Preparing for High Winds Part Two: Garage, Siding and Landscaping
Information provided by The Dekanski Home Selling Team and newjerseyrealestatenetwork.com
A garage door is typically the largest moving part of an entire home. This creates some unique challenges in high wind situations. Generally speaking, garage doors are designed to move upward and downward, providing security and shelter for vehicles and other items stored in the area. Like most materials used in construction, under daily stress, garage doors may perform admirably and even enhance the appearance of a home. Under the stress of high winds, however, they can and do fail. This can cause a chain reaction of destruction and damage to a home, once wind and moisture are introduced to the area.
When a detached garage is involved, a garage door plays a major role in keeping the wind from getting into the garage and lifting off the roof. In an attached garage, it could lead to damage to the roof structure of the entire home.
Inspecting the Condition of the Garage Door
Ensuring a garage door is ready for high winds starts with a visual inspection. Unless a garage door contains windows, there should be little if any daylight seen around the panels when the door is closed. Wheels should fit securely in the roller tracks and there should be minimal “wiggle-room” when the door is in place. The garage door should be able to manually lock into both the right and left sides of the track.
When replacing a garage door, consider a “storm ready” reinforced door. These doors are constructed of heavier materials and reinforced both horizontally and vertically. Impact resistant hurricane-ready garage doors also include heavier hardware and more durable wheel and track systems. Securing this type of door simply involves closing it and locking it into place.
Best Garage Doors Materials
Steel is a popular impact resistant material that can be used for a garage door. Many impact resistant doors will include at least one layer of steel and may include layers containing wood, polycarbonate materials, insulation or aluminum. The strongest wind and impact resistant doors use several layers in their construction.
Keep in mind, a garage door must not only withstand the strength of 100+ mph winds but must also be able to absorb the punishment that flying debris may inflict on the door. Thin aluminum or aging wood may not stand a chance of survival in such winds and swirling debris. Most have seen images of a 2×4 piercing a tree, car window or other material as a result of high winds. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to visualize the damage that could do to a standard garage door.
How to Reinforce a Garage Door
There are two main forms of aftermarket options to reinforce garage doors to increase wind resistance. The first is a bracing system that must be manually put into place as high winds approach, and be manually removed following the storm. These bracing systems installed inside of the garage door help to provide additional support. Long metal posts are placed into the floor and into ceiling beams. Some bracing systems also include horizontal braces.
There are also hurricane panels available, most frequently made of steel, aluminum or polycarbonate materials. Like storm shutters or plywood that can be used to protect doors and windows, these panels install on the outside of the garage door, provide additional protection from wind and debris. These also need to be manually removed when the wind threat has passed.
Reinforcing garage doors with these aftermarket systems can offer better protection for a home, but they will not generally qualify homeowners for discounts on their insurance policy.
Another area of a home that should be of concern in high winds is the siding. Like the roof, windows, and doors, keeping a home’s siding inspected and properly maintained will go a long way in maintaining its integrity in a windstorm. Like those other areas, the key is preventing the wind from getting a foothold behind the siding, giving it an opportunity to tear it off of the structure.
Siding Condition Inspection
A large factor in the integrity of your siding in high winds is its age, condition, and the materials of which it is made. Like other aspects of your home, the place to start is with a thorough inspection of your siding.
You are looking for cracks and openings and where the siding may have deteriorated. While much of this inspection can be visual, be prepared to apply pressure on the siding to test its strength and to verify it is firmly attached. If wood siding appears to be soft, those pieces should be replaced. Where it is loose, it should be reinforced. Make sure to check corner pieces as well.
Other areas of concern should be around doors and windows. If siding has pulled away from window or door frames it should be resealed. The same is true for any areas where the siding has been breached for a dryer vent, exterior faucets, the main water line, and natural gas entry points and any HVAC vents or pipes. You’ll also want to inspect areas where the cable company may have created an entry point. Wind-driven moisture into these areas can cause long-term damage from rotting wood and even mold.
An annual thorough siding inspection can help you spot trouble before it magnifies and will help ensure your siding is better prepared for any unexpected wind event.
One of the easiest and best ways to prevent winds from getting behind siding is to make sure the siding is sealed properly. Over the course of years, siding is heated and cooled, potentially creating gaps, cracks and even pulling away from the foundation. Wood siding can be compromised by moisture or insects. Older vinyl siding can bow and crack.
