Garage doors protect your vehicles, lawn equipment, and other possessions hidden inside; yet in hurricanes and other severe windstorms, they represent a vulnerable opening of up to 300 square feet of your home. Your best protection is to choose a hurricane resistant garage door that is impact-rated to meet Florida building codes and to have it professionally installed to ensure best performance.
Fighting Strong Storms With Stronger Building Codes
After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Southwest Florida communities learned how much damage airborne debris and high winds could do. As a result, building codes in Florida and particularly in the Miami Dade area were toughened so that garage doors must be able to resist wind speeds of up to 150 mph, equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. Unlike standard garage doors, each section of a hurricane resistant garage door must contain a structurally reinforced load component that makes the entire door a giant wind barrier in the face of storms.
Homeowners in our region must either replace old garage doors to meet the new codes, or reinforce their existing door with a retrofit kit. The new or reinforced door, which is made more secure by adding braces on the inside of the door, must be able to withstand some serious testing that simulates the impact of flying debris in high winds. Typically, a wind tunnel testing lab fires 2x4s and other materials at the door to see if it is strong enough to withstand the pressure. While reinforcing a door can save a homeowner hundreds of dollars, a retrofit kit will not transform an old wooden door into a "super door." If the end stiles that brace the edges of the door, the mounting area, and the track are not strengthened, an old door won't pass the test.
Buying An Impact Rated Garage Door
Buying a new garage door is the best solution for most property owners, and the peace of mind gained by protecting your family can help justify the cost. If you're in the market for a new hurricane resistant garage door, what should you look for?
- First, you want a door that is certified to meet the wind load code requirements in your city. Garage doors are rated on a scale from W1-W8 that can withstand approximate wind gusts that range from 90- 180 mph in tests. Various municipalities within Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties have wind speeds varying from 110 to 139 mph, which require wind load ratings of up to W3. However, property close to the shoreline or in open areas are subject to higher wind gusts and more flying debris, so higher wind load ratings of W5 or higher are preferable.
- Second, you must decide what style of door you want. Your dealer can direct you to a door that matches your home's architecture and your budget, and one that meets the local building codes for wind resistance.
- Third, you must determine whether you want a new "storm-ready" door or an "add-on" reinforcement door. The storm ready models have reinforced panels and frames that are activated by locking the door. The add-on models involve long posts in the floor and ceiling that the homeowner puts in place before a storm and removes afterwards.
Fourth, consider the potential for energy savings. Most impact-rated garage door manufacturers offer an insulation package which is applied to a single skin door. Many manufacturers also offer a "sandwich" door style, which is a three layer door consisting of an impact rated metal outer skin injected with a solid foam in between, for truly amazing thermal and therefore energy-saving properties.
- Fifth, you want professional installation on any door you buy. Determining the proper door for your location requires an expert assessment, while installation that follows the Florida Building Code requirements is essential for safe and accurate installation. Professional installation also keeps the manufacturer's warranty intact in the event you need to file a claim in the future.