Star-Bulletin Features

By Bryant Fukutomi, Star-Bulletin

Don’t blow it

Shore up your garage door,
or your home could be left exposed
in a hurricane

By Jerry Tune

Your garage door could be the most vulnerable part of your home if a hurricane should strike.

Once that huge door fails, a large portion of your house stands exposed -- "and a further chain of failure is likely" -- as a technical state report puts it.

Stated another way, 80 percent of roof destruction starts when the garage door is sucked out by a hurricane, according to Ron Winger, president of a company that makes hurricane-safety hardware.

The solution is extra bracing supports and struts, or a tie-down system designed to head off the kind of damage Hurricane Iniki did in 1992, when garage doors were blown off their tracks.

The state will even give you a 15 percent reduction on your hurricane insurance if you put approved shutters on windows and beef up that garage door.

Still, in these difficult economic times, more homeowners are choosing less expensive garage doors, a disastrous choice should a hurricane hit Oahu head-on.

By Bryant Fukutomi, Star-Bulletin

Installers say that even a 60-mile-per-hour wind (hurricanes top 75 mph) can destroy a cheaper garage door, if the home is in an exposed area.

The problem was stated bluntly in a 1993 technical document by the Coastal Hazard Mitigation Planning Project done for the Office of State Planning.

"Virtually no large overhead doors are made that will resist design loads in a hurricane and they are frequently the primary cause of major structural failures," the report says. "Once they fail, the building is pressurized and a further chain of failure is likely."

This warning is repeated by others.

"It's the biggest opening in the house," said Scott Clawson, market specialist in hazard mitigation at the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund, which administers the state's insurance program.

There are several ways to make that door more secure.

Raynor Pacific Overhead Doors offers a "hurricane ready" steel garage door at an installed price of about $1,895 for a typical two-car garage. This is about $400 more than a usual garage door.

It includes three steel-track brackets on both sides of the door, side bolt locks on both sides, a latch connection to the header beam and 15 horizontal struts instead of the normal three.

"This has been tested by an independent laboratory to take winds up to 150 miles per hour," said Chris Abbey, Raynor sales manager.

"In the past three months, we've sold about a half-dozen of these doors, mostly on hillside areas like Kailua and Hawaii Loa Ridge."

To strengthen an existing garage door, Abbey sells kits for about $600.

By Bryant Fukutomi, Star-Bulletin

If a new door is not an option, shore up an existing door with 2-by-4 braces wedged between the tracks and the side garage wall to keep the tracks rigid. Installing two such braces on each of the two tracks costs about $125. Wooden 4-inch-by-4-inch blocks, bolted to the inside of the front wall against the tracks, also can be used (see illustration, left).

Ernie Carlbon, general manager at Overhead Door Co. of Honolulu, said door-strengthening kits are available for about $55 that a good handyman could install. But he says door struts are also important and that could add another $100.

"On Kauai (during Iniki) the doors were bending in and they would slide out of the track," Carlbon said.

Tropical Door Service recommends four horizontal struts, at a cost of about $200. "We used extra struts on about a half-dozen jobs in the last year year, mostly in the Temple Valley and Makakilo areas," said Sharon Valle, company representative.

A strapping system invented by Winger, president of Hurricane Hardware Co., is another alternative that could be used along with the 4-by-4 braces (see illustration above).

H&H Overhead Door of Oahu said side locks can be installed for about $45 or center bolt locks for about $65.

How much wind can garage doors take? You will hear figures from 80 mph all the way up to 150 mph because of the many variables involved -- type of door, installation, exposure to winds, etc.

Few Hawaii homeowners appear worried about hurricanes, and prefer repairs to replacing doors, said Mark Pieklo, owner of Island Garage Door Co. "People are hanging on to them now," he said. "Only one out of a hundred is replaced."

Worn-out springs, rust and rotting wood are the most common problems with old doors, he said. But Pieklo also sees many doors not properly installed.

"There should be three bolts on either side, but I see a lot of doors with just two bolts holding up the door," he said.

Another problem comes when builders use one 2-inch-by-4-inch wood piece where there should be two, Pieklo said. "If there's not enough wood behind the bracket, then the bolt just goes into drywall and it won't hold well."

Do It Electric!

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