Can You Build a Hurricane-Proof Home?

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Can You Build a Hurricane-Proof Home?

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It depends on who you ask. There are some home developers and builders who claim their homes stand up far better to hurricanes than the average Florida home. They usually stop short of claiming their homes are “hurricane proof,” likely for liability reasons, but they do advertise them as “Hurricane Resistant.”

Deltec Homes and Their History with Hurricanes

Deltec’s mission has always been one of industry disruption – they don’t do things like other developers.  More specifically, the company has an eye towards sustainability and building homes that can stand up to severe weather of all types.

One of the key features of Deltec Homes are their aerodynamic shape – they’re round. Traditional flat walls allow winds to build up pressure on one side of a structure. Rounded walls let wind pass around the structure. Deltec estimates their round homes are subjected to 30 percent less pressure compared to homes with flat walls.

They’ve also determined the optimum roof pitch and shape to allow wind to go up and over a roof rather than push against it or lift the roof up.

The circular shape of the home also affects the truss layout in the radial floors inside the home. The frame of the floor joists looks like a spoked wheel. From an engineering and architectural standpoint, this results in the energy generated by wind being dissipated more evenly throughout the structure rather than allowing the pressure to build up at a single stress point.

The materials Deltec use in the construction of their homes are also unique, as are some of the building practices. Instead of normal framing lumber the builders utilize “machine-rated 2400 PSI framing lumber,” which they claim is twice as strong as normal lumber used for framing. They also use 5-ply 5/8-inch plywood sheathing instead of cheaper 4-ply alternatives commonly used by other home builders.

To go along with the reinforced walls are specially designed windows with “impact glass” to prevent shattering. During a hurricane, one shattered window can result in massive pressure buildup inside the structure. One compromised window in a hurricane has the potential to rip a home apart from the inside. The glass Deltec uses was specifically chosen to prevent shattering from wind-driven debris.

In addition to securely anchoring the roof to the frame of the home, they also use specialized construction ties to reinforce the connection between the walls and floors, as well as a continuous metal strap that connects the roof trusses to the home’s foundation. All of this means Deltec homes are latched down just about as tight as they can be.

If all that wasn’t enough, Deltec also installs oversized roof truss hangers, which are an entirely different ballgame compared to the roof ties commonly used in Florida. Most home builders in Florida utilize some form of roofing truss hanger to anchor a home’s roof systems to the building’s framing to prevent liftoff during high winds, they are usually just a fraction of the size of the one’s Deltec use.

All of this does make their home’s pretty hurricane resistant. Deltec claims to have never lost a home to high winds, and they’ve been building them since the 1980s.

According to the company, their homes had a 100 percent survival rate up until Hurricane Irma, where it dipped to 99.54 percent for the storm.

The one Deltec home that was severely damaged during Hurricane Irma had some unique issues that compromised its integrity. In a Facebook post, the company blamed onsite construction mistakes and the use of lower-quality materials by the builders assembling the home. It’s a reminder that even the most advanced building materials may not stand up to the elements if strict building codes and manufacturer recommendations aren’t adhered to during construction.

There are some pretty compelling post-hurricane pictures of Deltec homes standing next to piles of rubble that used to be neighboring homes. All evidence suggests these homes are probably about as close to hurricane proof as they can currently get.

How Much Does a Hurricane Resistant Home Cost?

Safe buildings don’t exactly come cheap. Deltec says their homes cost between 4 to 8 percent more with a cost of about $175 to $250 per square foot. The National Association of Home Builders puts the average cost per square foot to build a home in the United States at $85.65, which would make a Deltec home more than twice as much as an average home in some cases. Home’s in Florida may cost a bit more than homes in the rest of the nation on average, but chances are 4 to 8 percent is a pretty big understatement on Deltec’s part.

If you’ve survived having your home destroyed by a hurricane and are worried it could happen again, paying double for the peace of mind a hurricane-proof house may provide could be worth it.