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      /  Roofs   /  How to Hurricane-Proof Your Roof
    A roof damaged by a hurricane.

    How to Hurricane-Proof Your Roof

    As a property owner in New Orleans, you know that hurricanes are a fact of life. Every year, the Gulf Coast is threatened by these powerful storms, with their hurricane force winds, heavy rains, and potential for severe damage. And one of the most vulnerable areas of your home during a hurricane is your roof.

    That’s why learning how to hurricane-proof your roof is of the utmost importance. By taking some key steps to strengthen and protect your roof before hurricane season begins, you can dramatically improve your home’s resilience to high hurricane winds and driving rain. And while there is no way to 100% completely protect your roof from damage during a hurricane, in this article, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to get your roof as ready as possible.


    Why Hurricane-Proofing Your Roof is Essential

    Your roof is your home’s first line of defense against the elements, and it’s especially vulnerable during a hurricane. Hurricane force winds can reach speeds of over 150 mph, enough to tear off shingles, lift roof decking, and even detach the roof entirely from the house. This opens up your home to devastating water infiltration, leading to major damage to your structure and belongings.

    Moreover, if your roof is damaged during a hurricane, you may find yourself facing a complicated insurance claim process. Insurance policies often have specific provisions related to hurricane damage, and coverage may be limited if you haven’t taken prescribed steps to protect your property.

    By hurricane-proofing your roof, you’re not only protecting your home and possessions, but also potentially saving yourself from a major financial headache down the road. A little preparation now can make a world of difference when the next big storm hits.


    Inspect Your Roof Before Hurricane Season

    The first step in hurricane-proofing your roof is to conduct a thorough inspection before storm season begins. This is essential for identifying any existing damage or vulnerabilities that could be exacerbated by high winds and heavy rains.

    Start by visually inspecting your roof from the ground. Look for any missing, cracked, or curled shingles. Check the flashing around chimneys, vents, and other protrusions to ensure it’s not rusted, loose, or peeling up. If you have access to your attic, check for any signs of leaks or water stains, which could indicate a breach in your roof’s integrity.

    If you’re not confident in your ability to assess your roof’s condition, consider hiring a professional roofing contractor to conduct the inspection. They’ll have the expertise to spot potential issues and recommend necessary repairs.

    Any problems identified during the inspection should be addressed promptly, before hurricane season ramps up. Replacing loose shingles, securing flashing, and sealing any cracks or gaps will go a long way in strengthening your roof to withstand the rigors of a major storm.


    Install Hurricane Straps and Ties

    One of the most effective ways to hurricane-proof your roof is to install hurricane straps and ties. These are strong metal connectors that help to securely fasten your roof to your home’s walls and foundation. They provide an extra layer of protection against the uplift forces of high winds, which can literally lift your roof off your house.

    Hurricane straps are typically installed across the rafters or trusses of your roof, and then secured to the top plate of your wall framing. They should be placed at each rafter or truss end, and spaced consistently across the length of your roof.

    Hurricane ties, on the other hand, are used to connect the tops of your walls to the bottom edges of your rafters or trusses. They help to further strengthen the connection between your walls and roof, creating a continuous load path that anchors your roof to your home’s foundation.

    While hurricane roof straps and ties can be installed as a retrofit, they’re most effective when incorporated during the construction of a new roof or a full re-roofing project. If you’re considering a roof replacement, be sure to discuss the inclusion of hurricane straps and ties with your roofing contractor.


    Using Roofing Cement for Added Hurricane Protection

    One additional step you can take to hurricane-proof your roof is to use roofing cement. Roofing or roof cement is a thick, adhesive material that can help seal and waterproof your roof, providing an extra layer of protection against high winds and heavy rains.

    Roof cement is typically made from a combination of asphalt, mineral spirits, and other additives. It comes in a semi-solid form and can be applied using a trowel or caulking gun. When applied properly, it forms a strong, flexible bond that can help keep your roof components in place and prevent water infiltration.

    Here are a few ways you can use roofing cement to hurricane-proof your roof:

    1. Seal exposed nails: Apply a dab of roofing cement over each exposed roofing nail to prevent water from seeping in around the nail holes.

    2. Reinforce flashing: Use roofing cement to seal around the edges of your roof flashing, especially around chimneys, vents, and other protrusions. This can help prevent the flashing from lifting or separating during high winds.

    3. Patch small cracks and holes: If you notice any small cracks or holes in your roof decking or shingles, you can use roofing cement to fill and seal them. This can help prevent these minor issues from turning into major leaks during a hurricane.

    4. Secure loose shingles: If you have any loose or lifted shingles, you can apply a small amount of roofing cement underneath to help adhere them back down to the roof decking.

    When using roof cement, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions. Make sure the surface you’re applying the cement to is clean, dry, and free of debris. Use a caulking gun or trowel to apply the cement in a thick, even bead, and smooth it out with a putty knife if necessary.

    It’s also a good idea to apply the roofing cement on a warm, dry day to ensure proper adhesion. Avoid applying it in extreme heat, as this can cause the cement to become too runny and less effective.

    While roofing cement can be a helpful tool in hurricane-proofing your roof, it’s not a substitute for proper roof maintenance and repair. If you have significant damage or wear to your roof, it’s best to have it assessed and repaired by a professional roofing contractor before applying any roofing cement.


    Upgrade to Impact-Resistant and Hurricane Proof Roofing Materials

    If your roof is nearing the end of its lifespan, or if you’re building a new home, consider upgrading to impact-resistant and hurricane proof roofing materials. These are specially designed to withstand the high winds and flying debris of a hurricane, providing superior protection for your home.

    One popular option is impact-resistant shingles. These shingles are typically made from a rubberized polymer material that allows them to flex and absorb impacts without cracking or breaking. Many impact-resistant shingles are also designed with a reinforced nail zone that helps to keep them securely attached to your roof deck, even in hurricane force winds.

    Metal roofing is another excellent choice for hurricane-prone areas. Metal roofs are extremely durable and can withstand wind gusts up to 140 mph or more, depending on the specific product and installation method. They’re also lightweight, which reduces the stress on your home’s structure during a storm.

    When selecting hurricane proof roofing materials, be sure to look for products that have been tested and rated for high wind and impact resistance. The Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 2218 Class 4 rating is the highest rating for impact resistance, while the UL 580 test measures a roof’s resistance to wind uplift.


    Reinforce the Roof Deck and Trusses

    Your roof’s strength isn’t just about the surface materials – it’s also about the underlying structure. Reinforcing your roof deck and trusses can significantly boost your roof’s resistance to high winds and the pressure changes that occur during a hurricane.

    One way to strengthen your roof deck is by applying a bead of construction adhesive along the intersection of the roof deck and the rafters or trusses. This helps the deck to resist being lifted or peeled off by strong winds. You can also consider re-nailing your roof deck with ring shank nails, which have superior holding power compared to smooth nails.

    For additional reinforcement, you can install bracing on the gable ends of your roof. Gable ends are particularly vulnerable to high winds because they’re not braced by an adjacent roof section. Installing 2×4 braces that run from the top center of the gable end to the bottom of the roof trusses can help to prevent the gable end from collapsing inward during a hurricane.

    If you’re unsure about how to properly reinforce your roof deck and trusses, consult with a licensed roofing contractor or structural engineer. They can assess your home’s specific needs and recommend the most appropriate roof reinforcements and techniques.


    Ensure Proper Roof Ventilation and Drainage

    Proper roof ventilation and drainage are critical for protecting your roof during a hurricane. Without adequate ventilation, heat and moisture can build up in your attic, leading to damage to your roof decking and rafters. And if your drainage system is clogged or inadequate, heavy rains can pool on your roof, increasing the risk of leaks and structural damage.

    To ensure proper ventilation, your roof should have a balance of intake vents (usually soffit vents) and exhaust vents (ridge vents or gable vents). This allows for a continuous flow of air through your attic, which helps to regulate temperature and moisture levels. A general rule of thumb is to have 1 square foot of ventilation for every 300 square feet of attic space.

