Discussing Hurricane Resistant Building and Stem Wall Construction

Project: Storm-Ready Design, Episode 1, Part 1



Bob is in hurricane battered Punta Gorda, Florida, to build a storm-ready home in Season 1 of Bob Vila. Bob visits two homes in the same neighborhood, one that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Charley in August 2004, the other that was built to exceed hurricane codes and was left unscathed by hurricane winds and water from the same storm. Scott Buescher of Mercedes Homes shows how enhanced building practices and technologies can create a storm-resistant home, while Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings and Secretary of Community Affairs Thaddeus Cohen discuss rebuilding Florida. Building inspector Randy Cole and Mercedes Homes’ Jesse Gonzalez review the site and watch the pour of a three-stage steam wall that sits below grade and ties the slab foundation to the ground. The resulting foundation will resist water penetration from storm surge by allowing water to move around the foundation without encountering entry points. Bob reviews the house plans with Scott Buescher of Mercedes Homes and learns how the house is constructed as an integrated system. Building connections are emphasized and reinforced rebar and steel mesh are extended from the stem wall to the roof line in preparation for the solid concrete pour that will form the exterior walls.
Part 1: Discussing Hurricane Resistant Building and Stem Wall Construction
Bob meets Leslie Chapman-Henderson from FLASH—the Federal Alliance for Safe Housing—to look at two houses in Punta Gorda, Florida, one of which survived the hurricanes of 2004 unscathed, the other which must be completely demolished. The differences, Chapman Henderson explains, come from building practices. FLASH tries to educate homeowners about best building practices so that their homes will withstand the damaging forces of natural storms. In hurricane zones, like Punta Gorda, the big enemy is wind. Chapman Henderson explains that in high-wind events the key to maintaining your structure is to keep the wind out and the structure tied together. Covering windows, doors, and garage doors is the best way to protect against penetration from debris and resulting wind entry that can implode a home. The other key safeguard is keeping the roof on, she says. Maintaining the roof and the connections from roof to wall and floor to floor will keep a house intact. Bob joins Jesse Gonzalez from Mercedes Homes and Randy Cole from the City of Punta Gorda Building Department for a site visit and look at the stem walls and integral slab being poured at the Punta Gorda storm-ready home. Jesse explains the efficiency of the pumper truck that is used to deliver the concrete and the speed with which they can complete the pour with this method. They then talk about scratching the site clean before building the pad for the slab and excavating the footings for the three-course block stem wall. Cole explains that a stem wall sinks its footer below the surface and allows the slab to sit on top of a wall so that the water can move around the foundation rather than surging up under it. Gonzalez explains that the footings are excavated and set with two bars of number 5 steel that is set in the concrete. A three-course cinder-block wall is then set in the footings. The cells of the block are filled with concrete as the slab is poured in one continuous pour with the walls. There are no seams between the slab and the wall because it is a solid pour. Reinforcing steel goes around the perimeter of the foundation and up through the cells every three feet.
Part 2: Homes That Can Survive Hurricanes
Part 3: Pouring Reinforced, Solid-Pour Concrete Walls
When hurricanes strike again and again, as they did in Florida in 2004, the effects are devastating. Bob Vila and crew work to completely rebuild a damaged house, using new standards for storm-ready housing. Along the way, Bob investigates a home's vulnerabilities in extreme weather and learns why some building systems fail and others succeed.

