Floridian Explains How To Hurricane Proof Your Garage Door

Irma was my first hurricane. As a homeowner, at least.

By that point, we’d lived in central Florida for about five years, so we’d had a few hurricanes blow through (pun intended). Still, 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.

Lowe’s “boarding up” their front doors

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 have a few tips to hurricane proof your garage door if you live 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 whitepaper with some great recommendations for avoiding it.

Pull the cord!

Garage doors 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.

Garage door manufacturers recommend disengaging the garage door from the opener’s track. This is as simple as pulling the cord for almost all garage door openers.

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 vital 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.

Unless you add a secondary lock, your garage door typically has a single point of failure: the garage door opener.

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

Once hurricanes make landfall, they weaken very quickly. In central Florida, we only get hit with a hurricane every few years. By the time the storm hits us, it‘s usually dropped 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 Irma and Dorian had while they were over the ocean.

If you live along or near the coast, consider more robust 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 hurricane force winds up to 150 mph.

We’ll talk about each in a bit more detail.

Garage Door Hurricane Brace

The best thing that you can do to prevent hurricane damage to your garage door is to install a hurricane brace.

Most braces are heavy-duty aluminum or steel and must be drilled into the concrete floor. They have brackets that attach to the door in multiple places to secure your garage door.

How to install a Garage Door Bracing Kit

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 :

  1. Start by attaching all of the nuts, bolts, and cover caps to the center panel of your garage door. Again, each kit has specific instructions to follow. These are general guidelines.
  2. 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.
  3. Using the masonry bit, drill a hole into the garage floor about 1 5/8 inches deep. Vacuum up any debris in and around the holes to prevent bolts from slipping when they’re screwed in.
  4. Finally, attach the brace to the nuts and bolts from the first step on the center panel of your garage door. The holes you drill on the floor should line up with the bottom mounting bracket holes. Screw the bolts through the mounting bracket, and you’re all set!

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 to remove the brace before opening 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 Resistant Garage Doors

The next step is to get a wind resistant garage door.

This is undoubtedly the most expensive option, but it gives you peace of mind that your garage door is secure.

Locking your garage door without worrying 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 your garage door’s hinges, wears down bolts, and creates stress fractures from side to side.

Standard garage doors aren’t impact resistant and can be easily damaged by flying objects.

As comedian Ron White once said: “It’s not THAT the wind is blowing. It’s WHAT the wind is blowing.”

Wind load requirements for garage doors are based on how much wind resistance they provide. Most garage doors can’t take much force, but these doors are made to hold up against 90 MPH through 150 MPH of wind load.

Depending on where you live, there are different requirements for hurricane-rated garage doors. While Florida building codes require wind resistant garage doors throughout the state, some areas have more stringent requirements.

For example, the door on my house in Central Florida wouldn’t meet the requirements for a home in Miami or the Florida Keys.

Before picking out a garage door to ward off hurricanes, 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 are more resistant to water damage.

If you live within 600 feet of the ocean or another body of water, this will be a factor when 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:

  1. Wind speed
  2. The type of structure (as well as the number of stories)
  3. Exposure classification

Exposure classification describes things like weather, landscape, and certain other features. Using these factors, you’ll be able to get a quote on how much it would cost to purchase and install a hurricane-resistant garage door. 

You should also be aware that wind-resistant garage doors are a requirement in certain states, including:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • Kansas
  • Utah

The resistance level 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, reviewing your existing garage door and upgrading it if needed doesn’t hurt.

Garage Door Netting, Hurricane Panels, and Storm Shutters

Using panels and netting is another excellent way to prevent damage to your garage door. 

Netting is only helpful if you have windows on your garage door. Strap the netting over each window to disperse the brute force of wind and rain. It also keeps small objects from cracking the glass.

OSB hurricane panels and storm shutters are always installed on the exterior surface of your garage door.

Instead of slamming right into the garage, rain, high winds, and flying debris hit the panels instead. They’re not as convenient as braces, but panels are still definitely worth looking into.

Another advantage to installing 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 the size of your garage door, you’ll need between one to three panels.

One-story houses almost always only need one panel. However, homes with multiple garages (or oversized doors) need two or three panels.

Make sure you check your garage door’s dimensions before purchasing 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.


The Backup Plan: Hurricane Insurance

If a hurricane is strong enough, it won’t matter how much you try to hurricane proof your garage door.

You need to be prepared if that happens.

The best way to ensure that protection is by purchasing hurricane insurance, which is an absolute must if you live in an area with heavy storms throughout the year.

Hurricane prone areas such as Florida, Georgia, and most of the east coast deal with major hurricanes at least once or twice per year.

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.

New garage doors cost thousands of dollars. Most of us aren’t prepared to spend that much to prepare for a hurricane. However, special deductibles are charged in states like Hawaii, Alabama, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and many more.


Conclusion

You can take several steps to help hurricane proof your garage doors. The best solution is a combination of hurricane rated garage doors and a hurricane bracing kit.

However, depending on where you live and how often you get major hurricanes, you may be able to strengthen your existing garage door.

No matter what, never use your garage as a hurricane shelter. For more information, check out my article discussing why a garage isn’t safe in a hurricane.