Preparing for Hurricanes

Hurricane season officially began on June 1, and although those storms directly affect only a portion of the United States, building and roof preparation lessons can be applied to any areas of the country where severe weather can pop up.

The roof is the most important building component when it comes to weather protection and the most vulnerable during a hurricane event. Proper precautions are recommended to limit damage. If you’re not able to conduct these preparations yourself, don’t hesitate to call in a commercial roofing professional or other construction expert in your area.

Here are a few important things to consider:

Exterior of the Building

Walk the perimeter of building to ensure that any unsecured objects cannot become airborne projectiles. This includes trash cans, signs, trees limbs, and loose building materials. Trees should have all dead or broken branches removed and should be trimmed away from the building to prevent possible fires.

Windows/Doors

Windows and doors should be inspected for leaks, insect damage and proper sealant. If windows and doors are not equipped with hurricane shutters, these can easily be fabricated from plywood. It’s a good idea to have the plywood pre-cut for fast installation in the event of an upcoming storm.

Perimeter of the Building

Roof edge details should be checked to ensure that they are tight fitting and properly sealed. Corners of the building are the most susceptible to wind damage and additional precautions may be necessary in these areas.

Drainage

All debris and loose materials should be removed from the roof. Leaf grates, if part of the roofing system, should be cleaned and secured in a manner that keeps them in place during high winds.

HVAC/Rooftop equipment/Other penetrations

Check all sealants on penetrations and terminations. All roof mounted equipment (HVAC units, satellite dishes, antennas, duct work, etc.) should be secured in a manner which will not allow it to be moved easily. If it can be moved by hand it could become displaced in a storm. All service panel doors should be inspected to ensure that they are properly fastened. Any missing fasteners should be replaced.

LEAVE!

If civil authorities tell you to evacuate, do it! Buildings and building components that are damaged or destroyed during a severe storm can be replaced. You can’t.

Roof Maintenance

Routine maintenance inspections of your roofing system should take place twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. The fall inspection of your roofing system is important to ensure that it is ready for the inclement weather of the winter months. The following are some areas that should be reviewed during the fall inspection.

  • Sealants
    • All edge terminations, pitch pans, stacks, and curbs should be inspected for proper adhesion and visible signs of cracking or wear.
  • Drainage
    • Drains must be kept free of debris such as bottles, sticks, and leaves. A proper-sized leaf grate will help prevent clogs. Commercial grade push brooms can be used to sweep leaves and other debris away from drainage paths: these materials should be removed from the roof. Additional inspections of the drains may be needed in areas with heavy foliage to keep the drains cleared throughout the year.
  • Parapet Walls
    • Parapets should be inspected for deteriorated coping, cracked or missing mortar joints, and any signs of deterioration. Always remember to practice safe inspection routines near any roof edge. Keep in mind that some roofing systems can be slippery due to frost, morning dew, rain, snow, etc.
  • Tie-Ins
    • Roof tie-ins should be inspected for proper adhesion between the roofing systems. The sealants used for completing the tie-in should be examined for cracks, splits, or gaps which could allow water infiltration.
  • HVAC
    • Rooftop units should be inspected for missing or unfastened panels and properly functioning condensate lines. These situations can produce moisture that is commonly and mistakenly believed to come from roof leaks, which can lead to unnecessary costs and aggravation.
  • Debris/Snow and Ice Removal
    • All debris that could lead to damage to the roofing system such as nails, screws, broken bottles, etc. should be removed from the roofing system. If at any time a shovel is needed for removing debris or snow, it is recommended that a plastic scoop shovel be utilized to minimize the risk of damage to the roof. A metal shovel or plastic with a metal edge, has sharp edges that can snag on plates/fasteners, seams, etc, and create a hole in roofing membranes. If removing ice from the roof, it is recommended that you use an ice melting product (such as salt) rather than chopping or trying to break up the ice, which could possibly damage the roof.