    It’s also important to keep your vents clear of debris. Regularly check your soffit vents to ensure they’re not clogged with insulation, dirt, or animal nests. And if you have gable vents, consider installing vent covers that allow for ventilation but prevent wind-driven rain from entering your attic.

    For proper drainage, your roof should have a slope of at least 1/4 inch per foot to allow water to run off. Gutters and downspouts should be securely attached to your home and sized appropriately to handle heavy rainfall. They should also be kept clear of leaves, twigs, and other debris that could cause clogs and backups.

    If you live in an area prone to heavy rainfall, you may want to consider installing larger gutters and downspouts, or adding additional downspouts to help move water away from your home more quickly. You can also install gutter guards to help keep debris out of your gutters and ensure consistent water flow.


    Install Secondary Water Barriers

    Even with a well-maintained and hurricane-resistant roof, there’s always a chance that some water may penetrate during a severe storm. That’s where secondary water barriers come in. These are additional layers of protection installed underneath your roof covering that help to prevent water from entering your home if your primary roof fails.

    One common type of secondary water barrier is a self-adhering membrane, often referred to as an “ice and water shield.” This is a rubberized asphalt roofing material that sticks directly to your roof deck, creating a watertight seal around nails, vents, and other penetrations. It’s typically installed along the eaves, valleys, and around chimneys and other protrusions, areas that are particularly vulnerable to water intrusion.

    Another option is a synthetic underlayment. This is a tear-resistant, water-resistant material that’s installed over your entire roof deck before the final roof covering is applied. It provides an extra layer of protection against water infiltration, and can also help to prevent wind-driven rain from entering through gaps or cracks in your roof decking.

    When installing secondary water barriers, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Proper installation is key to their effectiveness. If you’re not comfortable tackling this project yourself, hire a professional roofing contractor who has experience with these products.


    Protect Windows, Doors and Openings

    While your roof is your home’s primary defense against hurricanes and tropical storms, your windows, doors, and other openings are also potential entry points for high winds and water. Protecting these areas is an essential part of hurricane-proofing your home.

    For windows, the most effective protection is storm shutters. These can be made of metal, polycarbonate, or plywood, and are installed over your windows before a storm hits. They help to prevent flying debris from breaking your windows, and also provide an additional barrier against wind and rain.

    If you don’t have storm shutters, you can board up your windows with plywood as a temporary measure. The plywood should be at least 5/8 inch thick and secured with heavy-duty screws or lag bolts.

    For doors, the main concern is the garage door, which is often the largest and weakest opening in a home. Consider upgrading to a reinforced, hurricane-resistant garage door. These are designed to withstand high winds and impact from flying debris.

    For additional protection, you can brace your garage door from the inside with vertical 2x4s, anchored to the floor and ceiling. And don’t forget about your entry doors – make sure they have a minimum of three hinges and a deadbolt lock with at least a one-inch throw length.

    Finally, seal any cracks or gaps around windows, doors, and other openings with caulk or weatherstripping. Even small openings can allow wind and water to enter your home, so a thorough sealing is important.


    Secure Outdoor Items and Trim Landscaping

    During a hurricane, high winds can turn outdoor items and landscaping debris into dangerous projectiles. These can damage your roof, break windows, and cause other serious harm to your property. That’s why it’s crucial to secure these potential hazards before a storm arrives.

    Start by bringing in any outdoor and lawn furniture, decorations, or play equipment that could be easily lifted by the wind. This includes things like patio umbrellas, chairs, tables, toys, and garden ornaments. If you have items that are too large to bring inside, like a grill or a shed, make sure they are securely anchored to the ground.

    Next, trim any dead, damaged, or overhanging branches from the trees around your home. These are the most likely to break off in high winds and cause damage. If you have any trees that are diseased, unstable, or too close to your house, consider having them removed before hurricane season starts.

    Also, make sure to clear your yard of any loose items that could become projectiles, such as sticks, stones, or construction materials. Secure any loose rain gutters, downspouts, or shutters. And if you have a fence, check that it is firmly anchored and in good repair.

    If a storm is imminent and you haven’t had a chance to trim your landscaping, you can mitigate potential damage by tying down larger shrubs and small trees. Use soft rope or bungee cords, and avoid using anything that could cut into the bark during high winds.

