Strengthen Your Home

Thursday of Hurricane Preparedness Week focuses on readying your home.


JAKSONVILLE, Fla.If you plan to ride out the storm in your home, make sure it is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications. Many of these retrofits do not cost much or take as long to do as you may think. Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors. Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand the winds.

One of the most important steps you can take in preparing for a windstorm is to make sure that your "building envelope" is sealed. That means tightly covering all windows and doors to prevent wind from entering. If you can keep the wind outside, you and your possessions will be safer inside.  

Garage doors are one of the most vulnerable areas to hurricane force winds for two reasons, the relatively long span of opening that they cover and the weak materials they are built with. Many garage doors are constructed of lightweight materials to conserve weight and expense. Although their lighter weight makes them easier to raise and lower, it often makes them less resistant to the wind and impact forces of a hurricane.  

Reinforcing your garage door helps you protect not only your garage, but also your home and contents as well.

Adding weight to a garage door in the form of reinforcement may require an adjustment to or replacement of the door’s counterbalance system. Only a trained door systems technician should perform the adjustments or replacement.


 Keep these points in mind when you reinforce or replace your garage doors: 

  • Use an approved opening protection to cover your garage.  
  • Single-car garage doors usually resist wind forces better than a two-car garage doors.  
  • Don’t wait until a hurricane warning is issued to reinforce your garage door; you probably won’t have time.
  • Have a qualified door systems technician evaluate the door, since retrofits to the door, springs, track and the installation hardware may be required.
  • Installing a new garage door is more than a one-person job and is not the type of work that most property owners who lack the necessary skills and equipment would want to undertake. If you buy a new door, you may want to either have the seller install it or hire a contractor.
  • If you are buying a new door, get one that’s wind pressure rated. Wind pressure rated doors are reinforced against wind, and include better installation hardware to resist wind pressures as well.  Check with your local building department for information about the wind pressure rating your garage door should meet. Again, a big reason for keeping your garage door intact is to prevent wind from entering the garage and further damaging the house and the contents inside.  Keep in mind that garage doors with windows are more vulnerable to damage from wind blown debris.
  • Be sure to follow manufacturer's specifications when using or installing wind resistant and impact resistant products. Improper installation may cause a voided warranty or worse, a product failure that presents a threat to life and property. 

Benefits of Using This Mitigation Strategy 

  • Helps to prevent structural damage  
  • Helps to prevent damage to or loss of contents

Estimated Costs 


If you hire a contractor to reinforce an existing two-car garage door, you can expect to pay about at least $300. The cost of replacing a door, including installation, can vary greatly depending on the size and type of door. 


FLASH recommends that you install tested and code approved, certified impact resistant devices to provide the highest level of protection from wind-borne debris. However, in an extreme emergency where a temporary measure is the only option, FLASH recommends use of the following emergency board-up procedure: 

Step One: Plan the Project 

  • Count and measure each window and door that has glass including French doors, sliding glass doors as well as skylights. You might also want to include roof and gable end vents or any opening that if damaged would allow wind to enter your home.  
  • Measure each opening horizontally inside the exterior trim and vertically from the sill to the bottom of the top trim. Add eight inches to both the height and width to provide a four-inch overlap on all sides. When measuring a window with an extended sill measure from the top of the sill to the top of the window and add four inches instead of eight. 

  • Sheets of plywood are generally 4 feet by 8 feet. This will help determine how many sheets to buy. Be sure to purchase plywood that is 5/8 inch or greater, exterior grade (CDX). 
  • Step Two: Assemble Your Tools and Hardware 

    • You will need a circular saw, drill and drill bits, hammer and wrench, work gloves and safety goggles for this project.  
    • You will also need an assortment of hardware including bolts, wood or masonry anchors, nuts and large washers. A range of bolts may be used because different bolts will be needed for wood frame versus masonry homes.  
    • Wood Homes use lag screws and plastic coated permanent anchors. Masonry Homes use expansion bolts and galvanized permanent expansion anchors. 

    Step Three: Get Started 

    Having someone help you with this project will make things a lot easier. 

  • First drill holes in the same diameter as the bolts or screws, 2-inches in from the edges of the plywood at each corner and at 12-inch intervals around the panel.  
  • Next hold the plywood firmly in place over the opening to mark where to drill mounting holes.
    • If the window sill is flush to the wall, secure the plywood on all four sides. 
    • If the window sill extends out at the bottom, secure the plywood on the top and sides.

  • For windows 3 feet by 4 feet or smaller installed on a wood frame house, use 1/4-inch lag screws and plastic coated permanent anchors. 
    • The lag screws should penetrate the wall and frame surrounding the window at least 1 3/4 inches. For larger windows, use 3/8-inch lag screws that penetrate the wall and frame surrounding the window at least 2 1/2 inches.  
  • For windows 3 feet by 4 feet or smaller installed on a masonry house, use 1/4 inch expansion bolts and galvanized permanent expansion anchors.  
    • The expansion bolts should penetrate the wall at least 1 1/2 inches. For larger windows, use 3/8-inch expansion bolts that penetrate the wall at least 1 1/2 inches. 

  • If a window or door is larger than a sheet of plywood, you will need to join the panels with 2x4 bracing along the entire seam. 
    • Attach the 2x4s to the outside of the plywood panel with 10 gauge, 2 inch long galvanized screws (exterior deck screws) spaced every 4 inches. 
    • Use the widest side of the 2x4 to run the length of the entire seam. 
  • When you’re done, mark each panel with the name of the opening so you will quickly know where to install it when a storm is approaching. 
  • Store the panels, washers and nuts together in a location away from the elements. Consider waterproofing the panels with paint or a sealant.  
  • Benefits of Using This Mitigation Strategy  

    • Helps to prevent damage to a structure and its contents  
    • Helps to prevent injuries to occupants 

    Estimated Cost 

    If you do the work yourself, you can expect plywood to cost about $0.60 per square foot. Screws or lag bolts, including washers, will cost about $0.10 to $0.15 each. For example, protecting a window that is 3 feet wide and 4 feet high will cost about $10. This figure covers only the materials you will have to buy and excludes the cost of any tools you use and the value of your time. If you hire a contractor or handyman to do the work, you will have to pay for time as well as materials.

    FEMA offers the following information to guide us in readying our home: 

    Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. In order for mitigation to be effective we need to take action now—before the next disaster—to reduce human and financial consequences later (analyzing risk, reducing risk, and insuring against risk). It is important to know that disasters can happen at anytime and anyplace and if we are not prepared, consequences can be fatal.

    Effective mitigation requires that we all understand local risks, address the hard choices, and invest in long-term community well-being. Without mitigation actions, we jeopardize our safety, financial security and self-reliance.

    • Disasters can happen at anytime and anyplace; their human and financial consequences are hard to predict.
    • The number of disasters each year is increasing but only 50% of events trigger Federal assistance.
    • FEMA's mitigation programs help reduce the impact of events—and our dependence on taxpayers and the Treasury for disaster relief.

    FEMA's Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and implements a variety of programs authorized by Congress to reduce losses that may result from natural disasters. Effective mitigation efforts can break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage. FEMA's mitigation and insurance efforts are organized into three primary activities that help states, tribes, territories and localities achieve the highest level of mitigation: Risk Analysis, Risk Reduction, and Risk Insurance. Through these activities and FEMA's day-to-day work across the country, communities are able to make better mitigation decisions before, during, and after disasters.


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