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