There are so many different types of home construction it boggles the mind. Should the average homeowner be expected to know and understand the basics of home construction? Under normal circumstances perhaps the answer is no. As we are talking about hurricane and disaster preparedness I think the answer is yes if the homeowner expects their home to survive a serious storm. I believe in personal responsibility and self-reliance. I do not trust government at any level to take care of what belongs to me. In this chapter I'll touch on some basics common to most home construction in an attempt to lay a foundation that other chapters will build on.
A large majority of homes in America are constructed with dimensional lumber, and they are commonly called "stick built". Dimensional lumber is defined as lumber cut to specific lengths, widths and thickness at the lumber mills. The lumberyards then distribute the lumber to builders who then follow blue prints drawn up by home designers. Some of the more common dimensions used are 2x4's 2x6's 2x8'. 2x6 means 2 inches thick by 6 inches wide by whatever length is need for the particular application in question.
What's interesting about this is the fact that all of the "standards" fit together. When you build a wall with dimensional lumber and follow a few easy to remember rules all the pieces will fit together. If you build an 8-foot tall wall with 16 inch on center studs, the plywood or sheet rock that covers the surface will intersect with the studs in 4 places and fit vertically if you cut the studs at the proper length. This also permits the use of standard sized windows, which will just fit between the studs, or wall insulation, which will just fit, into the cavities created by the studs, top plate, and bottom plate.
Nearly all of the various materials used in your home have "standards" in dimension. Everything from the shingles on your roof, to the nails used in your walls, to the concrete blocks used in the walls of your basement follows standards of construction. This helps to keep the overall building cost down, speed construction, and make it possible to determine the overall strength of the design.
The fact that there are "standards" will help you protect your home from hurricane damage, as you will see in later chapters in this manual. We will use these standards to help determine where to drive nails, how to brace trusses, and what size to cut plywood to cover your windows.
All homes and building are built on a foundation of some sort. Some are built on a concrete slabs. Others are on a full basement with concrete blocks. Still others are built off grade, lifting it off the ground and are used to keep the home level on sloping lots. On the foundation, floors and walls are built. On top of this are placed the roof trusses and the roof.
The house you see on my web site and this manual is my home. Most of the walls have an inner shell of dimensional lumber and an outer shell of brick. Other walls have no brick veneer and are very similar to homes with this kind of wall. It is what is called a ranch style home and has a gabled roof. As you can see there are a wide variety of home designs. No matter what kind of home you have there are many things you can do to help your home make it through a hurricane or disaster. My home was built in 1969 and this was a time when hurricanes first started to be considered during the design phase of construction. Luckily it has a number of features common to most homes and is well suited to be used in explaining how to protect your home. It also has a few odd features, like very narrow windows in the front of the house. These non-typical problems will be used to show how I tackled these obstacles and help you to overcome the unique problems that are found only in your home. No manual can be expected to cover every eventually, and some problems need creative thinking to conquer.
My personal background is in woodworking. Because of this I tend to think along these lines and I normally fall back on this experience to solve problems. The up side to this is many people own the basic tools to work with lumber. Not only that but lumber is strong, easy to locate, of good quality, and is of relatively low cost. The down side is that once you cut it its too late to have second thoughts. Rule of thumb number one: measure it, mark the material, measure it again, check the mark, then cut it.
Ok lets get started. Take the time right now to climb up on that roof and inspect it. Check out the gutters and clean them, hurricanes dump huge amounts of rain that can and will overwhelm clogged gutters. If your property has a lot of trees consider investing in some sort of gutter leaf protection. I installed gutter screens made of PVC that worked but not to the level of protection i desired. I came across something called the butter brush, and they work alot better. I will do a product report page on them later. Also in my situation adding two down spouts helped alot because my home is a long ranch style and only had a downspout on each end, which was stupid. I installed two more closer to the center of the gutter run.
Another important thing to inspect is the shingles. Look for cupped cracked, loose, or missing units. If you find anything wrong take a trip over to Home Depot or Lowe's. The people there are very helpful and they have helped me too many times to mention here. They can help you fix it or point you to someone who can.
Next climb up in the attic. Before you go up there remember the attic can be pretty hot depending on the time of year, dark, and cramped. Be careful up there and walk only on the ceiling joists. Fixing a hole in your ceiling is no fun and it never looks right again.
Now with that said, look in the area where the roof sheathing attaches to the roof trusses. How many sheathing nails miss the trusses? If too many missed you have problems. Your roof may be in danger of coming apart because of uplift from the high winds generated in hurricanes. So how many is too many? That's hard to say, in the old days contractors used framing hammers to nail down the sheathing. When a nail missed the truss they could feel it and would just drive in another nail in the correct location. When building today's homes most builders use nail guns. They are powered by compressed air or in some cases a small .22-cal. charge. While it's quicker and more cost effective, there is a greater chance the carpenter won't know he missed the truss and will just move on. When they build my next home I will demand that nail guns be banned from the job site! Many homes lost their roofs because of this problem and it's not a cheap to fix.
I saw a special on PBS or TLC where they sprayed foam adhesive in the joint made by the truss and the roof sheathing, seemed like a great idea to me. While doing more research in this area I found another way that you can improve your roofs uplift resistance. Using a caulking gun, apply a 1/4-inch bead of wood adhesive in the area where the roof sheathing attaches to the roof trusses. You need to do both sides of the roofing truss. When applying the adhesive be sure the it comes in contact with both the "truss side" and the "bottom" of the sheathing at the same time.
Depending on what kind of adhesive you use, you may want to ventilate your attic while doing this. When purchasing your adhesive be sure it's a product that carries an AFG-01 certification. This method can increase your uplift resistance as much as three times the normal nailing method. While your up there look and see if your trusses have been braced and also check to see if the gable ends need to be braced. Ok, so I opened a can of worms here, but you need to check these things out. If you expect your home to ride those monsters storms out you need to get it some help. Good luck and be careful up there.
The Institute for Business & Home Safety is where I found the information on gluing down roof sheathing. Here is a link to that organization.
Institute for Business & Home Safety http://www.ibhs.org/ They have all kinds of great info and excel at of out of the box thinking
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