Doors critical in a hurricane

Hurricane proofing your home is not only about building a strong roof and walls. Post-Ivan repairs should also pay attention to all exterior openings, especially doors.

When installing exterior doors, make sure they swing outwards. Building engineers in Florida found that almost all doors that opened inward blew in during Hurricane Andrew. Local contractors agree that outward swing doors hold up better against flooding and high winds.

Mr. Tommy Bodden, owner of Bodden Construction, explained.

‘Outward swing doors have the added strength of the threshold and the doorframe to press against. Inward swing doors lack this extra support and can break away from the frame or tear the hinges. Most people I’ve spoken to that are busy repairing their homes are changing their doors to outward swing.’

One of the key advantages of outward swing doors is that, if properly installed and effectively sealed, they will offer tight resistance to the ingress of water. Some Cayman residents whose houses were not flooded during Ivan observed that they escaped in spite of high water levels on the outside. And in most, if not all of these cases, external doors swung outward, states a GIS press release.

People with inward swing doors that aren’t going to be replaced should protect them with hurricane panels or shutters in case of a storm, keeping in mind that the strongest door should be left un-shuttered for continued access.

On everyone’s to-do list should be a check-up of all exterior doors and their frames before the next hurricane season. Cracked or decaying wood jambs should be replaced. All exterior doors should preferably be made of thick steel and should be hurricane rated. For extra strength, install locks that slide into the frame of the door and into the floor.

Mr. Ali Sabti, from Apec Consulting Engineering, says that although the majority of doors in hurricane prone areas should swing outward in order to resist wind pressure, this is not the only consideration when strengthening a home.

‘Every part of the building should be hurricane proof. If you have a strong door, but weak windows, it won’t mean much as wind only needs to get its finger in somewhere for the destruction to start.’

Mr. Sabti notes that using a consulting engineer specializing in hurricane resistance to assess every element of a house is a worthwhile investment: ‘Most houses fail because of water that gets in through an exterior opening and not because of structural weaknesses. It is therefore important that every part of a house should be hurricane proof, including doors, windows and even air conditioning vents.’

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