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Hurricanes are Coming! Have You Set Your Clients up For Success?

IKO Hurricane season guide
September 1, 2022 at 9:00 a.m.

By IKO.  

Educate your customers on how to protect their homes from hurricane season. 

Unfortunately, you can’t guarantee your customers a hurricane-proof roof. Even a roof with cutting-edge technology cannot fully defend against a hurricane. As a contractor, you know that homeowners depend on you to make sure that their roof can protect them from the elements, and part of that job is educating homeowners on ways they can protect and prepare their roofs for hurricane season.  

Research published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that hurricane winds are getting stronger, and hurricanes will begin to affect more people. While any given year might have more hurricanes than average or fewer, the overall trend is for hurricanes to cause more damage. That means it is more important than ever to inform homeowners on what they can do to protect their homes and ensure a hurricane-proof roof. Below are some practical steps you can encourage homeowners to take to ensure their roof can withstand the storm.  

How hurricanes impact roofing 

While some roofs survive major hurricanes intact, other roofs suffer severe damage. Some roof trusses even blow off the home entirely. Much of the difference in roof performance during a hurricane has to do with the construction of the building. Tell your homeowners that the major factors that determine whether or not their roof will blow off in a hurricane include: 

  • Where the home is situated. 

  • The strength of the structural connections in the building. 

  • The shape of the roof. 

  • Other architectural choices. 

Inform homeowners that hip roofs survive hurricanes better than gable roofs. The flat face of the gable catches wind, while the angle of a hip roof can better withstand the same pressure. In addition, low-slope roofs inherently experience higher wind loads and therefore perform worse in hurricanes than steep-slope roofs, according to research conducted by civil engineers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Specifically, this research found that roofs at a 7:12 pitch perform the best in high wind conditions. 

Roofs that are structurally sound and well-attached to the rest of the building may still suffer in hurricanes. The extreme wind forces often blow water at a structure horizontally. Instead of moving down from the sky, the water is directed across, hitting the roof from the side. This phenomenon is called wind-driven rain, and when it occurs during hurricanes, it can involve large amounts of water directed at a home for hours. It is a tough challenge to design materials and roofing systems that can resist this force. Any small gap in flashing, missing shingles or holes in the roof may let water into the home. Any piece of roofing material that catches the wind may be ripped off, creating a chain reaction that can strip the roof of shingles or underlayment. Then, the exposed decking can soak, which can create major leaks. 

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there are multiple layers of risk reduction a homeowner can take to protect their home. Following building codes is the first step. Following construction best practices is the second. Obtaining homeowners insurance policies and purchasing additional insurance to cover hurricanes and flooding when the homeowner’s insurance does not cover these perils, is third. With these three elements of risk reduction, the homeowner should have excellent protection during a hurricane. However, FEMA recognizes that there will always be residual risk during extreme events. 

What can a homeowner do to protect their roof in a hurricane? 

Share with homeowners that the key to protecting a roof in a hurricane is all about preparation. Unless they intend to do a major rebuild of their home, they can’t control the design of the home or the roof. Instead, factors for roof performance that are within the homeowner's control are about ensuring the roof they have will do the best job it can under the circumstances. 

1 - Encourage preseason roof inspection 

Remind homeowners that professional roofers are their roof’s first line of defense from hurricanes. Before hurricane season begins (this varies by year, but it is roughly May 15 for the Pacific and June 1 for the Atlantic), they should have a roofer inspect their roof. A roofer can spot potential problems, from bent flashing to missing shingles, which could make a roof more vulnerable to extreme winds. One of the most common issues is damage to the edge of the roof, including the fascia and soffit boards. Roofers will pay special attention to this area of the roof and ensure all is secure before hurricane season. 

Routine maintenance, such as cleaning gutters, downspouts and valleys, as well as trimming nearby tree limbs, can also help protect a roof from damage during storms. Remind homeowners to keep their contact information updated and available in case of an emergency roof issue after the storm. 

2 - Promote performance products 

Not all roofing materials and features are made equal. Help homeowners choose roofing products that offer limited wind warranties up to 130 mph (210 km/h). No shingle is impervious, but IKO has specifically designed performance shingles to better handle various environmental challenges, including high winds. Some shingle manufacturers, including IKO, suggest different installation practices for high-wind conditions.  

