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Build Your Own Home, Issue #012 Prepare Your Home for Emergencies
September 30, 2005

Building a Safer House / Preparing for Emergencies

In this monthís newsletter I want to discuss preparing your home for emergencies. I want to focus on items that you can address during home construction.

I am sure all of you have seen the coverage of the hurricanes that have caused devastation on the Gulf Coast this year. Living near Houston we recently got a scare with Hurricane Rita being forecast to make landfall in this region.

Many of you reading this are not in hurricane prone areas, but stayed tunedÖ many of the items I want to discuss may certainly pertain to your area. With this said, letís have a look at what can be done during construction to help you weather a storm, and potentially help keep your family and home safer.

Sheathing Your Home During Construction

Sheathing is the process of covering the framing of your home with plywood or OSB (oriented strand board). You may have noticed in mass built, speculative home construction, that the builder frames the house, applies some foam insulation over the framing lumber, and then covers it with siding, stucco, etc. The reason they do this is to save money on plywood or OSB. Foam is much cheaper than real plywood, or OSB.

Letís do a simple experiment. Take some Popsicle sticks or matches, and make a box by gluing all the corners together with hot glue or Elmerís glue. Now make an identical box and cover all the sides with balsa wood or any other thin wood, gluing the corners in the same fashion as before, and then gluing the wood on all the sides.

After the glue has dried on both your boxes, take each one and try to crush it in your hands! Which one is stronger? The one that is constructed out of sturdy wooden box, right? Your house is no different, just bigger, and infinitely more expensive. Then why wouldnít you cover the framing with real wood sheathing, instead of thin foam?

If your house is sheathed in plywood or OSB it will be much more rigid and stronger in high winds from a hurricane, tornado or a windstorm. It just makes sense to spend extra to make you home stronger. To summarize: a strong wooden box is stronger than pieces of lumber held together and covered in thin foam. When you build your own home, you not only get what YOU want, but you get a better house to withstand storms! Get it? Now letís move onÖ.

Hurricane Straps

Hurricane Straps are metal straps that are attached to rafters in your roof system and then attached to your framed walls. They give your roof structure more resistance in high winds, helping your roof to keep from blowing off.

The eaves of your house act as an air dam and high winds actually lift your roof off your house. The hurricane straps help your roof to withstand high winds. The easiest (and cheapest) time to install hurricane straps is during construction, while all the framing and roofing joists are exposed. They are worth every penny!


Flooding is a threat that many of us face, and the best remedy is to build our house on high ground, or build a pad, and make our own high ground. If you are going to build in a flood plain build a pad high enough to make sure you stay high and dry.

When we built, we went up 4 Ĺ feet above the 100 year flood plain to make sure that we did not flood. This lowered our flood insurance and we sleep better at night. If our house floods now, itís time to call on Noah to build an Ark!

Emergency Power

When you build your house it is a good idea to make provision for emergency power. Have your electrician set up a separate circuit to hook up an emergency generator.

We have the ability to run our refrigerators, well pump, septic system and selected lights from a generator. This was not that expensive to set up when we were building the house.

We chose a limited system for a couple of reasons. One was the cost of a big generator to run the whole house, and the other was the fuel it would take to run the generator over a long period (several days). Since we have no natural gas to run a big generator, we have to rely on our propane tank. Running a big generator off a 500-gallon propane tank would not be practical for any length of time. But then again, you have to think about what is best for you and your family.

Window Covering / Boarding Up

If you live anywhere near an area that is prone to hurricane force winds you should consider covering your windows to protect them, and your house. This can be accomplished several ways using a variety of shudders, or just plywood boards that you put up for the event at hand.

If you are going to use plywood to cover your windows it is cheaper to buy the plywood during the construction of your house (while you enjoy volume discounts). You can either cut them out, or have your carpenters cut them out to fit each window. Make sure you mark each one, so you know where they go when you need them.

Also it is a good idea to figure out how you are going to attach the plywood to your house to cover the windows. A variety of anchors are available for different applications.

I would also like to pass on a link to a really useful tool  for designing and laying out anything from kitchens, to landscaping, to your whole house go to

I would like to thank you for making one of the most popular sites on the internet for DIY Home Construction.

All the best,

George Stevens

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