How to keep your home protected during severe weather - WNEM TV 5

How to keep your home protected during severe weather

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Severe weather season has arrived in Mid-Michigan.

Each spring, TV5's First Warn 5 weather team reminds residents to prepare for the upcoming severe weather season.

They review severe weather vocabulary, where to take cover and how to stay safe.

Residents should know exactly what their house is made of. Different building materials including siding and glass can be tested by using a gas gun.

If someone is buying a place they're going to consider living in for a while, they want to make sure that a rain storm doesn't wash it away or a tornado doesn't come and blow it away.

Michigan has all different types of weather, so residents should try to have something that would stand up to whatever the weather might present.

Mark Wahl is the co-owner of Cobblestone Homes, a residential new home builder. Many Mid-Michigan homes were built several decades ago, but Wahl said the technology has evolved and different materials are used today.

"Quite a bit older homes were built with lath and plaster on the inside and we've changed that to drywall or sheet rock, and on the exterior, it's gone from planking boards to plywoods and OSBs and foam sheetings," Wahl said.

He said the outside walls are built out of wood studs, with sheath on the outside and drywall on the inside. For the insulation, he prefers a closed-cell polyurethane foam, which he said will add strength.

"Traditional insulation in most homes in America is fiberglass batts. And with high winds and storms, you see racking can occur, where the wall can actually move a lot. This is a closed cell polyurethane foam. And with that, racking is not very likely to happen at all, and it creates, according to the national homebuilder research institute, 300 to 400 percent stronger wall assembly. So we think this is an area that people can be safer, and their homes are more durable to withstand high winds and storms," Wahl said.

Durability is important. It's a scary thought, but most exterior walls of a home collapse in wind speeds between 113 and 153 mph, which is typical of EF-2 to EF-3 tornadoes. 

People often focus on the strength of the tornado itself, but they have to remember the tornadoes also carry debris such as trees, glass and even vehicles that can damage homes. This is why TV5's First Warn 5 weather team stresses residents should put as many walls as they can between them and the outside, as it's those walls that will help to protect them from the debris.

Wahl said there are improvements residents can make to their current homes to make them better protected against severe weather.

"You can over-sheath, it's called, on the outside and strengthen that up. If it was foundation related, people can strengthen a foundation by putting a vertical beam against the wall, there's all kinds of applications," Wahl said.

Residents can reinforce walls or add concrete, but Wahl also said to make sure they hire a structural engineer and a qualified home inspector to get the job done properly.

But, no matter how strong building materials are, Wahl knows how important a safe place is.

"I think people need to get educated on where to go in their home, you know, interior walls, basements, away from open windows, things like that," Wahl said.

Residents should follow these tips to strengthen their homes:


  • Use closed cell polyuerthane
  • Use oversheath on walls
  • Add vertical beams
  • Consider reinforcing walls and possibly adding concrete


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