Strengthen your garage door to prevent storm damage

When severe weather is on the way, you always want to make sure your doors and windows are secure. Even though it is the biggest door in the house, it is easy to forget about the garage.

If the garage door fails in a storm, it can easily lead to more substantial damage. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says garage doors can either be blown in by strong winds or torn out by winds coming around the corner of the structure. Larger doors, such as those for two-car garages, are even more vulnerable.

Once a garage door has been compromised, any materials stored in the garage will be at the mercy of the wind and rain. In attached garages, a storm can cause damage to the home as well. The Florida Division of Emergency Management says an opening in the garage will allow wind to wreak havoc in interior walls, ceilings, doors, and possibly parts of the roof. Benjamin Hardy, writing for the home improvement professional Bob Vila, says the space opened up by a lost garage door can create pressure changes which can destroy the roof or weaken structural components in especially strong storms.

Building codes vary from place to place, depending on the severity of the weather. Mariwyn Evans, writing for the National Association of Realtors' home improvement site HouseLogic, says areas where hurricanes are a common occurrence often require doors to be rated up to withstand winds up to 130 miles per hour. In Miami-Dade County in Florida, this requirement is ramped up to 150 miles per hour.

Check your garage door to see if it is rated for storms. Evans says the door may have a label giving information on its wind resistance as well as its ability to hold up under the impacts from flying debris. She says doors that are designed to withstand hurricanes usually feature long steel tracks and framing that will resist twisting.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says many older garage doors will perform poorly in hurricanes and other strong storms. Warning signs include wooden doors, doors with only one bar across a panel, bars on only a few panels, or rusted or missing parts. The track may also show signs of weakness such as missing bolts, track brackets lining up with the rollers, and rollers made of plastic. The Florida Division of Emergency Management says these doors are more likely to buckle, twist off their tracks, or fail completely when struck by heavy debris or high winds.

One option for strengthening your garage door is to buy and install a new one. Look for a door which is rated for both the pressure of high winds and the impact of debris. Hardy says the track system will also have to be upgraded to have the best effect.

Another option is to strengthen your existing door. This can be accomplished by adding bracing, strengthening the panels and tracks, or recalibrating the springs. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says this reinforcement will help protect the garage door against wind but not impacts, so the door may still allow wind and rain to enter if its windows are broken.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management says it is unwise to brace a garage door by adding lumber over the panels. The organization says wooden bracing will not provide adequate protection unless it is very heavy, at which point the motor probably won't be able to lift the extra weight.

Backing a vehicle against the door is also an ineffective method. While this provides some protection to individual panels, it will not protect against forces that could blow the garage door outward. Your vehicle is also more likely to be damaged if you use it for bracing.

Another method of protection is a product which can be installed over the door during storms. These storm panels include shutters or screens, and they should also be rated for wind pressure and impacts.

Reinforcing a garage door is recommended only if the door is in relatively good condition. If it has been damaged or otherwise weakened, it can still fail even if steps are taken to strengthen it against winds.

One advantage to replacing or reinforcing your garage door is that you might be able to lower your insurance costs. Evans says you should check with your insurer to see if there are any discounts for improving your home's ability to withstand storms.


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