How to Hurricane-Proof Your House

Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 175,000 homes along the Gulf Coast.

Critics say that it didn't have to happen and that it's possible to build houses to withstand storms.

Shockingly, however, 14 states in this country have no building codes to make sure homes are built soundly.

Louisiana adopted a building code after Katrina, but Mississippi still does not have one.

Building codes are only the bare minimum.

There's a movement growing to build houses that are fortified well beyond what's required by code, but how do builders figure out what it takes to make houses disaster resistant?

They crash test them.

Why would anybody use air cannons and construction cranes to destroy perfectly good houses?

To simulate the chaos of a hurricane and to learn how to build houses better.

"Let's build stronger. Let's build smarter. Let's build safer upfront. We don't have to go through this on the other end," said Doug Raucy of the Institute for Business and Home Safety.

The "fortified for safer living" standard, developed by the Institute for Business and Home Safety, is designed to make homes resistant to regional natural disasters.

Kristin Beall, a third-generation contractor with Charlie Johnson Builders, started building fortified houses after suffering through the Florida hurricanes of 2004.

She says they cost her an extra 5 percent to build, but she can still sell them for as little as $200,000.

"I want to give families a safe, strong place that that can feel very secure [in]. You don't have to live in a million dollar home to live in a really safe house," she said.

Fortified houses have steel connectors, stronger roofs, and smarter doors and windows.

"Hurricanes can pretty much happen anywhere up the East Coast. … And if you know they are going to come, it makes sense to be prepared as much as you can," said Barry Dimick, a home buyer.

Dimick is on Beall's long waiting list.

His favorite feature of her homes is the master bedroom's closet, which doubles as a safe room, with solid concrete walls and ceiling.

He described the homes as "very safe, very thorough."

The lessons the fortified program have learned by crash testing houses can also be applied to existing homes.

For example, one type of paint is certified to withstand 100 mph winds that drive damaging rainwater into porous surfaces.

The extra cost? About $1.50 per square foot.

Winds can grab hold of uneven surfaces, ripping off chunks of a house.

Sealing up openings where phone and cable lines go in costs about $5.

Cementing ragged shingles runs roughly 16 cents per square foot.

Standard roof nails can be easily pulled out by winds or even by hand.

Ribbed ring shank nails are much tougher. Which ones would you rather have holding down your roof?

Reroofing your home is the best time to make improvements. Choosing ring shank nails instead of standard nails costs just $8 for a 2,000 square foot roof.

A garage door with twice as many steel struts runs $150 more than a standard one.

Installing doors so they open out instead of in is free.

"Just gives you that extra little threshold to protect you from wind and rain," Beall said.

Windows are the final frontier. You can get storm shutters for as little as $10 per square foot.

Be sure to predrill for them.

If you don't want to rush around installing shutters before a storm, you can install impact-resistant glass instead.

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