Underlayment choice can also impact roof performance. Ensure that the roof has at least the bare minimum amount of ice and water protector. Direct homeowners towards synthetic underlayments that offer better moisture protection than felt. Even if some shingles are blown off, the right underlayment can help reduce the amount of water that gets into a home. 

3 - Follow and enforce building codes 

Typically, a homeowner will only have to get their roof up to code with any changes to the building codes when they get a roof replacement or a repair of an area affected by the building code change. However, sometimes adopting the improvements laid out in the building codes before hurricane season can help offer a homeowner additional protection. 

For example, as of January 1, 2021, the Florida Building Code has changed several roof requirements, including adding a secondary water barrier and additional fastening. Changes to rules for soffits were also implemented to reduce the impact of high winds on this key area of the roof. These new regulations do not negate other building code requirements for a roof.  

Be ready to tell the homeowner, if it is in their best interest, to update their roof to meet any new building code requirements before a hurricane. 

4 - Offer information on hurricane ties 

Hurricane ties strengthen the connection between the roof truss and the home’s structural elements, preventing roof blow-off in high winds. Inform homeowners about the possibility of adding hurricane ties. If their home already has hurricane ties, make sure that they are inspected for corrosion and other damage during the preseason inspection. 

5 - Tell homeowners about the FORTIFIED™ program 

The FORTIFIED ™ program is a voluntary program run by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) with the goal of improving roof and home performance in hurricanes. By bringing their home up to the program’s standards, a homeowner can improve their roof’s performance in weather events. 

The program has requirements for roofing and other parts of the home beyond what most building codes require. These enhancements can help a roof and home withstand even Category 3 hurricanes. The program’s requirements are based on research from the IBHS. Standards include sealing the roof deck, using a thicker drip edge, and ensuring that starter shingles are fully adhered to the roof deck.  

As research has demonstrated, the most critical factor in shingle performance is the strength of the seal between the shingles. These measures are intended to bolster this connection.  

6 - Address roof repairs 

Tell your customers that it is smart to complete any roof repairs that they might have been putting off before the storm. Even small issues with the roof can lead to more serious damage during a hurricane. 

Roof vents are especially important to inspect and repair. They are crucial components of a roofing system, but they can become points of concern during hurricanes, particularly if they leak. Help homeowners choose hurricane-rated roof vents so they can prevent leaks and hurricane-related vulnerabilities. 

7 - Replace skylights 

Skylights are particularly vulnerable during hurricanes and any high-wind conditions. Manufacturers equip modern skylights with tempered glass or plastic, which means they do not leave dangerous shards behind if broken during a hurricane. Skylights are typically designed to resist wind, but they can still suffer damage in high winds and hurricanes. 

Tell your customers to consider replacing their current skylights with hurricane-resistant skylights. They are not hurricane proof, but they do have much higher wind-resistance properties than some other options on the market. 

If this is not an option, tell homeowners about the option to cover their skylight with a metal cage, plywood or a specifically designed skylight shutter.  

8 - Remind homeowners of roof documentation 

Make sure your customers take some “before” pictures of their roof for insurance and limited warranty claims; take overall pictures from multiple angles and some close-ups as well. As a roofer, you can help by taking photos of points of interest, like chimneys and skylights, from on top of the roof. Encourage homeowners to save these photos someplace safe. 

9 - Store potential projectiles 

Many of the loose objects a homeowner has on their property may become projectiles in hurricane conditions. Identify these objects that can potentially damage their roof, other parts of the home or their neighbor’s property and store them until hurricane season is over.  

10 - Verify home insurance 

Many homeowners might not know that, in the United States, most homeowner’s insurance policies will not cover flooding and may not cover other hurricane damage. Before they choose a policy, or at least before a hurricane, have them confirm with their insurance provider that they also have hurricane and flood protection policies in addition to their homeowner’s insurance policy. Also, tell homeowners to ensure that their coverage is large enough to provide for the whole cost of the roof replacement in the event a hurricane destroys it. 

Going above and beyond to protecting the roof from hurricanes 

As a contractor, you are a key resource for the homeowner and a first point of education for helping them further protect their home from hurricanes. Help them plan ahead and prepare for hurricane season, and remind them that should any damage happen you are ready to help. 

Learn more about IKO Industries in their RoofersCoffeeShop® Directory or visit www.iko.com. 

Original article source: IKO  

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