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Wind or tornados vs stick frame construction

 
steward & bricolagier
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Stick frame construction, the basic type that is all over the US, made with 2x4s and plywood, is not the best type of housing out there. But, even those of us who know about better alternatives, due to circumstances, may end up living in one. What can we do to help make it more resistant to wind damage?

When learning to design against wind, it helps to learn what has already been figured out by others about why and how buildings come down. I read these looking at the physics of why some houses break more easily, and found them educational. They are all from the same site, if you need an account to see them, this place does not spam you, it's safe to make an account. It's a normal builder site, the Journal of Light Construction (JLC) They have a search bar on the site that will pull up more articles, these are 4 that I really learned from.

Engineer's Assessment of Tornado-Damaged Homes
Wind-Resilient Buildings
A Texas Tornado: Lessons Learned
Practical Engineering: Resisting Tornado Damage

The part I found most educational, not being a fan of that type of building practice, was how much of the problems were caused by sub-standard work, and corner cutting. Most of the solutions to the problems were easy, just not implemented, or done badly.

One thing I learned from it all was garages tend to be a problem, because they are part of the house, but badly built. When the garage goes, the rest of the house is exposed. I think if I had a house I was stuck with, I'd look at seeing if I could modify the wall that is between the garage and house, to make the garage more of a breakaway type thing, so if it goes, the house doesn't.

I'm currently stuck in a rental with amazingly bad construction. If I wanted to try to help this place, I'd start by reinforcing the room we use as a storm shelter (which I have, to a point) and making the garage less likely to start the process of disintegration. I have made removable shutters for winter, but they are insulative. Shutters that are structural would be a great investment, as the windows are easy to break, lots of branches come down.

Something I saw and would work with is hurricane shutters, they have some that are big rollers that come down, way out of my budget, but some were a heavy mesh. I have been experimenting with using metal lath (expanded metal) to make hail covers for glass. I think they'd not stop something really serious slamming into the house (an F5 tossing a whole tree is going to be unstoppable) but they might stop smaller impacts from starting the whole damage process. I think if I were putting them over my windows, if the mesh was thick, I'd paint the inward side of it sky blue to make it slightly less annoying to see. Outside I'd do to match the house. Not the cutest option, but if you are in high risk territory, it might be an affordable thought.

If you are not in a well built home, what can be done?
Too many of us are in cheap tract housing, whether we want to be or not.

:D
 
pollinator
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Such houses are very uncommon here, I'm not even sure they are allowed, but there is a very obvious weak point with my barn (which is huge) and the middle connection building between the house and barn here, both are brick built with metal roofs. And the roof is the weak point, they are not fastened down so they wind can get under and start to lift the entire roof structure.

So make sure that all roofs are properly connected to the walls, Even if the roof doesn't fly away the shaking it causes as it bounces up and down can do real damage.
 
pollinator
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I keep thinking that some of the recipes out there for insulative concrete, could be poured into the hollow spaces inside the walls. That way you'd not only have a stronger house, you'd have a warmer one as well.

There would be logistical details that need worked out, and it would require many small pourings rather than one big one, but it could be done.
 
pollinator
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I another post here, I suggest the foundations need to be anchored to the ground with either screw piles or ground anchors for a start.
Then there should be a requirement that suitable cables or rods must extend through the building through to the ridge anchoring the whole structure to the foundations,
This concept may help a lot of people.
 
pollinator
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As a framer/builder of stick frame houses and wood and steel barns, I will agree the weak point is the roof to wall connection and the garage door. Wind gets in through the soffit vents and lifts the roof.  Or the garage door pushes in and does the same. An open or failed garage door will lift the roof and walls.  The new code has added a LOT more anchors and tie through than only a few years ago.

Simpson makes a screw that will tie the rafter/truss to the wall for under a buck (in bulk) and less than a minute.  
https://www.amazon.com/Simpson-Strong-PK76-9-Screw-152-6-Inch/dp/B008XZZFVS/ref=asc_df_B008XZZFVS?tag=bngsmtphsnus-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=79920869053523&hvnetw=s&hvqmt=e&hvbmt=be&hvdev=m&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=&hvtargid=pla-4583520395765840&psc=1


I can build a stick frame to withstand hurricane force wind, and it doesn't cost that much extra.... BUT the average mid to high end homeowner would rather spend the money on granite countertops.

