The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season is just around the corner, and for the Florida home buyer, there has never been a better time to think about hurricane protection for your home and family. If you are considering a new home purchase in Florida and have not yet chosen your new home, taking a bit of extra time to find out about available hurricane protection costs you nothing, and could pay dividends in the long run.
Florida building codes: What level of protection is required?
In the state of Florida, all newly constructed homes must meet certain hurricane safety standards. Florida’s building codes underwent a major overhaul after Hurricane Andrew devastated Dade County in 1992. Current building codes in Dade County require that all homes be built to withstand a Category 4 hurricane, yet building codes throughout the rest of the state are not so strict.
According to current building codes adopted by most Florida counties, a home must be built to withstand a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of approximately 90-114 mph with gusts of no more than 120 mph. This may sound like adequate protection, but homes built within these guidelines would not have survived a Category 4 hurricane such as Andrew, Opal, Charlie, or more recently, Katrina.
Hurricane protection for older homes
Just because a home was built before 1992, it is not necessarily more vulnerable to hurricane damage. Still, if you decide to purchase an existing home, it is always a good idea to take stock of the home’s current hurricane safety features and calculate how much you will need to spend on upgrades.
While the age of a home is not necessarily a detriment when it comes to hurricane protection, the year a home was constructed should be a very important factor in your final decision on which home to buy.
In the 50’s and 60’s (especially in the years following hurricane Camille), concrete block construction and storm shutters were very popular options for Florida home buyers. Florida homes constructed in the 1920’s tend to maintain their structural integrity in high winds, but the ever popular Spanish roof tiles used on these homes do not tend to fare as well.
The 1980’s saw the rise of tract home developments and more lenient building codes. Corruption amongst building inspectors allowed unscrupulous contractors to cut corners with virtually no oversight or punishment. These shoddy construction practices came into startling focus after Hurricane Andrew cut a swath through tract home developments in Homestead, and entire neighborhoods were reduced to rubble. Today’s Florida home buyer should be wary of tract homes built during this era.
Newly constructed homes and above code construction
A newly constructed home may seem like the best bet when it comes to hurricane protection, yet not all homes are created equally. Yes, all newly constructed homes must conform to current building codes and thus be built to withstand a Category 2 storm. This is not, however, the highest level of protection available to Florida home buyers.
At this time, Florida home buyers throughout the state can obtain homes with the same level of hurricane protection that is required in Dade County. A select group of home builders currently offer above code homes in several Florida communities. The term “above code” refers to newly constructed homes which are built with hurricane safety features that are not required by code.
Above code home features
There are several ways in which a home builder can construct a home that will maintain structural integrity in high winds. For example, homes built to withstand wind speeds in excess of 140 mph are often constructed of steel reinforced, poured concrete. Builders may also use additional roof truss straps and impact resistant windows.
While an above code home can offer a great deal of protection in the event of a severe storm, all Florida residents should thoroughly prepare for the season by stocking up on supplies and preparing to evacuate should the order come to do so. After all, the best way to protect your family from a major hurricane is to get out of the way.
What an above code home does offer is peace of mind that your home will be there when you return after the storm. An above code home may cost more initially, but to Florida residents who are concerned about protecting their home and family from hurricanes, that extra peace of mind is worth every penny.
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* According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. A solid Central Florida Home Insurance Policy will protect your financial interests should your home suffer hurricane-related damage . With that in mind, it is imperative that your home is prepared for hurricane season.
Have a Plan
Make sure that you and your family members know where the gas and water shutoffs are for your home. If your home is damaged or compromised, turning off the gas can prevent an explosion and turning off the water can prevent flooding. Additionally, you and your family should have a clear plan should you need to evacuate quickly. You should know what route to take and know which essentials to grab (important paperwork, mementos, prescription medication, etc.) Don’t forget about your pets! If it’s too dangerous for you to remain in your home, it’s too dangerous for your pets too.
Check Your Home’s Exterior
Before your home is in the path of a hurricane, carefully evaluate your roof and flashing to make sure they are secure and in good condition. Keep trees trimmed and have dead branches removed – in gusts of wind they can become projectiles. Once a hurricane is headed your way, store lawn furniture, pots, toys, gardening tools, and anything else that may become airborne in heavy wind.
Have Emergency Supplies On Hand
Have plastic tarps on hand should your home develop a leak in the heart of the store. You’ll be able to cover furniture, carpets, etc. When you live in Florida, you should have flashlights, battery-powered radios, saws, and matches should your electricity go out. Additionally, well before a storm has developed, invest in hurricane shutters – or fit your windows with ¾-inch plywood or ½-inch marine plywood. Firmly attach the wood with screws 18 inches apart. Protecting your windows is critical. Heavy winds that enter the home through broken windows can actually lift your roof off.
Hurricane season is upon us. Prepare your home and make sure your hurricane insurance is in order. Contact us at Newman Crane & Associates Insurance, (407) 859-3691 to make sure you are protected.
Hurricane Preparedness: How to Protect Your Home
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