Hurricane Andrew taught Florida builders how to keep the roofs on their homes during a hurricane. Now Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Katrina, and Wilma are teaching them how to better keep out the wind-driven rain.

In the wake of the most recent storms, the Melbourne, Fla.–based Mercedes Homes called in the experts and asked for help figuring out how to build a more hurricane-resistant house. The result of those consultations is the following list of hurricane-resistant features the builder added to its homes:

  • Six-inch, cast-in-place walls designed to withstand extreme wind loads and wind-driven debris.
  • Roof trusses directly aligned over interior load-bearing walls on both single- and two-story homes, making the roof less susceptible to lift during a storm.
  • Solid-grouted, concrete block walls installed on the second story, a rarity in some parts of the state where second floors are routinely wood framed on top of a concrete block first floor.
  • A steel cage embedded in the home's walls during construction designed to disburse the impact of wind-driven debris.
  • Out-swing entry doors, which are more resistant to wind and help combat water intrusion when winds force rain past weather stripping.
  • A tooled keyway in the slab along the perimeter of the home to help give water a place to go rather than intruding into the walls.
  • Recessed seats along the perimeter of the home's foundation where water flows and exits rather than entering the home.
  • Removable hurricane shutters to protect windows from flying debris and rain.
  • A new soffit and facia design that helps keep water from being driven into the eaves by storm-force wind.
  • New-ridge vents and off-ridge vents that reduce the chance of water intrusion.
  • A continuous water-resistant wall surface created by wrapping the house with Tyvek house wrap, using Tyvek flex wrap on the window sills, and sealing the seams with a special straight tape.
  • A self-adhesive roofing membrane that provides rainwater protection to the roof sheathing even if the shingles are lost or damaged.
  • A “Flex Lox” acrylic exterior coating by Color Wheel that is designed to flex and span micro-cracks, as well as resist mildew, blistering, cracking, chipping, and peeling.
  • A natural gas generator that would allow the homeowner to use appliances and air-conditioning until electrical service is restored.
  • A generator-ready electrical panel that makes it easy to plug a portable generator into the home's electrical system.
  • Paperless drywall, which resists mold growth better than traditional paper products.