Should any calamity befall you or your family that changes your situation to one of survival, do you know what to do, where to go, how to get there, what to do once you get there, how to provide for yourself and loved ones or what you will need and how much? Most lack the forethought to plan ahead and prepare themselves for any likelihood other then a flat tire, and even then only because the automobile factory placed it in the vehicle for them. Feel free to read, experiment and improvise what I have put on this site to potentially help you one day.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to Fortify Your Home

Several situations may arise where fortifying your home or place of residence is desirable. Whether due to a hurricane or some other natural disaster or as a precaution from looters should you need to evacuate.

There are several things to consider:

-Doors (exterior/interior)

-Windows (basement/1st floor/2nd floor+)

-Flood potential

-Sheltering in-place/evacuation

-Severe winds potential

-Looters/armed invasion

Most suggestions here are meant to be as least damaging structurally and cosmetically as possible to your dwelling and there fore are not very extreme. These are simple, quick and on the cheap using as little material as possible without degrading its effectiveness. Feel free to elaborate on these suggestions.

Bracing Doors

In the event of strong winds, close all interior doors unless they are being used as bracing else where.
Treat sliding glass doors as large windows and refer to bracing windows section of the article.
Exterior doors to dwellings tend to be metal while the door frames are wood. Beyond the normal locks already in place, wedges can be used effectively for these doors as can braces. Most homes in the U.S. are constructed with the doors opening inwards. This allows for doors to be easily forced open but also allows for them to be easily braced.

-Use a screwdriver, thick eating utensil, wedge made of plastic, wood, stone or metal. Hammer the wedging item between the door and the door frame on the non-hinged side of the door frame on the interior of the home. Place multiple wedges, place them near the top and bottom of the door but not near the door's installed locking mechanism as it will pry it from the frame and potentially render the lock ineffective. The pressure and force of the wedges produces a lot of friction between the door and the door frame making it very hard to open especially incorporated with the door's dead bolt locking mechanism.

-To brace the door which is intended to stop a stronger force just place something between the exterior door and an interior wall. Depending on the distance between the door and the interior wall directly in front of the door's opening will determine what can be used or if a chain of items will be needed to bridge the distance between the two. Ensure that the bracing material is either on another solid object that is at least 18-24 inches long, the brace is resting against the floor trim molding to the wall, or against a structural beam behind the drywalling. Placing the brace directly on the drywall between the wall struts will just put a hole in your wall should your door be forced open.

-Likewise plank wood and beams can be used as bracing instead of furniture. The beauty of using a wood beam with a wood plank on each end is that it can be cut to very accurate lengths, the wood planks protect both the wall and the door's interior from damage allowing the wood beam to be hammered in place between the two wood planks placing a lot of pressure on the door. Also the wood beam can be secured to the wood planks with small nails to prevent the beam from moving under repeated entry attempts which is ideal against hurricane winds should you have to evacuate and against forced entry.

-In a pinch you can use furniture as a brace such as a sofa, a table that is at least 18 inches wide or chair laid down with the chair back on the floor. Take note that tables and such will most likely punch holes in your wall should an attempt to open the door is made. To help prevent this, place something between the brace and the wall such as a table turned on it's side where it's top is against the wall and the brace is against the table's underside.

-Placing household appliances such as the refrigerator, range, dishwasher or washer and dryer between the door and the wall or stairs can be used as the bracing material. Using such appliances either singly or as a chain either upright or on their sides in order to bridge the distance offers a large base to absorb the pressure from repeated entry attempts either by others or by high winds and the structural metal is stronger then furniture or wood beams. Also because of their weight they are less likely to move as easily out of the path of the opening door as furniture is.

-If there is no wall but stairs instead, simply use the base of the stairs or a step or two up as your base. If there is no wall or stairs within a reasonable distance but a hallway instead, either use furniture or wood beams or such to act as a bridge across the hall from opening to opening or to closet door frame to become your base for your door brace. In the picture above a dining room table is being used as the bridge across the hallway using the hallway door frames as its support with a wood beam as a brace from the door to the back of the table.

