Is a Tornado Proof Home Possible?

With tornadoes becoming more and more common, it makes sense to create a tornado proof home! But is that really possible? Well, yes and no. A truly tornado proof home provides protection for you and your family in a concrete safe room with a steel door. There are additional ways to make the home even safer. Read on...

One construction method has been shown to stand up to 250 mph winds, which provides you and your family with far more protection than conventional wood framing. That construction method is called ICF (insulating concrete forms).

ICF combines the strength of solid concrete walls with steel reinforcements within the concrete for incredible structural strength. ICF has become more and more popular, and the price has come down to equal that of wood frame construction (sometimes 1 to 8% more, depending on your area and the builder you choose).

Jeff Barber, a registered architect and University of Missouri Extension housing and environmental design specialist in Lamar, Missouri says: "In the extension offices, after a tornado hits, we'll spend days, even weeks, answering the question 'What can I do to protect my family against a tornado?' This is one of the things we suggest...Besides being safer, properly designed ICF buildings are more fire resistant, more durable and much more energy efficient." Learn more about ICF homes here.

Watch this video for a quick intro into ICF housing and tornadoes:

The most important aspects of a tornado resistant home include the walls, roof, and windows. In a tornado, the most vulnerable areas of the home are the roof and windows. Even with the most securely fastened roofing system and impact-resistant windows, these areas may still be vulnerable depending on how the tornado hits the home (if a direct hit).

So, your safest option for a truly tornado proof home is to construct an ICF "safe room" within an ICF (or "stick-built") home in which the entire room is constructed of ICF, with no windows. Here are some additional recommendations for making the roof and windows safer in high wind situations.

The Walls and Their Ability to Protect from Flying Debris
This is where ICF walls shine. They have an incredible ability to resist airborne debris. Read more about how concrete walls stood up to wind-driven debris in conditions exceeding 250 mph winds here. On this page, you can also view a video from Texas Tech University of the wall strength test their engineers conducted.

The Roof
In an ICF house, the roof is secured to the walls by metal strapping (also called tie-downs or tornado straps). These straps are embedded into the concrete. This provides significant wind protection.

Windows and Doors
The other critical component is the strength of windows. Impact-resistant windows are recommended in tornado-prone areas. These include a special type of glass that can withstand the impact of flying debris.

Following is another video with more information about using ICF to create a tornado proof home:

Want to learn more?

View an ICF Home Under Construction

Learn about storm shelters

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