Hurricanes: Protect Your Roof

Roofs — particularly roofs on older homes that don’t meet the latest building codes — are especially susceptible to wind damage and water infiltration. There are steps you can take to protect your roof from hurricanes. Not only can this effort pay off during a hurricane, but the improvements might even lower your homeowners insurance premiums.

Inspect Your Roof Before a Hurricane Hits

Your roof takes the brunt of a hurricane, which can pack winds in excess of 155 mph. These winds exert an uplift effect that can pull off roof shingles, tiles, or even the underlying roof deck. A well-maintained roof is better able to resist high winds.

Set aside one day a year to inspect your roof. Begin by checking the surface of your roof, either on the roof itself or from the ground with binoculars. If heights aren’t your thing, you can hire a professional roof inspector for about $175.

Look for curled, loose, or missing shingles or roof tiles. Pay particular attention to the edges of the roof. Also check the spacing of the nails that hold the shingles and underlying roof deck onto your houses. Nails should be approximately four inches apart along edges. Nails, not staples, should be used to secure the roof deck to the rafters.

If you have access to your attic, inspect the roof from the inside as well. Look for points of light coming through the roof. This can reveal gaps that can let in wind and water. Examine the rafters or trusses for protruding nail tips, which indicate that the plywood roof deck might not be properly secured.

Take Steps to Minimize Wind Damage

There are some relatively simple and inexpensive ways you can make your roof less susceptible to wind damage:

  • Replace missing or mis-hammered nails in your shingles or at the points that the roof deck connects to the rafters.
  • Apply roofing cement to the edges of shingles, using a caulking gun.
  • Apply a bead of construction adhesive along each side of rafters or trusses at the points they connect to the roof deck.

A roofing contractor may also be able install metal “hurricane” clips that connect the roof to the home’s walls from the inside. This added structural support makes it less likely that your roof will be ripped off by high winds. Clips are inexpensive but difficult to retrofit in an existing home because space to work is usually limited.

The design of gable roofs — inverted V-shaped roofs that have vertical walls on each end — makes them especially vulnerable to wind. Wooden braces that attach to the rafters at the ends of gable roofs increase stability. You may also want to seal the vents at the ends of a gable roof when a hurricane is approaching to keep pressure from building up inside the home. A hip roof that’s shaped like a pyramid better resists hurricane winds.

Save Money on Hurricane Insurance

Many insurers offer discounts on hurricane insurance to homeowners who’ve taken steps to minimize storm damage. Qualifying hurricane-mitigation improvements can range from metal storm shutters to specialized roof attachments. Savings can climb into the thousands of dollars annually. Ask your agent.

Take Florida, the state most vulnerable to hurricanes. In Miami-Dade County, for example, the annual insurance premium on an older home insured for $150,000 runs between $3,000-$8,000, assuming no hurricane-mitigation improvements. With mitigation improvements, the same home would cost $1,000-$3,500 to insure.

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These articles are not intended to give legal or tax advice, and you should consult your attorney or financial advisor for additional information.

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