There’s nothing more frightening than hearing tornado sirens blaring.  These violent rotating air columns can wreak havoc on communities, and they often bring hail and ferocious winds.  If you live or do business in an area prone to tornadoes, you’re no stranger to their looming threat.

While there’s no way to protect your home from a tornado completely, there are several options to give your home and roof the best chance of withstanding the hail and strong winds that tornadoes bring.

A Totally Tornado Proof Structure?

A concrete and steel reinforced dome shaped home designed specifically to withstand tornadoes was severely damaged by an EF4 near Chickasha, OK in 2011 (DAT).

Experts agree that building a tornado-proof structure is theoretically possible, but it would require building a totally concrete, domed shaped windowless building or home complete with a FEMA certified steel door. The structure would have to be more than adequately anchored to the ground, and in the end, it wouldn’t be a fun place to live or work.

Even then, tornadoes are wildly unpredictable, and there’s no guaranteeing that it could withstand every tornado. So, what are the other options?

Specific building techniques, like ICF construction and other construction that utilizes heavy masonry, can also be effective at helping your structure fare well in inclement weather. However, your windows, doors, and roof will always be the most vulnerable area of your house.

Thankfully, there are many effective techniques for weatherproofing windows and doors. However, when it comes to your roof, you have to be a bit more strategic.

Most Durable Roofing Material Options

Examples of wind damage to asphalt shingles (Marshall, Et. Al).

Roofs are your home or building’s first line of defense against inclement weather. One of the most significant factors in your roof’s ability to withstand a tornado lies in the durability of your roofing materials.

Not all roofing shingles are created the same. When you’re trying to combat inclement weather, you’ll want to go for durable, wind-resistant, and long-lasting roofing materials.

Here are some of the top choices that fit the bill:

    • Fiberglass Asphalt Shingles – Asphalt shingles are cost-effective, but there are many problems with asphalt roof shingles, especially in durability and wind-resistance. Fiberglass asphalt shingles have the affordability of asphalt with a bit more durability. While not the most tornado-resistant option, they’re a step above traditional asphalt shingles.
    • Vinyl Cedar Shakes – Traditional wood shakes don’t fare well in rainy weather, and they break down over time. Vinyl cedar shakes give you the look of wood with a bit more durability. Vinyl is plastic, and plastics are made to last. Plastic polymer roofs are also decent alternatives for the same reason.
    • Metal – Many roofers will tell you that metal is the gold standard for tornado-resistant roofing. There is a vast array of metal roofing options, like stone-coated steel shingles or metal panels, which are installed in an interlocking pattern. Softer metals, like aluminum, can be damaged by hail, so you will want to go with heavy-duty metals, like steel.
  • Concrete Tiles – Concrete tiles are a cheaper alternative to tile roofing with significantly more durability. Concrete tiles have been proven to withstand 120 mph winds and one-inch hail, so they do well in tornado ridden areas.

There are other options on the market, but the above four options are cost-effective and incredibly durable. Slate is worth mentioning because of its durability, but it can be cost-prohibitive and often requires specific roof structures to support the weight of it.

Additional Roofing Considerations

Aside from materials, there are other ways to prepare your roof for tornados. Some will require some upfront costs, while others are relatively cheap to do.

  1. Add More Slopes – Homes and buildings with multiple slopes, versus the standard two-slopes, can fare much better in tornadoes. More slopes improve the aerodynamics of the building and decrease the pressure exerted on the roof from high winds.
  2. Connect the Roof to the Walls – Securing the roof to the structure’s walls decreases the potential of your roof flying off. During tornados, the high-speed winds can blow inward pressure against your walls and upward pressure against your roof. These opposing pressures can rip through a home and cause the roof to fly off. Other times, the cyclonic, vacuum-like suction of a tornado can pull an unsecured roof from its frame. Connecting the roof to the walls helps to secure your roof and lower the risk of your roof detaching during high winds.
  3. Install a Moveable Flap – Installing a movable flap next to the seam of your roof, helps stabilize air pressure.
  4. Reinforce your Roof’s Decking – If your roof decking (also called roof sheathing) is not structurally sound, your roof materials and upgrades won’t matter. The structure has to be stable from the start.

Prepare Your Roof for a Tornado

No one wants to think about a tornado hitting their home or building. However, if you live or work in an area where tornadoes are common, you must prepare. These materials and considerations are definitive ways to make your roof more prepared for inclement weather.

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