The roof is your home’s first line of defense when strong winds, hail, or heavy rains plow through your neighborhood. Understanding how to protect your home in severe weather, beginning with your roof, can save you money, time, and heartache.
In post-disaster studies by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), 70-90% of catastrophe-related insurance claims included roof damage and the subsequent escalated damage to home interiors and personal property that resulted from water intrusion.
New homes fared better than older homes because of the roof construction. Old homes with FORTIFIED roofs, however, did better than newer homes that did not have the same system in place.
A FORTIFIED Roof standard is part of IBHS’ FORTIFIED Home program, which promotes the use of a sealed roof deck. For more than 20 years, IBHS has researched and tested what makes a roof strong and developed a roofing design to maximize home safety.
A traditional roof is constructed this way:
Roof decks are built with oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood panels as the structural sheathing layer.
15- 30-pound felt (based on local code) is installed on top of the panels to repel water from the wood substrate.
The roof covering (typically shingles) is attached.
A FORTIFIED Roof is built using different materials and techniques to create a sealed roof deck. Each of the following four standards qualify a roof as FORTIFIED on its own, but some experts advise doing all four for the most secure system:
Specific tape and underlayment applied directly to the roof deck to prevent water intrusion at the seams.
A full layer of self-adhering membrane to lessen the risk of water being absorbed into the wood decking.
Two layers of felt underlayment in case the top layer gets torn.
Spray foam on the underside of the roof at every joint or seam in case the tape gets torn away.
So why should a homeowner take all of these extra steps? At IBHS’ South Carolina testing facility following Hurricane Ian in 2022, researchers tested traditional and FORTIFIED roofs on full-scale buildings, subjecting them to 130 mph winds and up to 8 in. of rain per hour. The results showed that securely covering the gaps in a roof deck can prevent as much as 95% of water intrusion, even when shingles are lost and the deck is exposed.
The Dollars and Cents
Though not as popular in Virginia as in Florida or Texas, FORTIFIED Roof Systems are becoming standard all along the East Coast, and moving inland. Making our homes as strong as possible is becoming more important by the day as violent weather continues to scale up.
In 2023, the United States experienced 28 separate weather or climate disasters that each resulted in at least $1 billion in damages, with total damages reaching $92.9 billion.
In Virginia, from 1980 to 2023, there were 106 confirmed weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each, which included 47 severe storms, 21 tropical cyclone events, and 18 winter storm events. While the annual average during this time frame is 2.4 events, the annual average from 2019 to 2023 has increased to 6.4 events. In 2023 alone, 85% of the $1 billion in damages occurred during only 7 severe storms, with the remaining 15% coming from 1 flooding event and one severe cold spell.
The cost of upgrading your roof to a FORTIFIED Roof System depends on the location and size of the roof. Experts estimate it will cost an additional $700 - $1700 to upgrade the next time you install a new roof. With the unpredictability of storm action in Virginia, the rising costs of building materials and labor, as well as the costs of replacing personal items, not to mention the aggravation that comes with major home repairs, this added cost is worth paying for peace of mind.
Sources: NCEI NOAA, jlconline, Fine Home Building, Miami Herald