Opening Windows During Tornado To Relieve Pressure?

There is a belief that reemerges around tornado season most years about opening windows in your house during a tornado in order to protect them. While you may be scratching your head, let us examine the science behind this as well as whether or not this is a worthwhile practice.

Why Some Say To Open Your Windows

During weather conditions that are ripe for tornados, there are a lot of changes in barometric pressure. When this pressure happens quickly, the pressure inside of your house may not be equal to the pressure outside. There is a belief that this dramatic shift in pressure can cause your damage to your windows. Another school of thought says that this imbalance in pressure can even cause an upward pressure in your home, causing your roof to be more readily lifted off by storm-force winds.

Why You Shouldn’t

While it is true that there are changes in pressure during a storm, these changes in pressure do not merit the effort of opening your windows to relieve the pressure in your house.

Firstly, the pressure is not different enough to make any real difference in your home. The pressure isn’t strong enough to break modern glass windows alone.

Secondly, if your home was built in such a way that upward draft would pull the roof off of the house, a few open windows will not change this. This is more attributed to the load path of the construction of your home and less about the pressure levels in your house.

Another factor to consider is what you should be doing in the event of a tornado — seeking shelter. Not only is running around to open windows turning tornadic conditions a waste of time, but it is also bringing you closer to where you don’t want to be — anywhere near any windows. If you hear that a tornado may be approaching, your best bet is to immediately move to a safe space.

Whether or not your windows or roof will be damaged in a tornado will have nothing to do with whether or not you open windows. All you would be doing is putting yourself at risk of injury by being near windows in a storm.

If you fear that the load path of the construction of your home is inadequate to withstand a storm, you may consider speaking with a home building professional about building a home that is more storm resistant.

Best Construction Practices Against Severe Weather

We all know that there’s no such thing as a house that is “tornado-proof” outside of living in a bunker. However, if you’re building a house in tornado-prone places such as Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, or other Midwestern states, there some building practices to keep in mind to minimize the potential damage to your home.

The Last Building Standing

There was an architect out of Waco, Texas at the beginning of the 20th century who claimed that his buildings were tornado-proof. (This man, Roy E. Lane, happens to be the great-grandfather of his article’s author.) He designed what is now the ALICO Building located in Downtown Waco. Upon claiming that his building was tornado-proof, most people scoffed at the idea. After a while, a tornado swept through the center of Waco, wiping out most everything in its path…aside from the ALICO Building. To this day, the ALICO Building is the only remaining high-rise building in all of Waco, Texas.

Is this because the building was truly tornado-proof? We may never know. What we do know is that there are designs, building styles, and materials that may decrease storm-related damage to your home — many of which were involved in the building of the ALICO Building. Here are some that you may consider instituting in the construction of a new home.

Continuous Load Path Structures

We all know that a house can fall down, but did you also know that a house can fall up? When a pressure imbalance from a storm approaches a house, it can literally use this imbalance to lift the building’s roof from the rest of the structure. A house can also fall sideways, usually resulting in either from a strong side wind or an earthquake that puts intense sideways pressure on the supports of the house. A continuous load path is a construction style that seeks to remove weak points from a home’s structural supports. This makes homes more resistant against upward drafts, pressure imbalances, and lateral movement. When speaking with your home-building professional, ask if your home design and construction include a continuous load path to ensure the stability of your house.

The Use of Insulated Concrete Blocks

Where some traditional construction materials for homes may fail in the event of a tornado, insulated concrete blocks have proven quite strong — withstanding winds of over 200 mph. Concrete construction means fewer lateral shifts from high winds in comparison to steel or wood construction. On a side note, insulated concrete blocks are also to be tremendously energy efficient and can result in a reduction in utility costs.

The Importance of a Safe Zone

If you’re building a new home in Oklahoma, you should know which location in the house is the safest to occupy in the event of a tornado. For help identifying this, we’ve created another resource to help you. In order to determine this space, we recommend asking your home building professional. This experienced professional will know precisely which space is best suited for weathering a violent storm.

Tornado Shelter Options in Home Design & Construction

Spring is upon us in Oklahoma and with it is inclement weather. As you consider the construction of your new home in Oklahoma, you should weigh your tornado shelter options in case of emergency.

Preferred Tornado Shelter

According to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, in the event of a tornado, the best place to be in a house is as inward as possible and as low as possible. Ideally, this means in an enclosed basement. Due to rocky soil and high water tables, this isn’t possible for many Oklahoma neighborhoods. Still, there are preferred places to take cover in your home when a tornado strikes.

Find the Lowest Point in the Event of a Tornado

Pronounced structures that catch the most amount of wind will be the most impacted by tornadic activity — whether in catching the wind or flung debris. For this reason, you should seek shelter in the lowest point of your home. Remaining on an upper level can be extremely dangerous.

Find the Most Inward Point in the Event of a Tornado

As mentioned above, structures that are the most pronounced will bear the brunt of a storm surge. This included exterior walls of your home and windows. In order to remain safe, it is recommended to seek an inward room in your house not up against the exterior of the house or exterior windows. For many, this is an inside bathroom, closet, or pantry with no windows.

Tornado Shelter Options

If your neighborhood is at a high enough elevation, building an underground on your property may be an option. These shelters are frequently built to be accessed from within a garage or possibly in the yard. If building an underground shelter is not possible, there are also above-ground shelters that can installed within your home. These shelters are also usually installed within the garage. They are typically made of steel and bolted to the foundation of the house.

Building Your Tornado Shelter Plans Into Your Home Design

If you live in an area known to receive tornados from time to time, it is crucial to have your tornado safety plan in mind in the design stage of your home. Ideally, you should be able to point to an area on the plans to your home and identify it as where your family would seek shelter in the event of a tornado. If you have questions about which room would be the safest in the event of a tornado or severe storm, ask your home building professional.

While there is no need to panic, we must all remain vigilant in keeping our families safe from severe weather. It is much better to have a safe space in your home and never need it rather than need a safe space and not have it.

Designing a Home Made Easy With Higharc

Designing or even customizing a home by yourself used to be nearly impossible. In order to make the process easier and, dare we say, fun, Higharc uses a robust online 3D designer to make it possible.

Unless you’re in the hands of an experienced design-build home construction company, designing your dream home required quite the learning curve. Even if you had a general idea of what you wanted, knowing how much your design would cost would still remain a mystery. A new online 3D home design service called Higharc will be allowing users to customize the home of their dreams to begin planning to build.

So, how does it work?

Step 1: Sign up and make a profile. Upon signing up, you will be asked a variety of simple questions. What kind of square footage do you want? What do you like to use your home for? What kind of special features would you like?

Step 2: Selecting a style and budget. Taking your previous answers into consideration, you will be asked what style you prefer as well as home much you can spend. The system will keep these factors in mind going forward.

Step 3: Tweak your design. Once the main aspects of your home design are established, you can customize your creation.

Step 4: Making sure your home is financially realistic. One of the advantages Higharc has in comparison to many other virtual home builders is its ability to give you an estimate of home much your design would cost if built. This allows users to consider if that extra add-on is realistic or if it would put them over budget. Crunching the numbers has never been this simple.

As of the publishing of this article, Higharc is not yet functional. However, they are taking early signups for their service.


If you’d prefer to simply consult a home building specialist, the experienced professionals from Perry Hood Properties can provide a very similar custom home design and build experience.