Retrofitting Your House for Hurricanes: Potential Leak Points

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Once you have hurricane-proofed your home’s windows, doors and shutters, turn your attention to other openings that could be prone to leaks.


Holes & Cracks

Even very thin cracks have the ability to let in massive amounts of water. Be sure to check around areas sensitive to cracks or openings, like potential gaps around:

  • pipes running into the house
  • faucets
  • AC units
  • outlet boxes, meters, switches, etc in the home
  • lights
  • washers and driers
  • vents
  • skylights

For small cracks, you can use caulk as a strong filler, but be sure to use outdoor-grade materials. Foams will fill the gaps in larger holes, but will need an additional covering layer to prevent them from deteriorating.

Most hardware stores also carry material-specific caulks so the repair is less noticeable.

Vents

Vents, which sometimes provide ventilation in the attic of a home, can be especially problematic during a hurricane, because water they let into the attic can soak insulation and weaken or even collapse a roof. Many vents can also blow off the home, leaving more room for water to enter.

Some homes don’t have vents, but transitioning a home to be completely unventilated requires many changes throughout the home, so you should consult a professional.

How you hurricane-proof vents you already have depends on the type of vent. Generally, you want to check to be sure it is anchored and reinforced.

Here are some specific tips for common vent types:

Soffit Vents:

  • Vinyl and aluminum soffits are sometimes poorly enforced and will easily blow off the home. Reinforce the vents so they stay attached to the home.
  • Push up on the panels yourself to be sure they do not give. If you are unsure, you can use special tools to check the connection to the home. Look for wood blocking along the wall to indicate a strong anchor.
  • You may need to replace the vents, but to help add some strength, you can add sealant along the bottom to help connect each panel. You should clean each surface before applying sealant.
  • Extra supports can also run along the middle of the panels.

Ridge Vents:

  • As the last part of a roof normally installed, ridge vents can be easy to access. Ridge vents are sometimes attached with just a nail, but if they blow off of your home, they can redirect more water inside. Replace nails with tough fasteners.
  • Newer ridge vents are water-resistant for hurricanes.

Gable End Vents:

  • A gable vent will almost certainly allow water into your home during a hurricane, because the wind pressure will force it inside.
  • Shutters are the best way to bar water entry. Outdoor shutters are the easiest option, but if your home prevents that, you can shutter from the inside, as long as you make sure water will drain outside

Off-ridge Vents:

  • Off-ridge vents can flip up and catch massive amounts of water and channel it into your home.
  • For long & thin nails, bend them over to reinforce their hold, but for shorter or fatter nails, trying this might widen their hole in the home and create another vulnerable point.
  • Custom covers can provide protection, as long as you are careful to use screws or fasteners that won’t damage your roof.

For more specific information about retrofitting ventilation systems, read FEMA’s guide to minimizing water intrusion from roof vents.

Outside

When it rains, take note of any standing water that builds up in your yard, and create paths for it to run off away from your home. If any of the water is coming into the house, patch that area immediately.

Does your home have vulnerable leaking points?

More home hurricane advice for: