4 minutes reading time (769 words)

Are we building a Fortified Home? by Tim Veronelli

Are we building a Fortified Home? by Tim Veronelli

I was going through emails the other week and came upon another of the many surveys put out by Hanley Wood Products or the NAHB Research Center.  I’m sure many of you see and perhaps participate in these surveys.  If you don’t, some of them send you $10 or $20 for your time.  The survey of particular interest was inquiring about a builders’ familiarity with building a home to “fortified standards”.  I only made it about 5 questions in when the survey stated that my responses led to the end of the survey.  Apparently, I concluded, that I didn’t have enough knowledge about a “fortified” home or good enough answers about how I was going to up sell this system to my homeowners at a varying cost depending on the level of protection.  So I decided to do a little research.

The “Fortified Home” program is something put out by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.  Immediately I was on the defensive that it was just another avenue for the insurance industry to reduce claims payouts by getting someone else to pay for upgrades.  I’m not sure I was completely wrong……..  As you can imagine there would be a third party evaluator involved (at a cost) that is part of the construction process - inspecting and verifying the methods used to achieve the three levels of protection which are bronze, silver and gold. The Bronze level addresses the roof system to reduce wind and water entering through the roof and vents during high wind events. First, the roof sheathing must be nailed with 8D ring shank nails @ 6” o.c.. Then the roof deck has to be sealed. This can be accomplished by: 1. Sealing all the joints in the roof sheathing with an approved tape and then using 30# felt on the entire roof deck, 2. Using 2 layers of 30# felt lapped 19 in., 3. Covering the entire roof deck with a self adhering bitumen membrane ( such as ice guard ), or 4. Using synthetic underlayment that is equivalent to type II felt (30#).  Coincidentally the “zip” system just happens to comply with these requirements as well, which eliminates the need for a roof underlayment.  After which you must use a roof covering with a minimum wind rating of 110 mph. Finally all trees and branches must be pruned so as to to not to be hanging over any part of the roof.  The Silver level builds on the bronze and addresses window and door flashing, bracing and anchoring gables, anchoring wood frame chimneys to the roof deck, anchoring porches and carports to withstand uplift.
The Gold level builds further yet and requires that the house be tied together by connecting the roof to the walls and the walls to the foundation, developing a continuous load path from roof to foundation.  Also, garage doors need to meet a design pressure of 110 mph for a 3 sec. gust.  There are many of these things that some of us do already either by choice or as required by our local building codes. Anyone who has or is building along the coast is probably very familiar with all of this as well.

The Insurance Institute for Building Home and Safety has these guidelines in an 84 page brochure filled with charts and diagrams which I won’t bore you with here.  And of course at the end there is a disclaimer letting home owners know that a Fortified Home can reduce damage from storms and high wind events but not eliminate it.  At the moment this is a nice suggestion by the Insurance Institute, hoping we can get homeowners to buy in to a system that may or may not reduce home owners’ insurance premiums.  Safety is always a top priority and we as builders always strive to build top quality homes that will last generations.  Sometimes code changes and improvements to building methods are positive, necessary and needed.  Sometimes not.

So will a Fortified Home become a requirement as so many other items in our code books that are brought about and enforced by insurance companies ?  Will it create an added cost that we as builders either must absorb or add to our price the consumer must pay ? Does it seem odd to you that the “zip” system (good or bad, I’m not judging ) just so happens to comply with this idea of a Fortified Home?  Do a little research and see what you think.  Since I generally look at any new idea with one eye closed, don’t just take my word for it.

Happy Holidays
Tim Veronelli

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