Roof Systems, Hurricane Preparation & Recovery

(Released on March 2)
About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

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Chris: Welcome to today’s “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Chris Matthews, Vice President and Senior Consultant for GCI Consultants, and I’ll be your host for today’s podcast. My guest today is Derek Segal. Derek recently joined our GCI team as an experienced and sought-after roof consultant. Welcome, Derek.

Derek: Thanks for having me today, Chris.

Chris: Sure, glad to have you on board with GCI and on our podcast. Why don’t you fill in our listeners with a little bit about your background, Derek?

Derek: Thanks, Chris. Yes, career started more than 25 years ago in South Florida. I was president of a pretty prominent commercial roofing company in Fort Lauderdale for 13 years. Licensed, state licensed, and qualified for the company. In 2006, my role transitioned more to a roof consulting focus. I felt property owners needed an advocate for them to help them make better-educated decisions about the long-term care and management of their roofing systems.

After the 2004/5 hurricane seasons, there was a tremendous need for an expert that had some experience with, you know, storm-related damage and how to help these property owners accurately evaluate and present their damage to insurance companies and different industries to make sure that they got, you know, the money they needed to recover from these hurricanes. And so I already developed a keen eye for that forensic-type inspection. And that’s why I really wanted to come on board with GCI and, you know, help make a difference in the long run.

Chris: Great, and we’re sure glad to have you. And we’ve seen after Irma more widespread effects from a hurricane than Florida has experienced in many, many years, and seeing that, especially in your area, in the roofing. So following that landfall of Irma back in September of 2017, what are some of the steps an owner or manager could take regarding their roof and the effects of the storm?

Derek: Well, that’s a great question. And I think the one thing that comes to my mind is really that the preparation for any type of storm or any type of high wind event or abnormal condition is to start your preparation well before.

And, you know, what I mean by that is not an hour before or a week before, I mean months before, by having someone create a relationship with you that knows your roof, has the historical information about your roof, knows who the manufacturer is, knows if you have a warranty and what’s required for that warranty, and someone that can make sure that everything is tuned up and in good shape prior to a storm so that recovery or dealing with issues after the storm become much more simple.

So try to create a relationship with someone prior to a storm. Because, you know, I use the analogy of a doctor. The best time to go and see your doctor is before something happens. Why? Because that gives that doctor and you some type of relationship. And the worst time to look for an expert or somebody you can rely on is really after a storm event like Irma. Everybody’s running around trying to deal with chaos and everything after a storm, and really it is a stressful situation. And the best time to have that relationship and develop these ties to experts is prior to the event.

So, you know, here’s something I would do right before a storm, is have your roof checked, make sure everything’s tightened up, you know, equipment is secure, and perhaps even have a moisture test of your roof, if it’s a flat roof, every couple of years that you have a baseline condition. After the storm, call your expert out. Take as many photos as you can. And by the way, you should take photos before a storm as well. And have that independent expert get up on your roof and do a careful visual inspection. And perhaps if it’s a flat roof, again, do some basic moisture testing.

Because the fact that there’s no water pouring into the building shouldn’t be a reason for complacency or thinking that nothing happened on your roof. You have an obligation for your roof warranty, and also for your insurance company, to make sure that you protect your property. So, again, I want to stress, again, create these relationships before an event. Have your team in place ready to go so that the recovery from that storm becomes much easier and less stressful.

Chris: Sure. And we see that in a lot of areas of the building envelope in that some building owners, managers, are very diligent about maintenance and upkeep of the systems, and some feel like, you know, they were installed in the beginning and we’re never going to worry about them again. And in our experience, the people who stay on top of the systems and maintenance typically do a lot better when the storms or other severe weather events come.

So many folks are of the mindset that if there’s no leak after the storm or things look relatively normal, nothing’s necessary. What are your opinions about that mindset?

Derek: I would say if you don’t see a leak in the building, you should probably be more concerned than if you do see a leak. And what does that mean? Again, you know, out of sight is out of mind. Nobody wants to look at the roof. Everybody’s looking at landscaping, and what fell over, and what fences got damaged. But don’t be complacent.

A lot of time, especially if it’s a flat roof, the structure underneath the roof can actually hide a lot of defects. Some roof deck types will actually provide some waterproofing function that can hide or delay leaks into a building that could actually make things much worse for you. So the fact that there’s no leak does not mean you should not have that roof very carefully checked, again, by an expert trained in a post-storm effect on your type of roofing system and someone that can look under the hood to make sure that there’s nothing hidden or concealed that may come back and actually be much more difficult and more expensive to deal with later on.

