EXTREME Field Test!

© 2004 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2004
Author: Gary Wedekind
Pages 40-44

EXTREME Field Test!

Editor’s Note: In this special series of eyewitness reports of Florida’s recent bizarre hurricane-fest, we present independent perspectives from three DASMA companies: Clopay, Raynor, and Wayne-Dalton.

Part II
Chasing Charley
By Gary Wedekind, Sectional Door Engineer, Raynor

This year’s hurricane activity captured my undivided attention.

As a sectional door engineer, my special focus for the past 11 years has been in wind loading garage doors. In addition to my interest in strengthening garage doors, I have always been interested in the weather.

The power of nature fascinates me. Lighting, thunderstorms, snowstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes all have tremendous power. That power was unleashed on the southeastern United States this year.

In a 46-day period from Aug. 12 to Sept. 26, Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne hit the southeastern United States, but Florida took the brunt of these storms. After tearing through Florida, these powerful storms spawned numerous tornadoes and dumped massive amounts of rain.

A Gigantic Field Test

From my perspective, these storms represented a gigantic field test for garage doors. This test was so important because, after hurricane Andrew in 1992, garage doors were often blamed for being a weak link in the building envelope. This ultimately led to higher wind load ratings for garage doors by the South Florida Building Code (SFBC), the Florida Building Code (FBC), and the International Building Codes (IBC).

No manufacturer ever wants anyone to go through a hurricane or disaster, but bad things do happen. When they do, we have to learn from them. This is why Joe Hetzel, DASMA technical director, myself, and many other garage door industry representatives went to Florida to investigate garage door damage.

To sell garage doors in wind-prone areas, manufacturers must provide proof that their product meets the wind requirements for the area. To do this, we test garage doors with a standardized test method such as ANSI/DASMA 108. It is a method of simulating wind by creating uniform pressure on the garage door.

After personally testing hundreds of garage doors by this standard, I have constantly wondered how these doors would do in a real storm. The test standard is very good at simulating wind pressure. However, test conditions and hurricane conditions are not the same.

Nature’s Awesome Power

Ten days after Hurricane Charley made landfall, I went to the Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte area with two other Raynor representatives to see how garage doors performed. Inspecting doors for three full days, we naturally focused on how Raynor doors performed, but we also inspected many other doors.

We quickly witnessed what nature’s awesome power can do to a landscape. The amount of debris was overwhelming. Tree branches, power lines, and building materials were thrown everywhere. Cleanup will likely take months, and rebuilding damaged or destroyed structures may take years.

When we focused on the building envelope, it was very easy to identify homes that had been built to the new requirements of the building code. We saw newer homes with little or no visible damage, while older homes next door or across the street suffered major damage.

Good News for Garage Doors

This was also true with garage doors. We saw many doors that were installed prior to the new requirements of the code. These doors were heavily damaged, destroyed, or missing from the opening. The good news is that doors built and installed per the current building code performed much better.

Many newer doors withstood the 145 mph sustained winds and higher gusts of Hurricane Charley. This is impressive because the FBC basic wind speed map for this area is 120-130 mph. I personally witnessed many success stories of how garage doors stood up to these fierce winds. And I continue to hear similar stories from distributors, installers, and other manufacturers.

Last Door Standing

In Punta Gorda, we inspected a devastated area about a half mile from the coast. One new home was standing in the midst of an area that looked like a war zone. Everything around this home was destroyed.

The house was a modular home with a 2-car attached garage. The neighborhood was full of the same kind of homes. Immediately behind the home was a trailer park that was completely destroyed. Nothing was standing.

The homeowner, an older lady, let us come in and inspect the doors up close. She had just built the house and had started moving in only four days before the storm. She had two 16x7 Raynor doors, one in the front and one in the back, both installed with proper wind loading. Since she was still moving in when the storm hit, her garage was packed full of all her belongings.

Part of her roof was missing, but the garage was perfectly intact, and all the items in it were untouched. From the street, we could detect no door damage at all. But upon closer inspection, we noticed a slight crease on the exterior of one of the doors, probably caused by flexing in the wind.

The stickers on the doors indicated that they were built in July 2004. The storm hit on Aug. 13. These two doors were a powerful example of the importance of installing doors that meet the building code.

Insight from Inland

South of Orlando, well inland, we visited a Ford dealership with 12 commercial sectional doors. Two of the doors were ours, and each was installed with an 8" truss. Of the 12 doors, these two were the only ones that survived the storm.

The guys at the dealership welcomed us very kindly. After inspecting the damage, we learned that the other doors were not wind loaded.

In all our inspections, we also found some of our doors that failed, but in nearly every case, they were older doors and had not been properly wind loaded. This again reinforced the lesson of installing doors according to the building code.

As an engineer who has spent the last decade designing doors for strong winds, I was very pleased to see that all our work is paying off. Many people have devoted much time and effort to design, manufacture, sell, and install wind-loaded doors. It’s very good to know that we are helping to protect the property of thousands of people from damage that can run into the thousands of dollars.

DASMA Leadership

The DASMA technical committees have led the way in monitoring the building codes as they relate to the garage door industry. Today, wind load requirements across the country are becoming more and more recognized and enforced.

I’ve been involved with DASMA for many years now, and DASMA’s work has helped all manufacturers stay on the cutting edge of this important issue. DASMA has produced many Technical Data Sheets about wind loading, and they are freely available at www.dasma.com. Thanks to all of DASMA’s work, our industry is prepared to meet the wind load demands of building codes throughout the nation.