Also from Storm-Ready Design

  • Episode 2 - Building a Reinforced Concrete House

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    Description:
    Bob recaps construction of the stem-wall foundation and integral concrete slab, the vertical steel reinforcing, steel mesh, window bucks, headers, and spacers put in place for the cast-in-place concrete walls. Cameron Parker and the crew of Solid Wall Systems spray the aluminum wall forms with an organic oil spray to prevent adhesion from the concrete and set the forms for the pour. Bob joins Wayne Sallade, Charlotte County Emergency Manager, to review cleanup, demolition, and repair one year after Hurricane Charley. sallade explains that housing built in the 1960s through the 1980s, before the Florida Unified Building Code, had stick framing, gable roofs, and siding. "It didn't stand a chance," he says. Looking at surviving 1920s Florida architecture, it's clear that unified construction, concrete walls, protected windows, and hip roofsare the way to design wind-resistant homes. Back on site, bob watches the pour, learns how the walls and window openings will be vibrated to eliminate voids, and sees the bracing set to hold the walls square before leaving the site to let it cure overnight. Once the forms are removed, Jesse Gonzalez explains how a traditional three-coat Florida plaster job will complete the exterior once the structure has cured for two weeks.
  • Episode 3 - Building a Storm-Ready Roof

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    Description:
    This episode of Bob Vila will focus on roofs, how they are built and tied down to keep structures safe. Leslie Chapman-Henderson from FLASH, the Federal Alliance for Safe Housing, explains how FLASH brings information about safe housing technologies and practices to homes across America, to protect them against floods, winds, hail, and wildfires. Chapman-Henderson explains how a connected house works as a system to beat back the pushing and pulling forces of wind. Randy Shackelford of Simpson Strong-Tie shows Bob the embedded truss anchors that will tie down each truss member of the roof framing, as well as retrofit tie-downs and heavy connectors designed to fight wind uplift forces. Jesse Gonzalez walks Bob through the steel-framed interior that has a master suite and bath, and lots of open space. Bart Cox of Hanson Roof Tiles brings factory-extruded cement clay-look tiles that are pre-drilled for mechanical installation. Dave Peck of D. Peck Roofing explains that stiffer 5/8-inch plywood sheathing, 30 pound felt that is nailed, hot mopped with asphalt, and covered with 90 pound felt makes a strong, water-resistant roof deck for the tiles. Metal nailer boards keep cap tiles in place when wind strikes.
  • Episode 4 - Impact-Resistant Windows for a Storm-Ready Home

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    Description:
    Bob visits PGT Industries to see impact-resistant windows being tested and assembled. Code Compliance Officer Dave Olmstead explains how windows break during a storm, allowing high-force winds to enter the home, pop off the roof, and cause catastrophic building failure. Impact-resistant windows are laminated to stay intact after impact so that wind cannot enter. Olmstead shows Bob the violent impact test used to certify windows to storm standards. He shows Bob windows made of standard annealed glass, tempered safety glass, and impact-resistant glass for comparison. A pneumatic cannon then fires a two by four at each of the windows. Traveling at 50 feet per second, the two-by-four completely breaks the annealed glass, penetrates the tempered glass leaving a hole, and bounces off of the impact-resistant glass leaving it shattered but held together with no holes to invite wind entry. Impact-resistant windows feature two panes of glass with a Buticite layer in between. The glass is pressure baked at 450 degrees for four hours before it can be set in the heavy-gauge frame with silicone adhesive. Bob watches the assembly process and learns that sales of these impact-resistant windows have risen 300 percent in the year since Hurricane Charley.
  • Episode 5 - Storm-Ready Doors, Fiberglass Wallboard, and Power Backup

  • Episode 6 - Faux Columns and a Gunite Pool

  • Episode 7 - Storm-Ready Stucco Paint, Foyer Tile, and Textured Finishes

  • Episode 8 - Concrete Color Staining, Soffits, and Energy Efficiency

  • Episode 9 - Kitchen Finishes for the Storm-Ready House

  • Episode 10 - Pool Deck, Toto Washlet, and Wind-Proof Garage Door

  • Episode 11 - Sustainable Landscaping, Water Use, and Termite Control

  • Episode 12 - Hurricane-Safe Pool Structures, Pool Mechanicals, and Safety

  • Episode 13 - Surge Protection, Plumbing, Bamboo Blinds and Garden

  • Episode 14 - Completing the Punta Gorda Storm-Ready House


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