Not to mention that it’s your obligation as a property owner to have your property checked and prevent any additional damage from happening. Because two years down the road if you get a leak and you finally call your insurance company, that may actually hurt you in the long run, because you do have that obligation to make sure that, you know, nothing untoward happened to your property, either visibly or hidden, that may make things much worse.

Chris: Sure. Yes, and I can speak from experience on the wall system work that I do that some of that hidden damage can be so much more severe, and especially if it’s allowed to continue over a long period of time.

Derek: Yeah, you may actually also have some biological growth that could happen under that roof, or in a wall, that could actually lead to health problems. So, again, you know, I can’t stress enough the fact that you need to have somebody experienced that can perhaps use some equipment to look under the hood and make sure that there’s no issues.

Chris: Sure, yes. Great advice. So when the storm comes and someone does do the right thing, does contact, hopefully, you and GCI to come out and do an inspection, what’s that going to involve?

Derek: Again, I think, first of all, depending on how proactive you’ve been prior to the storm will kind of determine how easy or how simple, you know, the after-effects will be. If you have a relationship with GCI or some other professional expert that already is intimate with your property, knows who the manufacturer of the system is or was, knows how your roof is attached, and knows what maintenance issues you’ve had prior to the storm, knows what roof equipment you have up on that roof, will make things much easier.

So let’s look at it from that perspective first. If I’m that expert and I’ve already been on your roof, I know exactly what to look for, how to get up onto the roof, where perhaps the more critical areas of damage are. And damage can be twofold. There’s what’s called direct damage, which is actual lifting up of the roof or on a sloped tile roof tiles that are missing or tiles that are broken. So direct damage is actual direct impact that your roof sustained.

And then the second type of damage that, you know, we need to be concerned about is what’s called indirect damage, and that’s where flying debris may have rolled or caused equipment to fall over, or some other consequential damage might have occurred. That’s what’s called an indirect damage.

So step one is call your expert that hopefully you already have that relationship with. That will also put you at the top of the list, because, keep in mind, things are so busy after a storm. Get that expert out there as soon as possible. Once we get up onto the roof, what we would do is focus on the more susceptible areas of a roof, which are…typically on a flat roof it would be the corners or the edges of the roof. We would inspect those very carefully to make sure that there’s been no loss of attachment of the edges of the roof. And then we would also check to see sometimes that the corners actually lift up and air gets up underneath the roof. We would check for that.

And on a tile roof, I would say the most obvious things are tiles that have flown off the roof, tiles that are broken. And some of the other things we would look for would also be if your tiles are screwed down or mechanically attached or nailed. These tiles can crack in the corners, because what happens in the high wind is that they lift up, and then they come crashing down when the wind subsides, and they actually contact with one another and actually break in the corners.

So we would get up on the roof. We would perhaps do that thorough visual inspection. If on a flat roof, we would, again, do some moisture testing to make sure there’s no hidden moisture underneath the roof. And then based on what we find, we would either come off the roof and say, “Mr. Property Owner, you can feel safe. Your roof’s in good shape,” and that will give the owner peace of mind. Or we can identify some issues that perhaps need some more careful attention, and then recommend some other testing or inspections that need to be done, and actually hold their hand all the way through the process. So that’s kind of what we would do, you know, from the time after the storm to kind of when the next phase may be required.

Chris: Okay. When you talked about some of the types of damage which may be visible, tile damage, cracking, damage to a flat roof, are there some other examples of visible or hidden damage that may have happened during the recent hurricane?

Derek: Yeah. I mean, you know, a lot of time what can happen is flat roofing systems are adhered either mechanically or with some type of adhesive down to the underlying materials, which could be an insulation board or the structural deck. Now when air gets up underneath the roof, it’ll lift the corner, which will still stay lifted, but the actual center or the field of the roof will set back down as if everything is fine.

And something we really look for is what’s called wind uplift. And oftentimes, you won’t even notice that the roof is actually no longer properly attached. And there are some tests that we can perform called a wind uplift test where we use a device to actually determine how securely the roof is attached to make sure that there’s been no delamination or deflection of that roofing material that could, you know, be detrimental to the building later on.

Some of the other damage we’ve seen that may be hidden underneath some roof tiles is that these nails or screws, when the front of the tile deflects or lifts up, it’ll actually torque the nail up. And when the tile sets back down, that nail, which is concealed under the tile above it, is now not seated properly. And so this may not lead to massive leakage into the building. But what’ll happen over time is water will now be able to work its way in around all these little nail holes that you can’t really see. And by the time we catch this a year or two later, half of your structural decking may have actually rotted.

