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Can a Brick House Protect You From Tornados?

Record Breaking Tornado

On the night of Dec. 10-11, 2021, an outbreak of powerful tornadoes tore through parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois, leaving wreckage over hundreds of miles. One F3 tornado was on the ground for more than 386 km traveling across 4 states. The death toll from this event is feared to exceed 100.

Can having a brick house protect you from tornados? If you’ve had a chance to look at some of the drone footage of Mayfield, Kentucky, hit hard in last weeks storm, the answer is clearly NO. It is obvious, when a tornado becomes that powerful (F3+) nothing, no building, can withstand such destructive winds! There are tornados, and then there are Tornados.

Record breaking F3 tornado is on the ground for 386 km.

A Level of Protection

At what level of turbulent wind does having a brick home give you an advantage? Tornados and hurricanes are given a rating based on wind speeds from EF1 to EF5. The below chart shows house damage expected at each level.

Severity km/hType of Damage to Expect
F0
105-137
“Minor” Damage: Shingles or parts of roofing pealed off, damage to eavestrough and siding, branches broken off trees, shallow rooted trees toppled.
F1
138-177
“Moderate” Damage: Significant roof damage, broken windows, door damage or lost, mobile homes overturned or severely damaged.
F2
178-217
“Considerable” Damage: Roofs torn off well built homes, homes shifted off their foundations, mobile homes completely destroyed, large trees snapped or uprooted, cars tossed several feet from position.
F3
218-266
“Severe” Damage: Entire levels of well constructed homes destroyed, significant damage to large buildings, homes with weak foundations are completely blown away, trees begin to lose their bark.
F4
267-322
“Extreme” Damage: Well constructed homes are leveled, cars are thrown significant distances, top story exterior walls of masonry buildings would likely collapse.
F5
323+
“Incredible” Damage: Well constructed homes swept away and missing, steel reenforced concrete structures critically damaged, high-rise buildings sustain severe structural damage, trees completely debarked, stripped of branches, and snapped.
Chart based on US National Weather Service study of 2011 tornado events

Can having a brick house protect you from tornados?

So, can having a brick house protect you from tornados? brick veneer homes provide some protection compared to wood or aluminum cladding up to and including F2 tornados. However, once winds exceed 136 km/h (F3 storm) the protection you get from having a brick home is insignificant and can’t be relied on. In a storm with winds higher than 166 km/h (F4 storm) not even buildings completely made of masonry and concrete are safe.

As global warming continues the type of weather experienced in the US mid-west will become more common, and tornado alley may even reach into Ontario. So far, we’ve been fortunate and have rarely experienced such extreme storms. During such events basements with strong foundations provide the best protection.

Is your home “well built”?

Interestingly, many of the National Weather Services damage assessments were based on “well built homes” or “Homes built to code.” How your home is constructed makes the biggest difference when it comes to standing up to bad weather. In Ontario, we have some of the worlds highest building standards. Masonry Nation Inc. always builds to or above code requirements. You can be confident if you use Masonry Nation for brick, stone, or concrete construction your home will be in that category of a “well built home!”