In 2021, as an aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the home renovation market is expected to decline. However, homeowners are still going to look for opportunities to disaster-proof their homes—or at least they should.
This year has already seen its fair share of natural disasters like wildfires razing the western US and hurricanes damaging coastal homes. These storms and fires have reminded all of us of the importance of converting our homes into a disaster-resistant property. Here are six ways to prepare your home for potential disasters in the coming year:
1. Rethink windows
Windows are the weak spot inside the home. Radiant waves alone from a catastrophe like a wildfire can shatter them and let the flames into your home. The most vulnerable are those single-pane types, so it’s better to invest in double-pane variants with tempered glass on the exterior.
The most effective step is to install roll-down metal file doors built into the side recesses or roof hangings. These will help protect your sliding glass doors and windows even if you unintentionally leave them open. Focus on your basement windows first, as they’re often the first windows affected when disaster strikes.
2. Secure big openings
Securing your home’s biggest openings can improve its resilience against natural strategies. Start by ensuring your garage door is wind resistant. The door’s label will help you identify how much wind speed it would be able to handle. If the door doesn’t have a label, it might not be wind resistant. In this case, consider investing in a wind-rated door with steel mounting plates, draft seals, specialty wind lock, and high load.
Those living in a storm-prone locality can also consider buying hurricane shutters. Although the cost is steep, they’re really effective in protecting the wind from entering your rooms. You can also consider adding a few first and brace the remaining windows with plywood if the weather forecast shows an imminent hurricane.
3. Use anchors
High-speed winds can turn tree branches, storage sheds, patio furniture, and trampolines into destructive flying objects. To ensure they don’t damage your home, consider anchoring them with ground anchors and straps to a fixed foundation. These anchors are typically used for building homes, but they can also serve as anchor tools for outdoor structures like sheds that are not secured to a fixed foundation.
For BBQ grills and outdoor furniture, you can use chains and cables to attach them to ground anchors. For branches, schedule an annual inspection and remove any weak branches that are prone to breaking.
Pro tip: If you have wood decks, make sure to treat them against fire hazards. You can do this by placing metal screening around the crawl space below the deck to keep embers and fires out. Homeowners with wooden fences should consider adding masonry between the fences and the home or directly installing a metal or masonry fence.
4. Tweak your landscaping
If non-porous surfaces surround your home, you’re going to find it difficult to protect it from flooding. Porous surfaces allow water to seep into the ground instead of flowing toward your property. Consider digging swales to divert stormwater away from your home, leveraging absorbent mulch to mitigate potential flooding, and turning asphalt or concrete driveways to brick and gravel.
You can also place a barrel below the gutter downspout to allay basement flooding and minimize local waterways pollution. Homeowners living in flood-prone areas should keep the foundation moisture-constant to ensure that rainwater doesn’t percolate into the soil beneath the house. If the foundation crawl spaces back up after a storm, consider fitting a backflow prevention valve with the assistance of a professional plumber.
5. Don’t forget the vents and louvers
Homeowners often neglect the other holes inside the house. Big vents under floors and in the attic should be secured against fire damage. You can protect them with fire dampers featuring fusible links like those integrated into large buildings’ heating ducts. Alternatively, you can follow the code minimum of ¼ inch metal wire screens or go even tighter based on your local building codes.
It’s also a good idea to check kitchen and bathroom vents for fire-related assemblies and back-draft dampers (where they touch the exterior of your home). Plastic plumbing vents should be covering the metal sleeves and hoods where they connect with the roof.
6. Bolt the foundation and brace cripple walls
For hazards like earthquakes, make sure to correctly bolt the bottom of your house’s walls (the sill plate) to the foundation. You can install steel anchor plates every 5 to 6 feet along the sill. The plates make the home resistant to massive shakes and tremors caused by medium-level earthquakes. For correct installation, you may want to hire a professional contractor.
Another important step is to strengthen your cripple walls. These walls pop up when a crawl space is present between the property’s first story and its foundation. Cripple walls are tiny, wood-based walls that absorb shocks during an earthquake. If you leave them unsecured, your home might roll right off its foundation. The good news is that you can strengthen them by installing diagonal or vented plywood sheathing along the walls’ length. Do this right to combine the cripple wall, foundation, floor joists, and sill into an unbreakable force.
Pro tip: If you’re constructing a new home, make sure to use isolation pads as they help absorb earthquake tremors. Isolation pads enable the foundation to move without influencing the movement of the structure above it. You can also look into damping where homeowners use shock absorbers to reduce the magnitude of earthquake vibrations.
Even if a natural disaster is not threatening your locality, it’s a good idea to take these measures. That way, if any catastrophe hits, you’ll incur less financial damage than if you didn’t take any steps. The overall project may seem daunting, but if you take it one step at a time, you’ll be able to disaster-proof your home, slowly but surely. And if disasters do strike, reach out for help. Our Utah disaster cleanup specialists are highly trained to take care of the damages safely and effectively so that you can focus on moving forward.