So it’s really something that you should make certain you have a relationship with someone that has extensive training, especially in high wind zone areas, that knows where to look, how to inspect it, and also, again, I can’t stress enough, someone with whom you have a relationship with prior to the event.

Chris: So in this tile situation that you’re describing, the storm comes, lifts the tile. It’s almost prying the nail out of position like you would with a claw hammer removing a nail. And then so are you saying then the tiles could just lay right back down and look like there was no problem at all?

Derek: Absolutely. In fact, they will. They will lay back down. The only thing that’s now changed is that, once we actually get up underneath the course of tile that’s above the tile that’s had the problem, we’ll be able to actually find where that nail has now backed out or is no longer seated properly in that hole within the tile. And these little holes now are obviously passages for moisture to continue to leak into the building that may be unnoticed for years.

And when that next storm comes along, I mean, I guess you can kind of imagine what’s going to happen is all these tiles are now going to fly off the roof. Which if you didn’t locate this damage in the prior storm and then an insurance expert comes out, they may determine that this may have, in fact, happened years before, and you may have a big problem.

So even if you think there’s no damage to your roof, you need that expert out there to make sure you don’t have damage. And if you do have damage, that he notifies you to let your insurance company know so that you protect your right and you make sure that you can recover financially from these very traumatic events.

Chris: Sure. And that one hits home for a lot of people. We have a lot of tile roofs in Florida, for sure.

Derek: Correct.

Chris: Well, so, obviously, buildings with tile roofs. But what are some other building types that may be more likely to have damage?

Derek: Well, here’s the thing. The most critical buildings, I would say, wind speed at ground level may be 70 miles an hour. But if you have a building that’s 30 stories up in the air, the wind speed and uplift pressures increase incrementally substantially once you get up, you know, above 30-40 feet. So any building that is obviously not at ground level but is a high-rise building is more susceptible to damage.

A building that’s closer to the ocean, or east of U.S. 1 in the HVHZ, which is the High-Velocity Hurricane Zone, wind zones which are, you know, anywhere between 130 to 150 mile per hour 3-second gust, so close to the coast, and then obviously buildings that are of some age, which perhaps were not built according to the most stringent Dade County codes, I would say, need extra special attention, because, you know, these buildings are more susceptible to that type of damage. And, obviously, a lot of these buildings have older windows, which obviously are also much more susceptible to being affected by the wind.

So, again, it’s a high-rise building, it’s a building that’s closer to the coast, and I would say it’s a building that’s, you know, not a new building. I would say a building that’s 10 years plus in age I would pay extra special attention to. But that doesn’t mean you should not focus on newer buildings as well, because we’ve seen extensive damage to those as well across the state.

Chris: Sure. Yep, we’ve seen it, as you say, more in the older buildings, but in a storm like Irma, both new and old affected pretty dramatically.

Derek: Right. I think one thing that I mentioned early on in the discussion is what you’re looking to have at the end of the day is you’re looking to have a baseline condition of your property. And if you can do that prior to any storm event, you have some baseline condition of your property to make a comparison to. So you have an expert come out, document the condition, document any moisture or any issues you’ve had, and really help you address any risky or areas that look like they could, you know, be adversely affected by a storm.

Once you’ve taken care of that and you have your baseline condition, then that expert you worked with has something to compare it to after the event, and that will really go a long way to help you recover quickly, financially, and physically from that type of event. The more you can do prior to the storm, the easier it will be after the storm.

Not to mention that you also have a roofing warranty in place. So you also have to find out what that manufacturer requires you to do to maintain your roof and also what they require you to do after a storm event. Maybe you need to contact the manufacturer. You need to make sure that you fulfill whatever contractual obligations you have so that you don’t influence negatively the outcome or the recovery that you could have done a better job being more proactive with.

Chris: Sure, and that’s great advice for every aspect of the building envelope. Building that baseline before the storm so that you’ve got something to compare to afterwards.

Derek: Correct.

Chris: Thanks for your time today, Derek. I’m sure our listeners gained a lot of insight. I know I did, on your advice on roof assessments. If you’d like to speak with Derek, you can call him at 877-740-9990. I hope you enjoyed today’s podcast. GCI Consultants looks forward to bringing you continued interesting topics and guests to continue to talk about matters that affect the building envelope. Thank you, and I look forward to talking with you again soon on the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast series. For now, this is Chris Matthews signing off.