-If the space between your door and the wall or stairs is too short for furniture or you just don't wish to use such household items, then you can use a single plank of wood. A plank of wood is usually 6 inches wide and an inch thick, don't confuse plank with a wood beam like a 2x4 or 4x4. Cut a 1-3 inch by 3 inch section out of one end of the plank to accomadate your door knob. Measure from the base of the wall or stairs diagonally to the door knob base on your door. Cut the plank to these dimensions, place the notched end of the plank around the base of the door knob from a sideways angle. Now rotate the other end of the plank down to the base of the wall or stairs, you will probably have to hammer the bottom end of the plank into position. If no stairs are present then furniture can be used as a spacer to the wall such as a table turned upside down.  Another option is to use a plank of wood as the spacer to the wall or one nailed or screwed directly to the floor as the plank's pressure base.  This type of brace directs the force applied to the door from the outside to the top of the door wedging it against its own door frame.  The notch prevents the plank from sliding away from the door knob from forcefull blows.

-Another simple but damaging method is just nail or screw beams, planks or plywood across the door securing it into the interior or exterior door frame but this also prevents the use and there fore the exit from this door.

-Interior doors can be removed and used as a brace between the exterior door and the wall or stairs or even nailed or screwed to the door frame as a brace but is very ineffective and weak as such bracing material as they tend to be made of compressed cardboard and not solid wood. Vintage homes tend to have solid hardwood interior doors and exterior doors making their exterior doors weaker then modern homes.

Bracing Windows

There are multiple considerations concerning windows. Is the window small, large, sliding glass door, basement window(flooding concern), 1st floor, 2nd floor and above.

-All windows should be boarded up

-Basement windows may not be able to be easily boarded up securely against forced entry as their surrounding support is usually brick unless you drill holes and place plastic spacers in the holes to hold the screws via pressure. In the event of a storm however, a piece of plywood placed against the window and held in place by sandbags or piled dirt should suffice. If there is a flood potential, sandbags need to be either piled up high against the windows or placed in a semi-circle wall around the window with the space between the two filled with sand.

-1st floor windows can be secured by closing storm shutters or by placing plywood (to help prevent storm damage) and planks or even wooden or plastic pallets placed vertically(for storms and forced entry) on the outside and holding them in place via screws or nails. Nails though can be worked out by repeated force from winds and are harder to remove afterwards but if that is all you have then it will do, just use around 8 nails per window. Screws are harder to embed but easier to remove latter and would prevent repeated force from working the screws out of the windows wood frame. Solid wood furniture can be used instead of plywood or planks. Do not use particle board, compressed wood chip or sawdust as exterior window bracing for anything longer then a night or two especially under storm conditions as they will swell and disintegrate from exposure to water. Do not use the flimsy interior doors as exterior window bracing against forced entry. For storms, if possible, tape an "X" across the windows and close the curtains and shades.  You can also place a 2x4 beam on the inside and outside, drill a hole through all three, raise your window and remove the screen.  Then place a bolt through the holes with the head of the bolt on the outside, put a washer at both ends and secure the lug nut on the inside.  This will help secure the window from forced entry while the bolted 2x4s help ensure the plywood plank isn't removed.  You must have one on each side and with washers to ensure that a well placed hit from a sledge hammer doesn't knock the bolt through the plywood rendering the window's plywood unsecured and unbolted.


-2nd floor and above windows can be secured just as the first floor except that interior doors can be used as bracing against forced entry as long as there is no access to the windows. Interior doors composed of compressed cardboard will deteriorate in short order from the elements as they will swell and weaken greatly from moisture.

Do not neglect garage windows as strong storm winds entering your garage can create pressures that will do significant damage to your dwelling. It would also allow trespassers to gain entry to what ever you have in your garage and to another door to gain entry into your home which are usually placed in an area harder to brace or might even be a hollow interior door.

Brace your garage door by simply locking or latching it from the inside. If unable to, simply place a 2x4 on at least one side of the interior of the garage door wedged between one of the rollers in it's track and one of the securing bolts that holds the track on to the wall. Another way is to place any thing such as a 10 penny nail, wrench or broom handle between the roller track bolted to the wall and the holes in the frame of the garage door or the door rollers. In the picture above place anything that will fit in the area inside the blue circle to stop the door from being raised. Go to your garage door and experiment with securing it until you find the easiest and best way for you and your garage door.

Do not place brace material from the garage door to the non load bearing bridging beams or the metal cradle the automatic garage door opener sits in as it is not very strong and will bend and break.