We can thank storms-and the building codes they inspire-for products that protect homes near the shore

By Ben Brown
June 08, 2005
Courtesy of Marvin Windows &

Windows & Doors: Skimp elsewhere if you must, butstretch the budget to get the best windows and doors you canafford. In storm zones, says Marc Andreas, former brand marketingmanager for Pella's Architect Series windows and doors, "there'sbeen an amazing shift in the mind-set" toward impact-resistantglass, which employs a layer of shatterproof laminate to protecthome interiors from flying debris. Even homeowners who aren'trequired by code to beef up windows and doors have been thankfulthey spent the extra money. "When they're installed properly," saysMarc, "these products can save entire houses." All the trustednames in windows and doors offer this option. Where temperaturecontrol is a priority, choose double-pane, impact-resistant glass.The cost differential: 50 to 100 percent more than standard glassoptions.

Best Choices
• Casement windows provide the tightest weather seal,but high-grade double-hung windows, installed properly, will standup well to high winds and rain.

• Doors that swing out are better than in-swing doorsbecause wind pressure supports the seal instead of working againstit. If you use French doors―which can have moreleak-vulnerable edges than sliders or standard doors―protectthem with porch roofs or overhangs.

• Pay special attention to the manufacturer's installationinstructions, including flashing and hardware recommendations. Thebest-quality doors and windows will still fail if they're notinstalled properly.

Generators: Power outages can last for days. And what youmight miss most is air-conditioning. Kohler has a new 12 kW unit,fueled by propane or natural gas, designed to run a 4-ton centralAC system. And the manufacturer says it's no louder than a vacuumcleaner. Visit kohler.com for a chart that givesguidance on how powerful a generator you need.

Paperless drywall: If you're worried about the effects ofmold when wet weather or flooding hits your area, considerDensArmor Plus. This new drywall product uses fiberglass instead ofpaper, a favorite food source of mold, on the front and back ofgypsum panels. Even if interiors are flooded, yourwalls―including the invisible back sides―won't feed themold monster. Cost: 50 percent more than standard drywall. Visit densarmorplus.com.

Storm-rated shutters: Architects and homeowners intraditional neighborhoods have long favored the look of shutters.The trouble is, many on the market are more aesthetic thanfunctional. But you can achieve both looks and hurricane-levelsecurity. With Bahama-style storm protection shutters from AtlanticShutter Systems, a built-in Kevlar laminate keeps flying objectsfrom reaching the windows. The shutters provide the bonus of shadein sunny climates, and fit in with coastal designs that imitate anisland feel. Visit atlanticshuttersystems.com.

Metal roofs: Although it may cost as much as four times themoney to cover the same roof area with metal as opposed to asphaltshingling, metal roofs can be the best choice long term. Not onlyhave they proven themselves in hurricane-force winds, but they arealso fire-resistant and provide energy-saving advantages in warmerclimates. In areas with snow and ice, they're all but leakproof.Kevin Corcoran, vice president of business development for Englert,Inc., says his company's roofs performed well even in 165-mph windsin the Cayman Islands during the last hurricane season. After thestorms in Florida, says Kevin, "we checked 360 of our jobs and hadone failure." Visit englertinc.com or metalroofing.com for ageneral guide to metal roofing.

An extra layer of protection: Grace Construction Products'Ice & Water Shield―a self-adhering, polyethylene-coatedvapor barrier―has been used for years beneath roof areasprone to ice dam (frozen water in a home's gutters). Increasingly,contractors are opting for such extra protection in storm zones.Larry Shapiro, Grace's residential business director, says, "Weknow of four or five instances when our product was on roofs wherethe surface material had blown entirely off, and the Ice &Water Shield stayed in place and protected the house." A word ofcaution: Since this kind of underlay blocks the flow ofwater―unlike roofing felt, which wicks water―pay strictattention to manufacturers' recommendations about ventilation anddrainage. Visit graceconstructionproducts.com.

Shatter-proof skylights Savannah Trims, a West Palm Beach,Florida, company, has developed a number of products that offerstorm protection, including a flexible curtain that can be loweredover porch openings to guard against flying objects. Of particularinterest to residential homeowners, though, are the company'sskylights with impact-resistant glass. A typical 2- by 4-footskylight can cost $600 to $1,200 installed, depending upon roofstyle. Visit savannahtrims.com.

Composite decking: Composite decking: Low-maintenance,weather-resistant composite decking, such as the Trex productpictured, looks even better after the storm season. Already popularfor their ability to withstand the punishment of the hot sun inbeach environments, these decks perform well in big blows anddrenching rains. While they aren't likely to satisfy purists'demands for the look and feel of wood, they also don't have wood'sdisadvantages when it comes to soaking up water and splinteringunder assault from storm-blown material. Visit trex.com.

Fiber cement siding: What goes for nonwood decking is doublytrue for nonwood siding, such as the fiber cement siding by JamesHardie pictured here. It doesn't rot or crack in weather. It'sfire-resistant and less susceptible to wind damage. After lastseason's big storms, homeowners who were already leaning toward theconvenience and maintenance advantage of fiber cement became evenmore convinced of its practicality in all coastal weatherconditions. Visit jameshardie.com.