5 Ways Of Hurricane Proofing Your Barndo (2024 Guide)

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Hurricanes are common throughout coastal North America, and they can be extraordinarily destructive.

The intense winds not only throw hazardous debris through the air, but they also can rip houses right from their foundations. The rainfall from hurricanes can cause severe flooding and water damage as well.

That’s why it’s so important to hurricane-proof your barndominium if you live in an area prone to these dangerous storms.

In the guide below, we explain the strengths barndominiums already have against hurricanes and what you can do to make them even sturdier.

Are Barndominiums Hurricane Proof?

Although the maximum stability of a barndominium is based on several factors, in general barndominiums can be hurricane proof.

Barndominiums – a term that combines “barn” with “condominium” – are popular types of buildings that combine the rustic nature of a metal barn with the comforts of a primary home. They’re typically clear-span buildings with open-concept living spaces.

The original term specifically referred to a home with space for horses, but then this expanded to other work areas like garages and workshops, and even barn-like homes without specific work areas.

Many barndos use metal framing, but some can have timber frames with metal siding.  One of the main draws of barndominiums is the stability that their metal components provide.

In some areas of the US, this is even more important due to the occurrence of extreme weather like hurricanes. With winds reaching 74 to 157 mph or higher, hurricanes can uproot trees, rip off roofs, and collapse walls.

These storms also typically bring heavy rainfalls which can exceed 12 inches, causing severe flooding in some areas.

If you live in areas prone to severe hurricanes, such as Florida or Louisiana, a barndominium could save you from losing your home, since their metal frames, siding, and roofs can be much sturdier than their timber counterparts.

Barndominiums In The Face Of Hurricanes

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Barndominiums are typically metal buildings with a clear-span design similar to pole barns.

Below, we cover the strengths and weaknesses of barndominiums, as well as real instances of similar metal buildings facing hurricanes.

Structural Resilience of Barndominiums

While every barndominium is different, there are certain features that are very common among their construction that are structurally beneficial:

Steel Frames

Most traditional barndominiums have steel frames instead of timber.

Steel is stronger than timber while being lighter at the same time. That means you can use less material and still have a sturdier barndominium than a traditional wood-frame home.

Heavy-duty Fasteners

Steel frames use heavy-duty steel nuts and bolts in their construction. These create stronger connections than the fasteners used in wooden frames.

A hurricane’s intense winds have incredible lifting power and are more likely to pull nails and other fasteners out from wooden trusses.

The trusses then separate from the walls of the building, leaving the walls without a roof to hold them together, so they collapse.

Properly graded steel barndominiums have much stronger fasteners and are less likely to be pulled apart by hurricane-force winds. Metal roofs also don’t have individual pieces that can fly away like asphalt shingles.

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Fire Resistance

A lightning strike on a wood-frame home can spark a dangerous fire. Most barndominiums have the benefit of fire resistance due to their steel frames. The steel won’t cause sparks and won’t catch fire the way timber does.

While you may think metal would attract more lightning than timber, metal doesn’t really attract lightning more than other materials. It simply conducts electricity better, which is actually good for a barndominium.

If a barndo’s steel posts are sunk deep into the ground, they’ll transfer the energy from the lightning to the ground where it will disperse, preventing shocks to you or your electrical system. 

But although there are plenty of advantages to a steel barndominium, they can have some drawbacks. 

Rust

This is one of the biggest concerns with a metal building, as it can have many sources and weaken the integrity of your entire home.

Barndominiums must be properly insulated to protect against condensation, especially around the seams of the building.

Additionally, proper water drainage, including gutter systems and foundation drainage, are even more important in steel buildings than in wood structures.

Structural Fatigue

Steel is prone to fatigue over time, especially if several different types are used in the barndominium’s construction.

Steel pieces with different tensile strengths can create more stress on each piece, leading to a weaker structure or even buckling.

Case Studies

Adam B. in Livingston, LA, has a barndominium that made it through Hurricane Ida in 2021.

He says it survived the wind and rain with no leaks. The only damage came from a tree falling and clipping his gutter on his garage, but the damage was minimal:

Ben Dombey spoke about his Armstrong Steel metal building that also faced Hurricane Ida in New Orleans, LA. Armstrong Steel specializes in metal buildings, including barndominiums.

