Watch The Video Discussion!
Hurricane season is here! When sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour, it is by definition classified as a hurricane. These powerful storms can be an extremely destructive force of nature. The best course of action is to be prepared. Although there is a “season” these awesome storms can occur at any time. There are not many laws when it comes to nature. When a hurricane does hit, what is the first thing in your home that usually goes? Your screen enclosure! Although it may have once been rated to resist winds as high as 150 mile per hour, odds are likely that it is probably not anymore. Homeowners feel a false sense of confidence assuming their screen enclosures are still up to par, when in essence, they are far from that. Yes, when it was new, it had to be rated according to the wind code in effect at the time. Most parts of Florida, in recent years are consistent with a 150 mph rating. However, with exposure to the naturally occurring elements such as the sun, wind, rain, and time, most likely, your patio is not ready for hurricane season.
Think about this, your enclosure is engineered for a certain wind speed when it is in a ‘maintained’ condition – that assumes no rust or corrosion to the fasteners. Once those fasteners start rusting, which can be as soon as a couple months, is the enclosure still rated for its original windspeed? Probably not.
Here are the things that frequently deteriorate on your screen enclosure that must be addressed to ensure the safety of your home, and be proactive about hurricane preparedness. Let’s test and see if your pool cage it is still rated for 150 mph winds!
Find Out If Screens Should Be Cut Out (and what the enclosures)
There’s a common tale that screens should be cut out when a storm is coming. Some enclosures in Florida, many builders grade, were engineered for the screen mesh to be removed when winds reach hurricane speed. If this is the case, your screen should be cut out to prevent more costly structural damage. Find out what it was engineered for isn’t too easy. You will need to make a public records request at your local building department for the engineered plans that were submitted with the permit for screen enclosure.
Get Screen That Will Last
(assuming your screen is NOT engineered for screens to be cut out) As screen ages, spending all its life under UV Rays, rain, and wind, the fiberglass fabric can quickly break down and lose its rating. It is estimated that a Phifer screen loses 75% of its strength in the first 3 years! At this rate, a typical afternoon thunder storm is enough wind to tear the screen apart. By the 7th year, the screen would have lost almost all of its strength. Choosing a high quality polyester screen will benefit your investment in the long run. It will outlast the lower grade, and provide for an enclosure that can be used throughout hurricane season without the need for ‘service calls’ from a screen repair company.
Screws and Fasteners
Unless you’ve taken the initiative to replace all your enclosure screws, fasteners and tapcons, most likely you have the cheap builders grade ones made out of steel. With exposure to water, salt concrete and chlorine, these builders grade steel screws usually rust and become weak in just a matter of a few years. Not only are they an eyesore leaving red rust stains all over, they are a primary cause of damage during a high volume, intense storm such as a hurricane. Going through and replacing all of these fasteners is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the intended strength of the structure is met, and that it lasts through hurricane season!
Many enclosures were engineered with hurricane cables, these are not mandatory for screen enclosures and may not be necessary for the structure depending on alternate specification. If your enclosure does have these safety cables, make sure they are tight and in good condition. Give them a good pull and particularly check to see if they are attached to the concrete at the bottom. Replace them if they are old, unsecured, or rusted out. If your enclosure does not have any, adding a couple extra can’t hurt.Even if your cables are still in good condition, you might want to consider replacing older cables that use an eyelit attachment. When the wind blows from right to left, the eyelit cable will be pulled tight trying to keep the screen enclosure from blowing over. Rather than evenly distributing the forces, it will pull down on the top member. At the same time, the wind forces on the screen face to the right will apply a lot of compressive forces to the top member and it will likely buckle from a combination of the compression and the bending caused by the pull of the cable.Modern cables are manufactured in the shap of triangular brackets that are screwed onto the corner and allow the cable to be attached directly in line with the corner. This design distributes the pressure evenly between two
The Structure’s Anchoring and Footing
Go ahead and give your structure a firm shake and see if it’s strongly attached. With rain, wind, and earth movement, many times the footing of the structure can get a bit loose. Not a good sign. You will want your enclosure grounded through concrete footing, not just dirt and grass. If you find this is the case, contact a local, trusted screen enclosure expert for a solution.
To ensure your pool cage is still rated for 150 MPH winds, it is imperative that you properly maintained it, replace all degradation such as corroded screws or broken cables, confirm its solid foundation, and choose the extra measures suggested such as the safety cables. For those of you who have experienced a hurricane, you know of the importance of proper preparation. Preparing and protecting the outside of the home, is just as important as preparing and protecting the inside, and the making proper accommodations for the people who live there. Just as you would prepare with canned food, flashlights, bottles of water, extra batteries and a radio, board up your windows, and set up bags of sands at door openings, you’ll want to add the above information to your hurricane checklist.
A good reference for more structural information, on all structures, besides screen enclosures is the Structure Retrofit Guide By Florida Disaster.org