No matter the budget, there are practical measures that can be taken to harden historic homes against disasters. Some of these measures, such as reinforcing structural systems from the roof to the foundation, should be considered by all homeowners. Utilities and mechanical systems should be raised in flood- prone areas. Foundation drainage and the ground slope should lead water away from the structure.
Some retrofits are simple enough that homeowners could easily make them themselves, while others will require professionals to complete. Some work may need to be done over time depending on the financial and material resources available. Ultimately, homeowners must decide which retrofits will work best for their situation and what will offer the greatest protection for their homes and families.
It is important to remember that all the retrofits discussed in this booklet are intended to work together as a system. Rather than tackle everything at one time, pick one thing and do it right. There is little point in upgrading roof shingles to a wind resistant material if the roof framing is incorrectly attached to the walls below. For any measures that alter or change the structural system of the home, it is best to work with a professional engineer to ensure retrofits are structurally sound.
Historic homes were designed and built well so that all of the different parts of the building worked together to resist the elements and provide protection to inhabitants. There is no retrofit, upgrade, or even new construction method that will prevent all damage during a natural disaster. However, by preparing a historic home to face the next storm, flood, or fire, we can minimize damage and ensure that the building will remain for future generations to enjoy.
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