 
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To follow-up on the garage door issue. I have seen building science youtubers repeat this consistently as a weak point in high winds. There are reinforcement kits intended to strengthen standard  hinged garage doors (and upgraded wind load rated replacements). Seems like a definite place to start. The upgrades are relatively simple, and minus engineering stamps, could be DIY. Do not take my amateur advice of course, but angle iron across each section of the door to prevent folding/collapse in the middle, and upgraded anchors on the attachment points specific to the underlying materials. From there, better hinges, but at that point you're probably better off with a new door entirely.

The upgrade process I have seen mirrors others for security hardening entry doors (which are generally junk due to their week framing and attachments points). Similar principles seem to apply.
 
gardener
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Sometimes you'll see a whole house get lifted up just a few inches by wind or flood and set back down with the wall six or eight inches off the foundation.  A home can look just fine but be effectively destroyed by the twisting and wracking it suffers during this process, or while settling onto unlevel ground beside the foundations.  The same thing can happen in an earthquake that *bounces* the walls off the foundation.  

The common theme is that in these houses, the bottom sill plate (the 2x6" or whatever sized board that all the ends of the studs rest on) isn't fastened to the concrete pad (if the house is built on slab) or footers.  It's supposed to be bolted down solidly in modern codes but some were built "back in the day" or by careless builders who just figured gravity would do the trick.

Sometimes when pouring new footers you'll see bolts embedded in the concrete with the threaded end projecting upward; holes in the sill plate allow the plate to be set down over the bolts when the wall is tilted up and then fastened down with nuts.   Omitting this step completely is common, and may be a mistake of newbie builders; but a "they know better" shortcut you often see is to simple leave protruding rebar instead of nuts.  The rebar works like pegs to prevent side-to-side shifting but anything that lifts the house (wind, water, quake) an inch or two will lift right off the rebar.

There's a retrofit that involves using hammer drills to set new fasteners into the old concrete.  But the universe of concrete fasteners is large and complex;  I don't actually know which kind of fastener is preferred for this.  
 
R Scott
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To add to the garage door reinforcement....

What you said to do to the door is good, but you also need to secure the frame.  In an unfinished garage it is easy to add an extra anchor bolt to each side of the door into the concrete AND strapping to tie the header to the studs.  That is often the failure point.  It can be done in a finished garage, too, but is a little more difficult.  You will need to beg borrow rent a hammer drill and spend a bit on hardware,
 
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If renting, rental contracts most likely preclude modification to the building. Possibly the best thing you can do is educate yourself on regional disasters, building practices, etc. that address these disasters, and choose wisely when picking a residence. Get out at the next contract change, and find something better, if available.

If building, then the same education will possibly yield a better constructed home, if everybody is on board (architect/engineer/designer, builders, inspectors, etc.) ... I believe this to be the exception, not the rule. You might see this level of effort on only the most custom of homes, and/or in homes designed and lived in by architects/engineers.

It is incredible how the entire industry around housing is focused on profit, not quality ... almost zero analysis/prevention of damage from previous disasters, unlike the airplane/train/bus scenario. The building industry is most likely not on your side. For the vast majority of homes in existence, it is probably too late to do anything ... except recognize the problem and get out from underneath it asap.

For the current homes in existence, I'd tend to focus on survival ... retrofit a safe room, build an underground shelter, etc. Even better ... analyze the region and its disasters, clean sheet the solution, and focus on getting there. Or, exchange that region for something you *can* manage ...

I left tornado country, with an F5 history not too far from me (Jarrell, tx), and chose land up in the foothills of colorado ... we wanted out of tornado alley, and anything close to it. No tornado exposure to speak of where we are, but wildfire, straightline winds (up to 100mph), and snow events are prevalent, and all mitigated for as we built our homestead (as best we can). We no longer sweat thunderstorms that could drop a tornado on us (and for which little can be done).

I feel that nothing can be done for "the herd" of millions of folks (stuck in this housing loop), unless each family does something about this themselves (a very small percentage of the total) ... and losses seem to be more acceptable than permanent solutions in this area, based on history.

Education, in all aspects of a given subject, is the only answer I can come up with ...

 
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It bears repeating that the reason for conventional American wood framed houses is *not* because they are very good but rather because they are very fast and make use of something uniquely American: an amazing amount of trees.

