Weathering the Storm

When Mother Nature’s temper flares, homes and lives can be in danger. High winds associated with hurricanes or tornadoes can reduce a home to nothing more than splintered wood and debris.

October 01, 1999

When Mother Nature’s temper flares, homes and lives can be in danger. High winds associated with hurricanes or tornadoes can reduce a home to nothing more than splintered wood and debris. Builders and remodelers can’t control the forces of nature, but they can help keep homeowners safe. The Tidewater Builders Association (TBA) in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia will show off one surefire way to keep safe in high winds at its annual Homearama display of homes: Hurricane House.

Hurricane House is a 3,400-square-foot home built by Jack Jackson III General Contractor, Chesapeake, Va. The house is built to withstand winds more than 100 mph. The centerpiece of the home is a 10214-foot closet in the master bedroom that doubles as a "safe room" engineered to resist sustained winds of more than 250 mph.

Top-notch, wind-resistant products were used to build the home. Galvanized steel nails with super holding power secure the roof and wall sheathing of Hurricane House every three inches instead of every foot--the standard staple. Hurricane-resistant ties fasten the rafters to the walls every three feet--above and beyond code requirements. Special floor-to-floor straps were used from top to bottom, and foundation straps fasten the house to a concrete foundation, which is embedded with anchor belts.

Hurricane House was built to increase public awareness of the availability and affordability of wind-resistant products that can reduce the devastating effects of high winds. This mission is shared by TBA, the project host; United Services Automobile Association (USAA); and the national Institute for Business and Home Safety, which introduced the project; Lowe’s Companies, which supported the project with product contributions; the city of Chesapeake Inspections Department, which worked with the project to ensure that appropriate building code requirements were met; and a local television station.

Basic reinforcements to the key areas of a home add from 3-5 percent to the cost of a new home, says Craig Horton, USAA assistant vice president and regional director for Mid-Atlantic Risk Mitigation. He adds that retrofitting existing homes can be just as affordable. In about a year, IBHS will test a pilot incentive program to offer lower homeowner insurance premiums for homes that meet certain higher standards. The standards vary depending on the natural forces an area faces. For example, in the Mid-Atlantic region they would protect against wind, hail and flooding.

Months of research went into the design of Hurricane House. Jack Jackson and Bob Smalley, a code enforcer with the Chesapeake Building Codes Department, traveled to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the Florida Coast, and Tornado Alley in the Midwest to learn from experts and survivors.

To learn more about Hurricane House, call the TBA at (757) 420-2434.

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