How to Prepare your House for Hurricanes in Miami

by Serena Solomon

These renovation tips will help you renovate—and protect—your home to withstand hurricane winds

Miami hurricane remodel

Miami adheres to strict building codes when it comes to hurricane-proof homes. And with good reason. In 2019, the Atlantic Ocean, Miami’s neighbor, produced 18 major storms. Six of those were hurricanes. Below, Sweeten shares the best methods to prepare a house for a hurricane during an exterior renovation.

A hurricane-proof renovation is in the best interest of your biggest investment (your home). New structures in Miami must be able to withstand wind of up to 175 miles per hour. That can mean impact windows, additional straps to hold down your roof, and a few other strategies. Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and tracks their projects, offers a guide on how to prepare a house for a hurricane.

Not only can these standards save your home in a hurricane, but a hurricane-proof exterior renovation can further increase your home’s value. Homes that go beyond the code to withstand strong hurricanes sell for seven percent more than homes that don’t, according to CNBC.

Here’s what to consider to prepare a house for a hurricane:

Impact windows

Impact windows will be your biggest expense to prepare your house for a hurricane. These specialty windows have multiple layers of silicone-coated glass. The windows are framed by sturdy material such as aluminum. Building codes require homes within a mile of the coast to have impact windows or shutters.

Replacing your windows with something that is hurricane-proof can cost $10,000 to $15,000, Sweeten contractor Jose said. That’s for a two-bedroom house that includes a glass-sliding door. “They aren’t cheap, but in Florida it is normal,” he said. It’s also best to plan ahead, not when a hurricane is on its way. Ordering impact windows can take five or six weeks to arrive, Jose said.

Panels and shutters

Shutters and panels that cover your windows during a hurricane are a low-cost alternative to impact windows (of course, you can always do both). The materials typically cost less and so does the installation.

Storm panels are the best value option. You attach them ahead of a hurricane and remove them after. This means a minimal impact to the look of your home. Panels cost between $7 and $8 per square foot, according to the Sun Sentinel. With this option, bolts or tracks are permanently attached around the windows. When a storm is on the way, the homeowner fastens the panels to the bolts or tracks. This takes about 15 minutes per window, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Roller shutters are permanently attached to your home but the installation is incognito until a storm comes. There are a few different styles, but roller shutters are the most common. They cost $30 to $55 per square foot, according to the Sun Sentinel. The shutters hide above the windows all year round. Like a garage door, they are pulled down for a hurricane. It’s easy, and your entire home can be prepped in minutes.

Reinforced walls

The benefits of shutters and impact windows are muted if your walls are weak. Older homes can face this issue, according to Sweeten contractor Adrian. “It is possible the structural support around the doors and windows are not able to handle the wind load,” he said.

An older home built in the 1930s that Adrian worked on had hollow concrete around the doors and windows. To strength those walls, he had to pour concrete into the hollow areas. This added five days to the project timeline and about $3,000 to the budget. However, this is a good practice to consider during an exterior renovation.

Doors should swing out

This isn’t a minor issue. Whether your exterior doors swing in or out has a big impact on a hurricane-proof home. Once your exterior —doors or windows— is breached by a storm, it puts pressure on your roof and walls.

Normally, the only thing stopping an exterior door from flying off is the lock and hinge. “If you make the hinges so the door swings outside the home, it gives the door more resistance to wind,” said contractor Adrian. In High-Velocity Hurricane Zones like Miami-Dade county, the building code requires external doors to swing out.

Fitting roof straps

Your roof is a vulnerable part of your home in a hurricane. If your roof goes, chances are there won’t be much left of your walls or possessions either. Attaching straps made from galvanized steel between the wall plates and trusses is the most common path to a hurricane-proof home.

Retrofitting an older home with straps is ideally done when you’re already in the throes of an exterior renovation. Adding a new roof could cost $40,000. Adding straps takes up about five percent of that budget, Jose said, “If you’re not redoing your roof, then just adding straps isn’t a simple or cheap process,” he said.

A hurricane while renovating

This sounds like a terrible combination, but discuss the details with your contractor. Double-check the logistics if you’re intending to renovate in or around hurricane season, said Jose. Between your existing home insurance and your licensed contractor’s insurance (the keyword here is licensed), your home and new materials awaiting to be installed should be covered, according to Sweeten contractor Jose.

As a hurricane approaches, your contractor should be removing or securing materials and packing up tools. Flying debris during a storm needs to be under control.

If the glass has not been installed in the windows, then they will need a plywood cover. A piece can go for as much as $100, according to Jose. “People take advantage of the situation and price gouge,” he said.

Depending on the size of the hurricane, expect your project timeline to extend by a week. The additional time for the project means more costs for dumpster hire, porter potty hire or storage costs, even if there is no damage to the property or materials, Jose said.

The strength and frequencies of big storms are increasing. Hurricane-proofing your home when you are doing a renovation will protect your biggest asset. Sweeten is here to help you navigate this process.

Prepare a realistic remodeling budget in Miami and be one step closer to your dream home.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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