Irma was my first hurricane. As a homeowner, at least.
We’d lived in central Florida for a few years, so we’ve had a couple of hurricanes blow through (pun intended) but nothing on the scale and destructive power of hurricane Irma in 2017.
My wife and I had only owned our home for about nine months, so we had no idea what to expect.
Some of my neighbors were boarding up their windows. Even my local Lowe’s put HUGE stacks of wood in front of their main doors as a barricade.
I wasn’t worried about our front door or our glass patio doors. The hurricane was coming from the opposite direction, so they would be shielded from the storm.
But that meant Irma was coming straight at my garage door.
THAT worried me.
As Irma (then Maria and Dorian) was bearing down on us, I did a lot of research to prepare. I found a couple of free steps to take to protect my garage door during the hurricane.
I also found a few additional ways to secure my garage if we had lived in a coastal area that gets hit with hurricanes more often.
Free Steps to Protect Your Garage Door During a Hurricane
During a hurricane, high winds press against the outside of the door and potentially force it open, potentially causing thousands of dollars in damage.
Garage doors don’t travel straight up and down. There’s a slight curve at the top of the rails.
The Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA) published a pdf whitepaper with some great recommendations how to avoid it.
Pull the cord!
Garage door openers have a manual release to disengage the door off the track.
If hurricane-strength winds force your garage door open, it may actually cause damage to the garage door opener.
Manufacturers recommend disengaging the garage door from the opener’s track. For almost all garage door openers, this is as simple as pulling the cord.
One important thing to note: this will usually save damage to your opener, but it will make your garage door easier to open.
So it’s important that you also…
Manually lock your garage door
One of the easiest things you can do to protect your garage during a hurricane is to simply lock the door.
Earth-shattering stuff, i know. But most modern garage doors include manual locks on each side.
Normally, there’s a single point of failure in garage doors. The garage door opener keeps them up or down.
During a hurricane, it’s critical that you manually lock the doors if you disengage the door from the track. Even if you opt not to, this will add another two secure points
Stronger Protection Against Hurricanes
Hurricanes weaken quickly once they make landfall. In central Florida, we only get hit with a hurricane every few years, and it ‘s usually down to Category 1 or 2 strength.
That’s still wind speeds of between 70 mph and 110 mph, so we still take it seriously. But it’s nothing compared to the 170-190 mph wind speeds that Irma and Dorian hit in the ocean.
If you live along or near the coast, you should consider some stronger hurricane protection for your garage door like a brace or additional panels mounted to the outside.
For very high-risk areas, some garage door companies make doors that are rated to withstand gusts of up to 150 mph.
We’ll talk about each in a bit more detail.
Hurricane Bracing Kits
Perhaps the best thing that you can do to prevent hurricane damage to your garage door is to install a hurricane brace.
Most braces are made of heavy-duty aluminum or steel and need to be drilled in to the concrete floor. They have brackets that attach to the door in multiple places to keep your garage door secure.
How to install a hurricane brace
To install a bracing kit, you’re going to need the following tools and pieces (some of them will come with the kit):
- Bolts, nuts, and rubber cover caps
- A drill
- A pencil or a marker
- Masonry bit with a stop collar
- A shop vac
- A hammer
And here’s the step-by-step installation process :
- Start by attaching all of the nuts, bolts, and cover caps on the center panel of your garage door. Again, each kit has unique instructions to follow. These are general guidelines.
- Line up the bracing bracket that comes with your kit. It should sit in the middle of the garage floor, pressed against the door as closely as possible. You should mark the mounting holes on the floor through the screw holes on the bracket by using a marker or a pencil.
- Using the masonry bit, drill a hole into the garage floor about 1 5/8 inches deep. Grab the vacuum and remove any debris in and around the holes to prevent bolts from slipping when they’re screwed in.
- Finally, attach the brace to eat of the nuts and bolts from the first step on the center panel of your garage door. The holes that you drill on the floor should line up with the bottom mounting bracket holes. Screw the bolts into place through the mounting bracket, and you’re all set!
Garage door braces are durable, long-lasting, and many of them are designed to resist rust. Rather than depending solely on the door’s integrity, these braces hold the ground to withstand anything that hits it. Once you’ve installed everything, you can remove or reattach the brace in under one minute.
Note: Make sure that you remove the brace before you open the garage door. Failure to do so could break the brace as well as the door. If you need to, place a sticker or tape over the remote door opener to prevent unwanted issues.
