Hurricane Irma has come and gone. Now what?
In a special episode of the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast, host Paul Beers outlines next steps for listeners faced with the devastation the powerful hurricane left behind.
Paul brings his own substantial professional expertise to the fore, but he also speaks as a resident of Florida and a homeowner who practices what he preaches about building structures to hurricane-resistant standards.
Assessing the Damage
Paul advises checking the building from the top down – that is, starting with the roof. But safety comes first – many deaths and serious injuries occur post-hurricane, when residents are in assessment and recovery mode. Keep in mind that wind hurricane insurance should cover professional assessment services.
Look for missing or broken tiles or shingles, seams coming apart on metal roofing and damage around penetrations, such as chimneys or pipe vents – flat roofs often have multiple penetrations for mechanical equipment. A flat roof is also subject to wind uplift – high winds may start to pull it off the building. Bubbles and buckles are visible indicators that wind uplift has impacted the flat roof. A “squishy” roof indicates that moisture has infiltrated through the roof and into the insulation.
While damage to cladding is obvious, more subtle problems with exterior walls may show up as cracks and voids caused by flying debris, and walls not appearing straight.
Even when a structure appears to have survived the hurricane intact, the wind may have stressed components of the building, weakening its ability to withstand the next storm. This is often the case with windows and doors, which may appear fine but actually have separated from framing members. Frames may be bent, and attachments may no longer be secure.
Damaged hardware may affect the way a window or door operates, allowing moisture and wind to infiltrate the structure, even during minor storms. Other parts of the structure, including balconies, amenity decks and even planters, also present opportunities for moisture entry.
During the assessment, take lots of photographs and videos to help with insurance claims, and then take steps to mitigate the effects, such as covering areas of water entry with a tarp and boarding up window openings. Again, safety is paramount, so it is advisable to hire qualified, licensed and certified professionals.
Keep all the receipts related to expenditures incurred because of the storm, including assessment and repairs, recovery, and temporary housing, as insurance companies usually reimburse costs based on receipts.
If clients feel their insurance company is not treating them fairly, an attorney or public adjuster can be retained to resolve the issues. Attorneys that specialize in insurance claims are listed at the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) website.
Paul mostly confines his remarks to wind-related damage, but he notes that flood insurance for damage caused by rising water needs to be purchased separately from wind or homeowners’ insurance. The same steps for documenting damage with photos and mitigating it apply to flood insurance claims.
Hurricane Irma precipitated mass evacuations in the state of Florida, an enormous and stressful upheaval in the lives of tens of thousands of residents. But evacuation is unnecessary when the structure is built to the new hurricane-resistant code.
That was Paul Beer’s experience. Paul upgraded his own home two years ago, and that allowed him to stay in place for Hurricane Irma and gave him peace of mind. He acknowledges that upgrading to the new code is expensive, but hurricanes are a reality in Florida and the Caribbean islands – it’s not a matter of if, but when, the next one hits.
Visit the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast to hear Paul’s entire talk about dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. You’ll also find valuable resources and tips about recovering from hurricanes at the GCI Consultants website.
Good luck and stay safe out there.