MBMI Buildings, which also builds barndominiums, shows their building quality with a video of one of their metal buildings surviving Hurricane Irma in Florida:

Enhancing Hurricane Resistance In Barndominiums

Building Materials and Techniques

There are several construction methods and materials you can use to reinforce your barndominium’s hurricane resistance.

The most obvious one is the steel framing of a classic barndo. While some modern barndominiums opt for a timber frame with metal paneling, steel is a better option for a hurricane-proof building. It’s more durable, uses stronger fasteners, and won’t catch fire if lightning strikes.

Speaking of lightning strikes, you should make sure to sink your steel posts three to four feet into the ground. Not only does this provide optimal wind resistance and stability to your building, but it also helps disperse the electrical charge of any lightning strikes to your barndominium.

The minimum wind rating required for your barndominium is based on several factors including location and elevation. If you’re concerned about hurricanes, however, you should design your barndo for a higher wind rating.

Hurricanes are rated by categories ranging from 1 to 5. A Category 3 hurricane can have sustained winds up to 129 mph. This is the first “major” category, so choosing framing materials to withstand those winds or higher is a great way to hurricane-proof your barndominium.

Finally, incorporating concrete into your exterior wall designs as well as your foundation is a great way to make your barndo more resistant to hurricane damage. Flying debris in a hurricane can cause a lot of damage in a hurricane.

Experienced contractors know that concrete and brick are some of the toughest construction materials available and can withstand a lot of this damage.

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Design Considerations

Hurricane-proofing goes beyond just building materials. There are also certain architectural designs that can make your barndominium more resistant to hurricane damage.

For example, a tall roof with a high pitch creates a lot of resistance in hurricane-force winds. All that pressure can cause damage to your roof and put too much pressure on the entire frame of your barndo as well.

The general consensus is that a 7:12 pitch ratio is ideal for areas that experience a lot of hurricanes. This is about the equivalent of a 30-degree slope. Any more than that will create too much resistance.

However, you don’t want to overcorrect a steep pitch by using a completely flat roof for your barndominium. While flat roofs obviously won’t cause wind resistance across the surface, they can lift up around the edges.

This also causes damage to the roof material as well as putting pressure on the frame. In addition, flat roofs can cause rain to pool on the surface, leading to water damage.

Another design element to consider is how many levels your barndo has. Most barndominiums don’t have basements, which is actually a good design choice for hurricane-prone areas. Basements can easily flood and become unstable as the soil around them gets washed out.

You don’t necessarily want to build a tall barndominium to compensate for the storage space you’re missing without a basement, though.

Instead, opt for a one- or two-story barndo that has more width than height. This will keep your wind resistance low while still providing you plenty of space.

5 Different Ways To Hurricane Proof Your Barndominium

Now that you know some of the strengths and weaknesses of a barndominium, you can apply that to your own project.

Below, we have five specific ways you can reinforce your barndo to make it more resistant to hurricanes.

1. Reinforced Foundations

Concrete slabs are one of the best foundation options to hurricane-proof your barndominium. Concrete is extremely durable, and pouring one large slab provides more strength than having a crawlspace or basement.

Anchor your posts and foundations deep in the ground and consider adding a fiber mesh layer for reinforcement. This will make your foundation even sturdier against hurricanes.

2. High-Impact Windows and Doors

You might think that standard windows and doors will get you through a hurricane just fine. However, many barndominium kits come with standard windows and doors with about 25 (design pressure) rating.

Although these can withstand up to 100 mph winds, they’re no match for a Category 3 hurricane with up to 129 mph winds. If you want your barndo to be safe against even a Category 3 hurricane, you need windows and doors with at least a 35 DP rating.

A 35 DP rating means these fixtures can withstand up to 130 mph sustained winds. In addition, make sure the glass itself is high-impact glass. That way your doors and windows are protected from flying debris as well as wind pressure.

3. Roofing Solutions

Metal roofing is by far the most common roof material for barndominiums. It keeps the rustic, traditional look of a barn while also being lightweight and sturdy.

