There’s no avoiding hurricane season, whether we like it or not. From June 1st through November 30th, everyone who lives in hurricane-prone locations keep a keen eye on the weather forecast, waiting for a storm system with the next alphabetical name. With modern weather forecasting, hurricanes can be detected from over a thousand miles away, keeping everyone in its path on the edge of their seat.
Those who live in locations prone to hurricanes tend to be prepared and know exactly what steps to take in order to minimize the impact to their property, and ultimately, their lives. They stock up on supplies such as drinking water, flashlights, batteries, first-aid kits, etc. As the hurricane approaches, you’ll also see news video of people covering their doors and windows with plywood and other materials.
Don’t Forget the Garage Door
Surprisingly, we hear very little about precautions to secure garage doors from damage. Perhaps because many garage doors don’t have windows, or maybe people look right past the garage door as if it were part of the structure of the home.
But this is not the case. The garage door is indeed an opening like all your other doors. They are not a structural component of the home. They are entrance ways that open and close, with just a few attachment points.
Therefore, not only is it not a strong point of the structure that will protect the garage during the hurricane, it is a vulnerable part of the home which, if not properly strengthened, can be severely damaged, or worse yet, totally removed from the building.
Having your garage door blown off your house does more than just destroy your door. Because it’s the largest opening in your home, once the wind gets inside your garage, it can do far more damage than if the door stays intact.
In fact, if your garage door is compromised, pressure inside the home can build up and potentially cause catastrophic damage, like removal of the roof and supporting walls. Securing your garage door against hurricane-force winds isn’t just a good idea, it’s an absolute necessity if you live in a location prone to hurricanes.
There are two main considerations when thinking about garage door fortification. The first is wind resistance. Hurricane winds can range from 75mph to 150mph. Most average garage doors are not wind code rated and may not withstand these high wind speeds.
The second consideration is impact resistance. Many existing garage doors may not be able to stand up to the impact of objects flying at high velocity. If the door is damaged by flying debris, we again have the problem of high winds entering the building through a sizable opening.
Know Your Local Building Codes
Your local building department can provide you with information governing garage doors. Many locations have special codes requiring wind-resistant garage doors that can withstand minimum amounts of wind.
Many cities across the country have adopted the International Building Code (IBC), which requires homebuilders to design and build homes to withstand minimum wind loads in their area. The IBC also applies to replacement garage doors.
New Wind Resistant Garage Doors
In the past, wind-resistant garage doors were built such that additional beams and supports needed to be put into place every time a hurricane or tropical storm occurred. The hardware needed to be removed before the door could be used again.
Today’s newer garage doors have support structures designed and built into the door, capable of withstanding both positive and negative pressures created by wind-related events. Wind-rated garage doors are a solution that require no pre-storm preparation; better than retrofit kits that require installation before every storm.
Wind-resistant garage doors are constructed with one or more layers of steel. Some doors also utilize layers of insulation, aluminum or wood to increase their strength. Because the strengthening qualities are built into the door, you won’t need to waste time setting up panels before storms.
Strengthening Existing Garage Doors
If your current door has been in place for a number of years, you might feel as though you can beef-up that door with some DIY measures and squeeze a few more years out of it. That’s not a risk worth taking.
In fact, if your current door has endured a few hurricanes, thinking it’s strong enough to continue to do so is not a good bet. More likely, it has probably been beat up enough to be weaker than when it was new.
If your garage door is older, and was installed before hurricane codes were instituted, you should consider reinforcing it, or better yet, replacing it entirely. But if you’re insistent on keeping your existing door, there are some steps you can take to introduce some strength to your existing door.
There are two temporary methods of securing an existing garage door that is not a storm-resistant door:
Braces– Install braces made of aluminum or steel. Place them into brackets mounted inside the garage.
Panels – Use panels, like those used on residential doors and windows. They can be installed into tracks mounted outside you garage door.
If your garage floods when it rains, you’ll need to replace the weather stripping and install a flood barrier to stop water from entering at the front of the door. If water is entering your garage at the bottom of the door, weatherstripping may not be adequate. You may need to have a drainage system installed to route water away from the door and into sewer lines or a more appropriate location on your property.
There’s no getting around the fact that if you live in a hurricane-prone area, there are many things to think about when a storm is headed your way. All those immediate property and life-saving measures are first on your mind, including getting out of town.
But your local garage door installer is probably leaving town too, so they won’t be around to install your new storm-resistant door. Do yourself a favor and have a new storm-resistant garage door installed by Overhead Door of Tampa Bay before the next storm shows up on that weather map.