Adobe stock/Satoshi Kina

Homeowner precautions before a hurricane can make a big difference in how the home weathers the storm, according to a new report. Shuttering or protecting doors and windows, anchoring any structures attached to the home, and making sure the roof is in working order can go a long way in mitigating damage.

These tips and other building science-based guidance emerged from a comprehensive post-disaster study of Hurricane Harvey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). More than 15,000 homes were destroyed and 25,000 homes were damaged by the hurricane, which struck in late August 2017. Along the Gulf shores of Texas, Harvey’s fierce Category 4 winds delivered a massive blow to an area that is still recovering nearly one year later.

The IBHS Hurricane Harvey Wind Damage Investigation Report chronicles the property damage, provides quantitative data that researchers can use and offers strong advice to homeowners and business owners still rebuilding now, as well as residents in any area of the U.S. prone to severe wind events. “Key findings in this report will guide home repair, roofing and construction considerations for years to come in wind-prone and wind-damaged communities,” says Roy E. Wright, IBHS president and CEO. “The decisions we make as we build or repair our homes – and even as we prepare to evacuate them – can make an enormous difference in whether we have a home to return to after the storm passes.”

Lead study author Tanya M. Brown-Giammanco, IBHS vice president, research, shared the report’s findings which include: --Although asphalt shingles are the most popular form of roof cover -- used on 85 percent of the 213 houses studied – more than half the homes assessed had lost shingles, and many of those suffered further underlayment or structural damage.

“Beneath the shingles on roofs are sheets of plywood or other roof decking materials. To allow for expansion and contraction as temperatures change, these sheets usually have a gap between them. IBHS recommends sealing this gap with special tape or other material because when shingles are torn off in a storm, your house essentially becomes an open bucket for the rain, which enters through all the gaps,” Brown-Giammanco says.

--Nearly a quarter of the attached structures surveyed – such as porches, sunrooms and pool cages – were damaged by the storm, often becoming the culprit in further damage to the main house structure.

--Unprotected doors were damaged up to six times more frequently than protected doors. Of all the doors assessed, sliding glass doors fared the worst, with up to 60 percent damaged regardless of protection.

--Covering doors and windows with shutters or even plywood helps reduce wind damage and water intrusion but works best if all doors and windows are protected, not just the side facing the water. Click here for a roundup of hurricane-rated windows and doors.

--Hip roofs, which are more aerodynamic than gable end roofs, were damaged less frequently.

--Single garage doors failed more often than double garage doors. “The findings on garage doors are consistent with other recent studies following severe wind events, but this is an area where we hope to conduct further lab studies to determine why a smaller single garage door fails more readily that larger double size doors,” Brown-Giammanco says. “Regardless, reinforcing garage doors and buying the strongest wind-rated door available are smart moves because once a garage door fails, major damage to the home and roof is often inevitable due to the wind pressure that can get into the house.”

--The highest wind speeds did not always correlate with the highest damage frequencies. The influence of building age and the residential building code in effect at the time of construction, construction type and exposure also contributed to damage frequencies and sometimes outweighed the wind speed effects. “The takeaway here is that the newer homes, built to modern codes, generally fared better than older, weaker buildings,” Brown-Giammanco says. "If the homes and businesses we investigated had been built to more resilient standards, recovery in these wonderful communities would not have been as painful or as prolonged."