Compare the weights of other common roofing material to metal roofing per square foot:

  • Concrete Tile: 11 lbs.
  • Clay Tile: 6 lbs.
  • Wooden Shingles or Shake: 4.5 lbs.
  • Architectural Asphalt Shingle: 4.3 lbs.
  • Metal: 1.6 lbs.

But it’s also a great material to withstand hurricanes.

Depending on the product and installation, a metal roof can last between 40 and 70 years and withstand 140 mph winds. They’re not susceptible to rot or cracking like wood and don’t have individual shingles that will fly away.

When choosing your metal roof, look for impact-resistant products that will stand up to flying debris. You should also use a standing seam roof system. Standing seam roofs use concealed fasteners to lock wide metal panels together.

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Standing seam roofs typically use a stronger gauge of metal than corrugated roofs, and the concealed fasteners prevent water leaks from wind-driven rain.

4. Internal and External Reinforcements

Besides the general framework, there are other reinforcements you can add to your barndominium for hurricane-proofing, both inside and out.

You can add hurricane straps or clips to your barndominium’s roof that will increase the strength of the connection between the roof and the frame, protecting your home against high winds.

Installing high-quality moisture-proof insulation is key to preventing water damage to your barndominium. Hurricanes can cause heavy rainfall, so you need to protect the metal framework of your barndo from corrosion.

You should also invest in a high-quality gutter system and good drainage around your foundation. These will also help direct water away from your barndo to prevent corrosion and leaks.

You should also consider adding steel plates to the interior of your walls. While exterior metal sheeting is durable, adding reinforcements to your walls will help hurricane-proof your barndo even further.

5. Emergency Preparedness

Even the most reinforced barndominiums can suffer problems during a hurricane, such as power outages or area flooding. You should always have a well-stocked and easily reachable emergency kit on hand in your barndominium.

If the surrounding area floods, you could be stuck in your home for several days, so you need to be sure you have enough food and supplies to get you through.

You could also experience power outages during a hurricane, so safety measures like flashlights and a battery-operated radio can be extremely helpful.

Ready.gov has a handy downloadable checklist you can use to create an emergency kit for your barndominium. Here are some of the standard items you should have in your hurricane emergency kit:

  • Several gallons of water (one per person per day, enough for several days)
  • Several days’ worth of non-perishable food such as canned goods (don’t forget a can opener!)
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio
  • First-aid kit
  • Signal whistle
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape in case you need to shelter in place
  • Sanitation supplies such as moist towelettes, garbage bags, and bathroom supplies
  • Multitool
  • Backup battery
  • An evacuation plan, either laminated or in a plastic bag
  • Pen and notebook

These items should be in your kit at all times, and you should check your supplies every year to replace anything expired or damaged.

If you know a hurricane on the way, you should also grab extra items that are important but maybe not as easily stored year-round. These include:

  • Prescription medications
  • Important documents such as IDs and insurance information
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Sleeping bags and blankets
  • Waterproof matches

This is also the time to make sure your backup batteries are charged and ready to go. 

In Conclusion

Just because you live in an area prone to hurricanes doesn’t mean you can’t live in the barndominium of your dreams. Barndos are already very durable buildings, but you can easily make them even more resistant to the harsh winds and rain of a hurricane.

Start with your foundation and use a concrete slab with interior reinforcements; avoid adding basements or crawl spaces. Then focus on your framework and roof, choosing high-quality metal that has an appropriate wind rating (130 mph or higher).

Use a roof pitch of around 30 degrees to lessen wind impact and make sure your windows and doors have high-impact glass and a DP rating of at least 35.

Finally, always have a plan ready for making it through a hurricane safely, from an emergency kit to an evacuation route.

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Adam Marcos

Adam Marcos, a veteran with 25+ years in custom home building, now serves as Managing Editor of BarndominiumZone. He passionately helps people on their journey of creating their dream barndo homes, offering valuable insights and practical advice. With a warm and approachable demeanor, Adam inspires readers to embrace unique living spaces that reflect their aspirations. Join him on a transformative adventure, turning ordinary spaces into extraordinary havens of creativity and fulfillment. Experience the magic of bringing visions to life, one barndo at a time.

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