This 2-Inch Nail Could Help Save Your Roof in a Tornado and Other Strong Wind Disasters
Strong wind disasters like tornadoes and hailstorms can be more destructive than you think. From loose landscaping gravel to re-nailing your roof, get practical advice that can help you prepare your property and minimize damage
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," he says. "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," he says.
So how can you prepare your home to bear the brunt of powerful winds? First, you look to the IBHS experts. In a massive weather simulation facility, a team of researchers and engineers subject homes to extreme weather, from wind to hail. Out of this testing, the IBHS recommends best building practices for homeowners.
"Mother Nature makes a mess whenever and wherever she wants," says Anne Cope, senior vice president of research and engineering at IBHS. She recommends these areas homeowners can focus on to help prepare their home for high winds:
Will trees on the property destroy your house?
"Trees can be incredibly damaging when they fall into your home," says Cope. "Residential structures simply aren't designed to withstand that kind of impact."
While it's not easy to predict which trees are most vulnerable, there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of tree damage to your home.
- Prune trees twice a year — in late winter or early summer -— and remove branches that are dead, weak or hanging over the house.
- Remove moss growing on branches with a power washer. The weight of the moss, especially when wet, can weaken branches and leave them vulnerable to wind.
- To avoid weakening, keep tree limbs trimmed to 5 feet or less.
- Trees with flexible trunks (think: palm trees) stand up better to wind because they bend instead of break. Select native or indigenous trees when landscaping because they're more likely to withstand local weather, including high-wind conditions. (Call your state's department of agriculture to ask about trees indigenous to your area.)
Is your backyard filled with high wind hazards?
"The key here is to keep any physical object from blowing around," says Cope. Start securing and moving items before the weather becomes severe. "When something like a lawn chair or planter crashes through a window, it's much more serious than just a broken window. You now have high winds entering the house. There's pressure on the inside and outside, which multiplies the total force on the house, leading to greater potential for damage."
The IBHS recommends you think through the following specifics when high winds are forecast:
- Move furniture, potted plants, garbage cans and charcoal grills inside.
- Do not move propane tanks for gas grills inside. Secure the tank upright (never on its side) on the leeward side of a shed or against a retaining wall.
- Repair parts of fencing that appear weak or loose. High winds can easily rip away boards and send them into the air.
- Don't use pebbles, gravel or small rocks in landscaping. Propelled by high winds, they can tear through windows, vinyl siding and even mailboxes. Instead, use soft materials like mulch or heavy paving stones that stay put.
- Take a lap around the house and inspect the caulking on windows, doors and pipes leading inside. Replace any worn or missing caulk to keep wind-driven rain from leaking into interior walls.
Any of these conditions can mean your roof needs repair. Cope's 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.
"Address problems as soon as you notice them," she says. "Don't wait until they become critical."
This is the nail you want in your roof
It's called an 8d ring shank nail. In testing, researchers at the Institute for Business and Home Safety 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 above). 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 you're having your roof inspected and the existing fasteners are common 8d nails or staples, ring shank nails should be added. According to IBHS, 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, IBHS and the National Roofing Contractors Association offer the following tips to consider when hiring a contractor.
- Verify that the contractor has a permanent business address and a business license if required by law.
- Request proof of professional liability insurance.
- Ask for a list of previous clients to provide references.
- Insist on a written proposal that includes a complete description of the work to be performed, approximate start and end dates, and payment procedures.
- Search for complaints filed against the company with your local Better Business Bureau.
- Ask how the contactor will supervise the job and assure quality work.
- Make sure you thoroughly understand any warranty offered, including anything that could void the coverage.
- Remember that price is only one factor in your decision. Professionalism and quality of workmanship are just as important.
- Snap a selfie with your roofer and ask for cell phone pictures of your roof after their inspection and upon completion of the work.