Armchair Builder

Midwest Tornadoes

I wanted to let our friends in Indiana and Illinois know we are thinking of them.  The tornadoes that hit the midwest this week are a reminder of just how powerful and unpredictable mother nature can be.  The tools meteorologists use to predict severe weather are getting more sophisticated each day.  In the case of a hurricane, we now have up to a week’s notice prior to arrival of the storm.  This gives homeowners time to prepare.  Unfortunately, tornadoes can still show up with very little warning.  Let’s take a look at things from a building perspective to see what can be done to improve your safety in the event of a tornado.

Foundation with Basement


In many parts of the country, basements are very common.  Having built hundreds of homes in Illinois, I can tell you the basement is extremely popular and getting more so by the day.  For an additional $5k-$10k, you can increase the size of your home by up to fifty percent.  Of course this covers the cost of the foundation, slab floor, waterproofing, and drainage system.  But once you have this extra space, finishing off the area can be achieved for as little as $8 per square foot when acting as an owner builder.  So not only does a basement add very affordable living space, but it also provides shelter in the event of a tornado.

Storm Shelters

In some cases, it just doesn’t make financial sense to add a basement.  Here in Hawaii, rock forces us to keep everything above ground as much as possible.  The volcanic rock is so prevalent and dense that even water supply lines are sometimes run above ground (remember, we don’t get freezing temperatures here).  In other parts of the country it may be feasible to add a basement, but it just might not fit into the budget.  In this case, a tornado safe room may be a better alternative.  Have you read our article on tornado safe room options and estimated costs?

Permanent Water Line Above Ground

Building Wind Resistant Homes

One great thing about building a new home is the ability to incorporate new technologies.  Extensive testing is being done on buildings to see what types of things can be done during construction to help hold the structure together during heavy winds.  We are coming up with more affordable ways to tie the structural components of a home together when wind loads are applied.  You may want to check out our video on building wind resistant homes to see what things are being done to improve the structural integrity of new homes.  Some of these things are currently only being done in coastal regions where hurricanes are prevalent.  But remember, when you are building a new home you decide what you want.

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has some great resources for those wanting to incorporate a safe room into their home.  You may want to check out the FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter From the Storm:  Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Business for more details on building safe rooms.

Have you ever thought about building your own home as an owner builder?  Be sure to stop by our ESTORE to see our latest e-book, Building a Home: A Step by Step Guide.

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