Florida building codes have underwent some major changes over the past twenty years. For example, if any home or business is built within a mile of the “coastal mean high-water line” (MHWL) and is subjected to 110 mph wind speeds during hurricanes, it must comply with a specific set of building codes.
There are even more stringent impact-resistance requirements for parts of Florida that may be subjected to wind speeds of 120 mph or more.
Miami-Dade and Broward counties, for example, have an additional set of building code regulations to which new homes and commercial buildings must adhere. There’s even a special “Notice of Acceptance” (NOA) properties must be granted for official compliance approval.
To qualify for an NOA a Miami-Dade or Broward building must have special impact-resistant windows, doors and other features that are rated to withstand specific wind speeds and impacts from flying debris.
High-Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) is another special Florida building code designator for any areas that are at high risk for hurricane landings. There are also Wind-Borne Debris Regions (WBDR) in Florida that enforce other standards for new builds.
You can find Florida’s 2018 wind speed HVHZ map here.
A lot of the building codes pertain to quality and installation methods. For example, any new roof or re-roofing project in a 110-mph wind zone must be performed with roofing nails and four fasteners per shingle.
In wind zones that are over 110 mph there are additional durability and toughness requirements that must be met for roofing.
Window and door assemblies also must meet special Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) and Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) performance requirements and be installed with reinforced anchoring.
These rules generally don’t apply to existing buildings, but if any repairs or alterations are made to those buildings those new additions or repairs must conform to the latest Florida building code. For example, if you get your home reroofed in a 120-mph wind zone it would have to be done with the latest wind resistance method, even if your old roof wasn’t.
Yes, if your home was built in the ‘90s or earlier chances are it’s not totally compliant with the latest building codes, many of which were initially inspired by Hurricane Andrew.
Not every Florida home may have special roof bracing technologies, such as tie-down clips on trusses or braced gable-ends. Some of those can be added to better secure your roof and essentially anchor it in your home’s foundation.
Some potential roof modifications that can help older homes withstand hurricanes include:
Doors and windows, some of the weakest points of a building during a hurricane, can also be easily retrofitted. Many homes have had replacement windows installed since the newer more stringent building codes were introduced, but there are probably still some with outdated windows in Florida HVHZs and WBDRs.
In addition to replacing doors or windows with reinforced options, you can also have those fixtures specially anchored and invest in hurricane shutters for added protection.
If you’re a Florida homeowner worried your home isn’t optimized for the next hurricane, we encourage you to visit FloridaDisaster.org’s retrofitting guide. You may also want to download FEMA’s free guide on retrofitting.
Hurricane damage inflicted upon old homes or commercial properties that don’t meet current Florida building code standards should still have their claims honored, but property owners may not get extra money to bring their property up to code.
In many cases insurance companies will only want to pay for the replacement cost of your loss, and you will have to pay out of your own pocket to bring those replacements up to code.
However, your homeowners insurance company may offer policy endorsements that will cover Florida building code-required improvements in the event of damage.
The only scenario where you might not have your claim honored is if you made changes to your home that weren’t up to code when they were made. The insurance company may attempt to deny the claim because you failed to meet the legally mandated requirements to reduce the risk for the damage.