Hurricane-Proof Garage Doors
The next step is to get a hurricane-proof garage door.
This is undoubtedly the most expensive option, but it gives you total peace of mind that your garage door is secure.
Being able to lock your garage door without having to worry about installing panels, nets, and other attachments is well worth the investment for many homeowners.
Hurricanes cause damage through the force of the wind, direct object impacts, and rain. When the wind blows by a garage door, it shakes the door’s surface. This process loosens hinges, wears down bolts, and creates stress fractures from side to side.
Direct impact from wind or flying objects can dent and damage your garage door in a second. Rain is also a huge issue because it causes rust and corrosion. Fortunately, hurricane-proof garage doors follow all of the rules and regulations to fight all three problems.
Wind codes in garage doors are rated based on how much force they can withstand. Most garage doors can’t take much force, but these special doors are made to hold up against 90 MPH through 150 MPH of wind.
Before you pick out a garage door to ward off hurricanes, you should seek professional advice.
The wind comes from different directions, and gusts are affected by various geological features. Mountains, valleys, and even man-made structures can influence the direction and force of the wind.
Hurricane-proof garage doors specialize in wind-resistance, but some of them are more resistant to water damage as well.
If you live within 600 feet of the ocean or another body of water, you should consider this when you’re purchasing a new garage door.
Do you need a hurricane proof garage door?
The three determining factors that professionals use when installing a garage door for hurricanes are:
- Wind speed
- The type of structure (as well as the number of stories)
- Exposure classification
Exposure classification is the term used to describe the information above. Weather, landscape, and other features fall into this category. Using the three previously mentioned factors, you’ll be able to get a quote on how much it would cost to purchase and install a suitable hurricane-proof garage door.
You should also be aware that wind-resistant garage doors are a requirement in certain states, including:
The level of resistance depends on the state that you live in, but it’s worth looking into before you make a decision. There’s a high chance that your house already has a small amount of resistance due to the location. However, it doesn’t hurt to review the existing door and upgrade it if needed.
Garage Door Netting and Panels
Using panels and netting is another excellent way to prevent damage to your garage door.
Netting is only useful if you have windows along the outside of the door. You can strap the net over each window to disperse the brute force of wind and rain. It also keeps small objects from cracking the glass.
Panels are almost always installed along the outside of a garage door. You can mount them on both sides to lock them into place. Rather than slamming right into the garage, wind, rain, and flying debris hit the panels instead. They’re not as convenient as braces, but panels are still definitely worth looking into.
Another great part about owning panels and netting rather than a brace is that you don’t have to drill into your garage floor. You still have to make holes on the sides, but you can use stucco and paint to resurface the holes if you ever change your mind.
Depending on how big your garage is, you’ll need between one to three panels. One-story houses almost always only need one panel. However, houses that have multiple garages (or very large doors) need two or three panels. Make sure you check the dimensions of your garage door before you purchase the panels and/or netting.
If you already have a brace on the inside, you can still use panels, netting, and other tools. It might take a few extra minutes to get everything set up, but you’ll have twice the level of protection. Most places get a few days or hours to prepare for a storm, so you most likely won’t be rushed to get everything put together.
When All Else Fails: Hurricane Insurance
If a hurricane is strong enough, it won’t matter how much you brace or protect your garage door.
Damage can still occur despite your best efforts, and it’s essential that you are protected monetarily in the event that a hurricane damages your door.
The best way to ensure that protection is by purchasing hurricane insurance, which is an absolute must if you live in an area that has heavy storms throughout the year. States such as Florida, Georgia, and most of the east coast deal with frequent hurricanes that happen once or twice annually.
Getting hurricane insurance on your home doesn’t necessarily mean that your garage door is covered. Before you sign any documents, make sure you read the fine print. If your garage door isn’t covered, you should consider renegotiating the contract.
Garage doors can cost thousands of dollars, which is something that most of us aren’t prepared to shell out in the event of a hurricane. However, special deductibles are charged in states like Hawaii, Alabama, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and many more.
There are several steps you can take to help protect your garage door during a hurricane. Which ones you need to take will depend on where you live and how often hurricanes come blowing through.
No matter what steps you take, your garage should never be used as a hurricane shelter. For more information, check out my article where I talk about why a garage isn’t safe in a hurricane.
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