Are Barndominiums Safe in a Tornado or Hurricane? 9 Facts You Should Know

Are Barndominiums Safe in a Tornado or Hurricane
Are Barndominiums Safe in a Tornado or Hurricane

Tornadoes and hurricanes are quite different in terms of their duration and impact, so it is essential to find or build a home that can withstand both, be it a tornado that lasts for a couple of hours, or a hurricane that can wreak havoc for up to three weeks.

Steel barndominiums are safe in tornadoes and hurricanes if they are engineered with proper design and construction that is meant to resist heavy winds. Steel is one of the strongest construction materials, so a barndominium made of steel is a safe option in disaster-prone areas.

Barndominiums are strong and sturdy constructions that can withstand strong winds on normal days. With just a few protective measures and designs, they can also become resistant to severe hurricanes and tornadoes. Let’s look at nine simple facts you need to have in mind when building a barndominium in a hurricane or tornado-prone area.

The Barndominium Must Have Strong Poles and Beams

Experts believe that concrete and brick buildings are more resistant to tornadoes and hurricanes due to their solid structure. However, steel has the highest strength to weight ratio and its durability can withstand strong winds and flying debris if it has been designed to withstand natural disasters.

Most barndominiums are made entirely out of either steel or wood. Though wood is a fairly strong material, it will not be easy to make a wooden building hurricane-resistant. But with a steel barndominium, there will only be a minimal amount of work and expenditure, given that steel buildings are already wind resistant to a fairly good extent. 

If you live in a place with frequent and severe hurricanes and tornadoes, you will first have to make sure that the walls of the barndominium are well supported and sturdy. Barndominiums generally have metal or wooden poles and beams supporting the building, so you must ensure that these are strong and even reinforce the structure with stronger and thicker poles. This will help increase the resistance of the entire building.

The Thickness of the Walls Are Important

With the right customization, a regular barndominium can be designed to withstand natural calamities. The strongest tornadoes and hurricanes can generate winds that are strong enough to hurl rocks, pieces of broken buildings, and other large objects that have been swept along with the wind. 

In order to withstand the strong impact of the winds, the regular steel walls of the barndominium need to be reinforced with a solid steel armor plate that is at least 2 to 3 inches thick

Steel plates are made by compressing multiple layers of steel together, which increases the compressive strength of the structure. These plates can be customarily cut and welded to the steel walls, thereby increasing its thickness and strength. These are generally used to reinforce structures and buildings.

Wind Resistance of a Barndominium

When it comes to wind resistance, steel barndominiums are way ahead in the game. A regular steel barndominium can resist winds up to 120 Mph (193 Kph). This is an important factor, as most tornadoes have a wind speed of 110 Mph (177 Kph), while major hurricanes have been recorded to be 130-156 Mph (209-251 Kph), though this can vary. 

This proves that a regular barndominium can certainly withstand a minor hurricane or tornado. With additional support and protection, it can be made into a safe abode during severe calamities.

Protection Against Flying Debris

During a hurricane or tornado, many injuries are caused due to flying debris. As mentioned earlier, a building will need to be strong enough to withstand rocks and heavier objects hurled towards it due to the strong winds. 

To make sure these objects do not break into your barndominium, you will have to ensure that the structure is strong (by using extra pole and beam reinforcements), and the walls are thick enough to resist great impacts (by using steel plating and armor). But apart from these two precautions, you will also have to ensure that your barndominium does not have huge glass doors or windows.

Though glass can be protected to a certain extent during strong winds, hurricane experts advise home builders to stick to minimal usage of glass and other weak materials in hurricane-prone regions. 

Hurricane Resistant Windows and Doors

Windows, doors, and other openings are usually the weakest points of a building during hurricanes and tornadoes. They are susceptible to breakage due to high wind pressure and flying debris. If wind pressure builds up within the building, the roof will be ripped off from the top in no time. Hence, ensuring that your windows and doors are resistant to heavy impact is very important.

To protect your windows and doors, use impact-resistant shutters or glass. They combine heavy-duty frames with impact-resistant laminated glass and a silicone glazing. Replacing the normal doors and windows of a barndominium with these glass frames will greatly minimize the risk of them breaking or shattering. Apart from this, you can also invest in hurricane shutters, which serve the same purpose as impact glass.

If you’d like to see a visual representation of how much tougher impact glass is compared to regular window glass, give this video a watch!

Though barndominiums don’t generally have huge glass windows, it is advisable to replace any breakable frame with impact-resistant substitutes.

Water and Fire Resistance of a Barndominium

A steel barndominium is not prone to water penetration, so you needn’t worry about leakage or rot during heavy rainfall. Additionally, the steel used in buildings is galvanized, which makes it resistant to rust. Steel is also fire retardant, so your barndominium will remain safe even during extreme thunderstorms, which can cause fires. 

In addition to this, you wouldn’t have to worry about the heavy lightning that occurs during tornadoes and hurricanes. If lightning hits a steel building, the building transfers the charge of lightning and does not absorb it. Your electric appliances won’t be damaged either, as the electric shock is transferred to the ground where the charge is safely dispersed into the earth. 

Thus, steel barndominiums are automatically resistant to thunderstorms, lightning, and heavy rains, removing the need for any alterations or additions in this area.

The Roof Must Be Well-Anchored

Research by wind engineers has shown that a hip-roof is one of the best configurations to use in high wind and hurricane-prone areas. While hip-roofs generally have a fairly gentle slope, researchers have discovered that the optimal roof slope to resist strong winds is around 30°.

It is important that you do not ignore the roofing of a barndominium, as wind acting negatively on a roof surface is one of the most common ways for a building to get destroyed. It is essential that you make sure the roofing is securely anchored to the rest of the building

In barndominiums, the roofs are generally nailed or attached to the building with fasteners and screws. In addition to this, you can use metal straps that anchor the roofing to the building, preventing it from being torn off the top. 

In order to get a better understanding of just how fast a roof that isn’t well-anchored can get ripped off a building, I suggest you give the footage below a watch. It also explains why wind pressure must not be allowed to build inside the house.

The Foundation Must Be Solid

Fortunately, you won’t have to be too worried about this aspect as barndominiums are usually built on a slab of solid concrete. The reason this is important is that heavy rains and winds can result in soil erosion. If your building’s foundation is weak, it won’t take long for heavy rains and floods to affect the structure of the building.

Removing Potential Threats in the Landscape

Most barndominiums are surrounded by trees. Though this isn’t a bad thing, it is wise to prune the branches and bushes around the building, as these might be hurled against the building during a hurricane or tornado. Also, keep the gutters clean and unblocked, as rainwater will be prevented from stagnation in case of a thunderstorm. 

In addition to this, if you spot a tree that looks like it might topple over in strong winds, have it removed immediately by a professional. Trees getting flung against a building will have a great impact and are extremely dangerous.

The Takeaway

In short, barndominiums can be a safe option in tornado and hurricane-prone areas, if they’re engineered in the right way. Here’s a recap of the main points in the article:

  • Strong building structure
  • Thick walls
  • Fire and water resistance
  • Impact doors and windows
  • Well-anchored roof
  • Strong foundation
  • Safe landscaping

Do remember that this article specifically focuses on barndominiums that are made of metal. If a barndominium has all the factors mentioned above, it is a safe place to reside in during tornadoes, hurricanes, heavy rains, lightning strikes, and thunderstorms.