    Remember, taking the time to secure your outdoor items and maintain your landscaping not only protects your property, but also helps to keep your neighbors and community safe during a hurricane.


    Have an Emergency Plan and Supplies

    While hurricane-proofing your roof and home is essential, it’s equally important to have a personal emergency plan in place. This ensures that you and your family know what to do and have what you need to stay safe if a hurricane strikes.

    Start by creating an emergency kit with essential supplies. This should include things like:

    – Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days)

    – Non-perishable food (enough for at least three days)

    – Manual can opener

    – Battery-powered or hand crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio if possible)

    – Flashlight and extra batteries

    – First aid kit

    – Whistle (to signal for help)

    – Dust mask

    – Plastic sheeting and duct tape (for shelter)

    – Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)

    – Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)

    – Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

    In addition to your emergency kit, make sure you have important documents (like insurance policies, identification, and bank records) in a waterproof, portable container.

    Next, develop a communication plan with your family. This should include where you will meet and how you will get in touch with each other if separated. It’s a good idea to designate an out-of-area contact who can help coordinate communication.

    Finally, stay informed about the storm’s progress and heed any official evacuation orders. Know your evacuation zone and route, and have a plan for where you will go if you need to leave your home.

    Remember, while it’s important to protect your property, your personal safety and the safety of your loved ones should always be the top priority during a hurricane.


    Review Your Property Insurance and Consider Adding Roof Coverage

    As you’re hurricane-proofing your roof, it’s also a good time to review your property insurance policy. Make sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not, especially when it comes to hurricane damage.

    Standard homeowners insurance policies typically cover roof damage caused by fire, hail, and high winds. However, coverage for hurricane-related damage can vary depending on your policy and where you live. In some hurricane-prone areas, you may need to purchase a separate windstorm or hurricane policy to get adequate coverage for your roof.

    It’s also important to note that most homeowners insurance policies have a separate deductible for hurricane damage, which is often a percentage of your home’s insured value. This means you’ll need to pay more out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in.

    If you’re concerned about the potential cost of repairing or replacing your roof after a hurricane, you may want to consider adding roof coverage to your property insurance policy. This type of coverage provides additional protection specifically for your roof, often with a lower deductible than your standard policy.

    When adding roof coverage, you typically have two options:

    1. Replacement Cost Coverage: This covers the cost of repairing or replacing your roof with similar materials, without factoring in depreciation.

    2. Actual Cash Value Coverage: This covers the cost of repairing or replacing your roof, minus any depreciation based on the age and condition of your roof.

    Before making any changes to your insurance policy, it’s a good idea to talk with your insurance agent. They can help you understand your current coverage, assess your risk, and determine if additional roof coverage makes sense for your situation.

    Remember, even the most hurricane-proof roof can suffer damage in a severe storm. Having the right insurance coverage can provide financial protection and peace of mind, helping you to weather the storm and recover more quickly if damage does occur.


    Peace of Mind Starts at the Top

    Hurricane-proofing your roof is a vital step in preparing your home for the intense winds and heavy rains that hurricanes and tropical storms can bring. By taking proactive measures like inspecting your roof, installing hurricane straps and ties, upgrading to impact-resistant materials, reinforcing your roof deck and trusses, ensuring proper ventilation and drainage, installing secondary water barriers, protecting openings, securing outdoor items, and having an emergency plan, you can significantly reduce the potential for damage.

    Remember, no roof is completely hurricane-proof, but these steps can go a long way in minimizing the impact of a storm. The peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve done everything you can to prepare is invaluable.

    Don’t wait until a storm is on the horizon to start preparing. Begin assessing and strengthening your roof now, before the next hurricane season begins. If you’re unsure about any aspect of hurricane-proofing your roof, don’t hesitate to consult with a professional roofing contractor. They can provide expert guidance and ensure that your roof is ready to weather any storm.

    By being proactive and prepared, you can face the next hurricane season with confidence, knowing that you’ve taken the necessary steps to protect your home, your belongings, and most importantly, your family.