Protecting your home from windy weather


Well, we’ve had some windy weather again, including some downed trees. And, with the five-year anniversary this past December of the Winter Storm of 2007, we vividly remember what a windstorm can do.

While we seem to get seven to 10 good window rattlers per season, we don’t typically have to worry about hurricane-strength winds and having to shutter over our windows with plywood sheeting like folks in the South, 2007 and the Columbus Day Storm being the more recent exceptions.

However, it is a good idea to take a look at some relatively simple things you can do to lessen your risk of a windstorm leaving you out in the cold.

CHECK OUTSIDE FIRST

Last week we talked about preparing your home for the cold, but preparing for windy weather is a little different.

If you haven’t done it yet, there’s no time like the present to take a look at the area surrounding your house and secure any toys, tools or other paraphernalia that could be ruined or become missile-like during a storm.

Take a good look at the trees in your yard, especially those near your power lines and especially within reach of your home. Do you have any large branches that are a potential threat to your home or your neighbors? Could they crunch a parked or passing car or hit a passerby? If so, and especially if the trees are dead or diseased or just a weak specie, they need to be removed.

Even though a particular tree didn’t fall in the last storm, the next storm could be like the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Taking out the tree tops is an effective wind control, but If you don’t feel qualified to determine what needs to be trimmed and/or you’re not able to do the work yourself, check around. Grays Harbor and Pacific counties have plenty of qualified tree trimmers and tree fallers. The relatively small expense now could save you a fortune later and will certainly yield peace of mind in the meantime, even save a life.

ROOFS, WINDOWS AND DOORS

After Hurricane Andrew hit in August of 1992, experts examined homes that had failed and compared them to those that survived the devastating storm, which was the 4th worst measured in the U.S. (Katrina, which came in 2005, was the third worst.)

The experts found that four areas should be checked for weakness before storm season — the roof, windows, doors and garage doors.

During a windstorm, wind pushes against the outside of your home. The force of that wind is transferred from your roof and exterior walls through the interior walls to the foundation. If the energy of the wind is not properly transferred to the ground as designed, a home can sustain severe structural damage or failure. Our older housing stock does OK when there is interior sheathing on the walls, but failure does happen when there is a weak link, like foundation posts that are dry rotted or bug damaged.

As we experience wilder weather throughout the country, the Washington State Building Code Counsel and our municipalities are required to adopt new construction methods and retro-fit codes to ensure your health and safety. An assessment by a qualified home inspector or engineer isn’t a bad idea.

If you have an older home or a home located in a particularly wind-prone area, you may want to consider adding additional roof frame-bracing, gable-end bracing and inexpensive but effective metal hurricane straps. If you have a pier and post foundation, it might be a good time to have it checked. A professional consultant or engineer would be the best person to advise you on your home’s existing condition and advise you on specific repair or retrofit needs that offset the power of the wind, in our area.

Around Grays Harbor, the likelihood of a wind storm ravaging your home is greater than most other forms of natural devastation. What you may get and how much, greatly depends on your location, the orientation of your home, your proximity to trees and the age and condition of your home.

Upgrading specific components to meet or exceed modern codes is something you may want to consider as our weather is changing and getting stronger. Installing something as simple as roof truss straps is both inexpensive and effective.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County. Do you have questions about home repair, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, or 1-866-533-7828, or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.