The Aftermath: Built like a Brick House; Katrina Exposed Weaknesses in Gulf States' Building Codes. Legislators and Contractors Are Working to Shore Things Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel McGinn and Lynn Waddell

It's a lesson understood by anyone who's read the story of the Three Little Pigs: the stronger you build a house, the less likely it is to blow away when a wolf--or a hurricane--starts huffing and puffing. So as builders begin reconstructing the homes destroyed by Katrina, they're taking steps to increase the odds that the new houses will survive future storms. Says engineer Tim Reinhold of the Institute for Business and Home Safety: "[Builders] need to be thinking about how you'd build this house if you were going to hold it upside down and shake it, to keep things from falling off."

Before Katrina, neither Mississippi nor Louisiana had statewide building codes. Last fall Louisiana adopted one, modeled partly on practices used in Miami-Dade County, Fla., which requires more hurricane-protection measures than anywhere else in the United States. In Louisiana, framing carpenters now use metal clips to supplement the nails that hold roof frames to walls. Builders wrap the entire house in plywood, underneath the siding, instead of the foam insulation that some previously used as sheathing. On the roof, they're using more nails and gluing down the corners of shingles. To protect windows, builders are choosing between pricey impact-resistant glass or, more frequently, installing bolts on window frames and pre-cutting custom plywood shutters, which the new homeowner can fasten on when hurricane warnings are announced. …