It’s one thing to know the local building codes, which can vary from county to county and may depend on other variables like how close the home is to the shore.
But even if a home adheres to current building codes, it may still be vulnerable to hurricanes. And, as we can see from the destruction caused this year by Hurricane Michael, building codes in some parts of our state don’t ensure that a home can withstand the types of storms that have always been common in Florida. And for those of us in Southwest Florida, memories of Hurricane Irma still loom large.
Home inspection in this state has to take hurricanes into account. There are so many ways that high winds and rain, especially in combination, can compromise a house, causing it to lose value and leading to long-term issues.
One thing homeowners in Florida should always consider is opening protection. There are so many ways wind and water can enter a house: doors and garage doors, windows, skylights, vents and gables. Protecting these openings is a vital and often misunderstood aspect of home-hardening for hurricanes. Impact-resistant products—like glass windows and doors that can withstand flying debris without shattering—are not simply about protecting the glass itself from outside wind damage.
In part, opening protection reduces the risk of water damage during a storm. Hurricane-related water damage occurs most often not from flooding but from high winds forcing water into homes through compromised openings. When I inspect a home, I have to check all of the openings to look for water damage that may have already occurred, but also to see where the home is vulnerable to future damage. These are things that need to be taken care of before
Water damage is a big deal, of course, but opening protection is also vital to a home’s overall structural stability. During a hurricane, a breach in an opening effectively doubles the interior pressure of a building, creating massive stress in all directions from the inside out. This interior pressure is what leads to rooves being lifted off of homes during a storm. The way a home’s eaves and gables have been constructed and hardened has a lot to do with how vulnerable it is to that kind of large-scale destruction.
During an inspection, I can point out these vulnerabilities. Now that we’ve made it through another hurricane season, it’s time to make sure our homes and buildings are protected from the next one.