materials.
Sound familiar? Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard checks all the boxes to be considered a NFIP-approved, flood-resistant material for your interior walls and ceilings. Check out our Project Planner to get a ballpark cost estimate for outfitting your garage or interior space in Trusscore.