Friday November 2, 2018
It’s not a future any new home buyer imagines for their new home. However, natural disasters—or just inclement weather—can be part of the life cycle of a home. As Hurricane Michael made landfall, many families were devastated by the impact. Yet some homes survived the winds and waves and are still standing tall.
The homes that survived were more likely to be newer homes.
New Homes: Stronger, Safer Structures
Why is buying a new home in a high-risk area a better bet than an older home? It comes down to technique. New homes tend to be stronger and safer than their counterparts. Every year, building codes get stricter, and builders innovate to meet and exceed them.
In order to build with a view to hurricanes like Hurricane Michael, new homes must be built with an eye to two types of damage: wind damage and flooding.
Bracing for Gale-Force Winds
Today’s builders have many tools at their disposal to minimize the damage of hurricane winds, starting at the very foundation of the house. Anchors are placed in the footings or basement walls to give the structure a firm basis. New homes are framed with walls and roofs that resist uplift and shear forces. This helps the home retain its structural integrity in the face of winds that would otherwise blow the roof off.
Straps and connectors also help create a continuous load path-- an engineering term for building in a way where competing forces are balanced through a linked chain of materials.
While building to reduce the impact of wind is relatively easy for new home builders, the more pressing concern is water.
Keeping the Water at Bay
After all, a home cannot maintain its structural integrity as well once water in the picture. The ceilings could collapse under water pressure even if the roof structure, walls, and foundation hold. Water proofing the roof prevents water from above from threatening a home.
But what about water from the sides, as in waves during a hurricane storm surge? New home builders have also thought about that. Depending on the area’s proximity to potential surge waves, the home may be built on an open foundation (i.e. on stilts). For homes that are a little further away from the coast, yet still vulnerable, there is another option too.
“Wet floodproofing,” a relatively new technique, involves building on the first floor with water-resistant materials that can be removed and dried in the event of a flood. It’s become popular enough that even FEMA has added wetproofing advice into its manuals.
A New Home: The Safest Bet
While no one can foresee the whims of nature, builders can plan for the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, with the latest building technology and techniques. That’s an advantage older homes just don’t have.
And that means less to worry about for new home owners when the weather is in the news.