High Winds Can Cause More Havoc Than You Think. Is Your House Ready?

7/21/2020

As a 12-year-old living in south Louisiana, Ian Giammanco first witnessed the brutal force of high winds shredding structures and the surrounding landscape at 100-plus miles per hour. “It was Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that really sparked my career,” recalls Giammanco, lead research meteorologist for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). Since then, he has experienced 15 landfall hurricanes and countless severe thunderstorms as a researcher. “I’ve seen flying plywood get embedded in the side of buildings. Very unnerving.”

As a 12-year-old living in south Louisiana, Ian Giammanco first witnessed the brutal force of high winds shredding structures and the surrounding landscape at 100-plus miles per hour.

“It was Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that really sparked my career,” recalls Giammanco, lead research meteorologist for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).

Since then, he has experienced 15 landfall hurricanes and countless severe thunderstorms as a researcher.

“I’ve seen flying plywood get embedded in the side of buildings. Very unnerving.”

While Giammanco cut his teeth on a coastal hurricane, he notes no region is immune from damaging winds. “East of the Rockies, you get thunderstorms — which can occur anytime — and tornadoes in the spring and summer. In the Northwest, you get low-pressure systems; that means sustained high winds from fall until early spring.”

To help homeowners prepare for the brunt of powerful winds, IBHS researchers and engineers subject homes to extreme weather, from wind to hail. Out of this testing, IBHS recommends best building practices for homeowners.

"Mother Nature makes a mess whenever and wherever she wants."

— Anne Cope, senior vice president of research and engineering at IBHS

“Mother Nature makes a mess whenever and wherever she wants,” says Anne Cope, senior vice president of research and engineering at IBHS. She recommends homeowners focus on three key areas on the property to help prepare a home for high winds. 

The Roof

Although many roofs are rated to withstand winds of 90 mph, damage can begin around 50 mph — and about 10,000 thunderstorms hit the U.S. each year with winds of 58 mph or above, with 100-mph bursts common.[1] Tornados are considered minor at 72 mph and rise from there to catastrophic. And reports of severe wind events are rising, Giammanco says.

Is Your Roof Prepared for the Worst?

You don’t need to be a professional contractor to spot common signs that a roof might be vulnerable to wind damage, says Cope. A few things can easily be seen from the ground — though sometimes a leak is the first tipoff that there’s a problem.

In 2018, there were 1,124 confirmed tornadoes in the U S .

One of the most important elements of a strong roof may not be as easy to see, Giammanco says. It’s the adhesive that holds down the visible part of the shingles — the tabs, in roofer speak. A shingle that’s lifting in the wind means the adhesive isn’t doing its job anymore. And that means trouble, he says.

“It’s progressive. Once one shingle starts lifting, others will too, and then in a severe thunderstorm or tornado those shingles will start to peel off,” says Giammanco. “That’s the main vulnerability.”

When a roof is installed, the adhesive needs to reach 140 degrees to activate — and that depends on heat from the sun, he explains. A friend who recently put a new roof on his home — in winter, in Colorado — had to replace the whole thing when the adhesive failed to activate because it was too cold. His best advice:

"If you’re reroofing, do it in the warm months. We tell folks, 'Don’t do it in winter.'"

— Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS)

A homeowner might be able to spot lifting shingles from the ground during high winds, but Giammanco recommends getting a roofer to check — and to re-seal where the adhesive has failed. “It’s a lot cheaper than a new roof,” he says.

If any problems are apparent, Cope has this advice: “Take care of them immediately, before a high-wind event occurs.” Contractors are usually booked solid following severe weather, and it could take months to get the repairs scheduled after incurring damage./p>

MEET THE NAIL THAT CAN HELP KEEP ROOFS INTACT.

It’s called an 8d ring shank nail. In testing, researchers at IBHS found that common 8d nails and staples — the type allowed in older building codes — are inadequate to keep a roof from lifting up in high winds.

If you’re considering replacing a roof, IBHS recommends installing 2 3/8” 8d ring shank nails (actual size shown). The ridged rings offer better holding power because wood fills the spaces between the rings and also provides friction to help prevent the nail from backing out over time.

If a roof inspector finds common 8d nails or staples on a roof, ring shank nails should be added. According to I B H S, the cost of re-nailing the roof deck costs a few hundred dollars on a typical, 2,000-square-foot roof.

If your roof needs to be repaired or replaced, I B H S and the National Roofing Contractors Association recommend the usual care in vetting and selecting a contractor:

  • Verify license and liability insurance coverage.
  • Don’t just check the references provided by the company; comb municipal permit files for previous clients and check with them.
  • Get all the details — materials, work to be done, payment schedule and start and end dates — in writing.
  • Research the kind of shingles a roofer proposes using, and make sure you understand the warranty.
  • Snap a selfie with your roofer and ask for cell phone pictures of your roof after their inspection and upon completion of the work.

 

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