Good video that explains where balloon framing came from and how American homes are essentially disposable, although at least we're not Japan.  
 
John C Daley
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On a separate topic about changing the design parameters of building design, some simple ideas have popped up.
One singular issue involves
The concept of structurally tying a building from peak to foundation is called continuous load path.
And the foundation needs to have screw or ground anchors deep into the ground.
 
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Thanks for sharing this with the links, Pearl. I find JLC's information very helpful in securing an existing house as well as building one from the start that can withstand high winds.
I'm in more of a tornado area on occasion so I find this very helpful to build a new structure as well as trying to fix this house to be more secure.
I do agree many places have been built haphazardly and too many shortcuts taken.
My house is older and thankfully don't see as much in way of half ass work. Also thankful the garage is a separate structure and not attached to the house.


Pearl Sutton wrote:Stick frame construction, the basic type that is all over the US, made with 2x4s and plywood, is not the best type of housing out there. But, even those of us who know about better alternatives, due to circumstances, may end up living in one. What can we do to help make it more resistant to wind damage?

When learning to design against wind, it helps to learn what has already been figured out by others about why and how buildings come down. I read these looking at the physics of why some houses break more easily, and found them educational. They are all from the same site, if you need an account to see them, this place does not spam you, it's safe to make an account. It's a normal builder site, the Journal of Light Construction (JLC) They have a search bar on the site that will pull up more articles, these are 4 that I really learned from.

Engineer's Assessment of Tornado-Damaged Homes
Wind-Resilient Buildings
A Texas Tornado: Lessons Learned
Practical Engineering: Resisting Tornado Damage

The part I found most educational, not being a fan of that type of building practice, was how much of the problems were caused by sub-standard work, and corner cutting. Most of the solutions to the problems were easy, just not implemented, or done badly.

One thing I learned from it all was garages tend to be a problem, because they are part of the house, but badly built. When the garage goes, the rest of the house is exposed. I think if I had a house I was stuck with, I'd look at seeing if I could modify the wall that is between the garage and house, to make the garage more of a breakaway type thing, so if it goes, the house doesn't.

I'm currently stuck in a rental with amazingly bad construction. If I wanted to try to help this place, I'd start by reinforcing the room we use as a storm shelter (which I have, to a point) and making the garage less likely to start the process of disintegration. I have made removable shutters for winter, but they are insulative. Shutters that are structural would be a great investment, as the windows are easy to break, lots of branches come down.

Something I saw and would work with is hurricane shutters, they have some that are big rollers that come down, way out of my budget, but some were a heavy mesh. I have been experimenting with using metal lath (expanded metal) to make hail covers for glass. I think they'd not stop something really serious slamming into the house (an F5 tossing a whole tree is going to be unstoppable) but they might stop smaller impacts from starting the whole damage process. I think if I were putting them over my windows, if the mesh was thick, I'd paint the inward side of it sky blue to make it slightly less annoying to see. Outside I'd do to match the house. Not the cutest option, but if you are in high risk territory, it might be an affordable thought.

If you are not in a well built home, what can be done?
Too many of us are in cheap tract housing, whether we want to be or not.


 
gardener
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I want to echo statements by R and Dan.  I know of at least one study that was done to see if a stick-built home could survive hurricane force winds.  The solution involved placing J-bolts in the foundation while still wet.  The sill was then bolted to the foundation.  All studs, whether 2x4 or 2x6, are then not only nailed into place but are strapped into place with a little metal faster that attaches somewhat like a hurricane strap.  All wood joints on the outside are attached by little pieces of strapping and the roof has hurricane clips to hold it into place.  Essentially the whole outside of the house is attached with metal in addition to the usual nails.

This was apparently tried in Florida prior to Hurricane Andrew.  Once Andrew swept through and most houses were unrecognizable, an occasional house sat mostly intact (it needed new shingles, siding, etc).  Those homes were built using this technique.  Apparently it costs about $200 in strapping plus labor.  I wish this type of construction was the norm.

Eric
 
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Thankfully in UK hurricanes are rare but living in an old listed farmhouse with date stone of 1721 makes you appreciate the 900mm thick stone walls and slate roof. Cannot see any reason why it wont be around for another 300 years.
 
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