These gaps can be eliminated in a variety of ways including caulk, spray foam insulation. If the damage is significant enough, replacement of some of the siding may be prudent. Keep in mind, during gale force winds, it is not just the weakened siding that is in jeopardy.
Proper Siding Installation for High Winds
Special steps need to be taken when installing new or replacing siding in wind prone areas. Of course, attention needs to be paid to any local building codes and manufacturer’s instructions for the materials used. Prior to installation, a moisture barrier or house wrap should be put in place to serve as an additional defense against wind-driven moisture. Pay close attention that the materials purchased are suitable for the location of your home. For example, if a home is located close to a coastline, stainless steel fasteners may be suggested or even required. It is typically advised to never use dissimilar metals together.
When siding is being installed, very careful attention must be paid to the proper installation of the lowest deck of materials. If this layer is improperly or carelessly installed it can have a negative effect on the entire project. This is due, in part, because damage to siding frequently occurs from the bottom up.
Installing Vinyl Siding
Vinyl siding is resilient in high winds as long as it is properly rated and is installed correctly. The International Building Code says vinyl siding should be rated up to 110 mph up to 30 feet high. This is sufficient for one and two story homes. For taller structures, or for those who wish to achieve higher than a 110 mph rating, more structurally sound siding and installation methods should be used.
It is important to remember that higher wind ratings are achieved through a combination of the materials and the installation methods so manufacturer instructions for installation should be strictly adhered to.
Vinyl siding rated for higher winds will generally be made of thicker, stiffer vinyl and include an enhanced nailing hem. Nails should be placed in the center of the nail slot and should not be hammered fully into place. Leave enough room for the siding to be able to slightly expand and contract in temperature swings. This will prevent the siding from buckling. Do not caulk or seal vinyl siding pieces together to allow for this slight movement.
Only use the manufacturer’s suggested starter strip when installing siding. This will help ensure a solid start to the project. Make sure each section is properly locked with previously installed sections and has an appropriate overlap. Special care should be taken around window and door frames to maintain the integrity of the vinyl siding.
Installing Wood Siding
Wood siding is both attractive and functional in areas where high winds occur. Here are some tips to keep in mind when installing wood siding in these wind prone areas.
- Be sure to use a water barrier or house wrap under the wood siding, but make sure to include a rain screen. A rain screen is a small gap between the back of the wood siding and the water barrier that allows moisture to escape or “rain” down the barrier. This can be accomplished by using vertical furring strips to allow for the spacing. Check manufacturer recommendations, however, to suit your specific materials.
- Choose decay-resistant wood. Redwood, cedar, or cypress are good choices.
- Prime the wood siding before installation for best coverage.
- Follow specific manufacturer instructions for attaching wood siding, especially when attempting to achieve high wind ratings.
- Blind nailing should be done at least ¾ of an inch below the top edge. Surface nailing, however, may provide better adhesion in high winds. Check with both local building codes and the manufacturer’s instructions before making a final decision.
- Be sure to trim off the bottom of the first course, not allowing for an extension of siding beyond the underlying material. This can minimize wind grab.
Wood siding can require more maintenance than some other choices, but it can pay dividends in beauty and in the versatility to paint it to change colors.
Installing Fiber Cement Siding
Fiber cement siding is durable, versatile and extremely wind resistant when properly installed. While installation is similar to that of wood siding, fiber cement siding will require special precautions and tools, especially when cutting material on-site. Eye protection and breathing filters are strongly encouraged.
The following suggestions should be kept in mind when installing fiber cement siding.
- Field-cut ends should be sealed based on manufacturer instructions.
- All intersections should be properly gapped and sealed.
- Pay strict attention for local codes and manufacturer instructions when choosing appropriate fasteners for the wind ratings you desire to achieve.
- Blind nails should be at least 3/4″ from the top edge. To achieve 100 mph+ wind ratings, face nailing is recommended.
- Make sure the first course is trimmed and doesn’t extend beyond the underlying material.
Fiber cement siding provides exceptional protection from wind, and although it may be outside of the realm of a DIY project for many, it may be worth exploring as a high wind resistant option.
Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs)
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF’s) are an increasingly popular choice in new construction for those living in areas prone to natural disasters, including hurricanes and tornados.
ICF’s are concrete walls that are cast in place on-site, between two layers of insulation. The insulating material is bound together by steel rods. Not only does this type of construction provide exceptional soundproofing and insulation benefits, it can withstand winds up to 250 mph. That should get the attention of anyone considering building a home in a tornado or hurricane prone area.
While ICF construction is said to add about 5-10% to a home’s build price, that cost can be made up in energy savings and potential savings on homeowner’s insurance. Some project actual energy savings of from 30-70% with an ICF constructed home. An ICF constructed home is said to allow less allergens into a home and is more fire resistant than other construction materials. It also can provide peace of mind in even the most severe weather and wind conditions.
Landscaping and Outbuildings
An important component of protecting a home and property in high winds is minimizing the potential projectiles that can become airborne in a tornado or hurricane. These projectiles can result from trees and limbs and from an assortment of yard furniture and outdoor tools and toys we may use on a daily basis. Depending on how much warning you have prior to a wind event, items can be safely secured in a garage or outbuilding (which should also be secured and/or reinforced). Items like empty trash containers can even be filled with water to keep them in place. Larger items like a backyard trampoline should be disassembled, stored, or at the very least turned upside down and secured to the ground.
Homeowners should consider every item not secured as a potential projectile including potted outdoor plants, decorative items, and umbrellas. Even piles of brush can scatter and cause damage to property in severe winds.
It can pay to make an inspection of your property and secure loose items before an approaching storm.
Very few news stories about wind damage don’t include images of large downed trees. Trees serve as a sail in the wind and, in spite of deep or extensive root systems, will topple in high winds. The potential increases when storms occur during or after heavy rains when the ground has become saturated. The saturated ground provides less resistance to the wind pummeling a tree. Eventually, a tree may simply become knocked over, large root ball and all. In other cases, large sections of a tree may split in the wind or large limbs taken down. This is more frequently seen in an area that hasn’t seen a heavy wind storm in several years. In this case, trees that have become overgrown or aged are “pruned” by Mother Nature. Interesting enough, in areas that see more frequent windstorms, significant tree damage is less likely as nature keeps up with the pruning process. Whatever the scenario, homeowners should keep an eye on trees around their homes to better protect their homes from potential damage.
Inspecting and Pruning Tree Branches
Proper tree maintenance on a property starts with regularly inspecting trees. While you may not feel comfortable in your knowledge of trees, there are some simple things to look for in a tree inspection.
You should be able to “see” through the leaves of a tree. This better allows air flow through its branches and minimizes the drag high winds put on the leaves. If the tree is small enough, you may be able to remove or prune some of these interior branches to allow for winds to better pass through.
Generally speaking, small growth branches that extend upward should be left to grown. Downward-growing branches or those that are beginning to grow across others can cause potential issues. Those can and should be trimmed.
Branches that touch a house or overhang a house should also be trimmed. Winds can cause a limb that is touching a structure to scratch rub against siding or roofing causing damage. It also provides an opportunity for window breakage. Of course, limbs that hang above a property are always cause for concern. If tree trimming is done immediately prior to an anticipated hurricane, be sure trimmed limbs are properly disposed of and not left in a pile in the yard.
If wind damage is your top priority, no tree should be closer to your home that its height, and should be removed. However, in most instances, this is neither practical nor desired. Trees provide shade and add beauty to homes. The reality is, however, an old tree that is showing its age may need to be removed. This will require the services of a professional, usually, with fees based on the size of the tree and how challenging a position it is located in to be safely removed.
Removing an heirloom tree can be a difficult decision. They are often replaced by planting a new tree that will offer less maintenance and potential danger.
Make sure any tree removal service used is bonded and insured. Inquire if stump removal is included in the price and if all limbs and material will be removed from the property. When a home has a fireplace, the homeowner may decide to keep many larger pieces of the removed tree for future firewood. Some trees may also have wood that is valuable. The wood can be sold either to the tree removal service or another individual.
It is important any limbs and debris be removed from a yard prior to any high wind event. This is a reason a homeowner shouldn’t wait for an impending wind storm to perform needed tree removal.
** Check in throughout August as we share additional tips for preparing your home in advance of high winds and hurricanes.