A lesson from Hurricane Zeta that could save money next time | Environment

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Hurricane Zeta’s surprisingly significant damage to Louisiana, much of attributed to lost roofing that allowed water damage inside residences, should be seen by property owners as a prompt to take steps now to avoid similar damage in future storms, says Ian Giammanco, a research meteorologist and wind engineer at the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety.

One way to do that is to follow the institute’s FORTIFIED construction and re-roofing program when making home repairs, either after storm damage or to reduce damage chances in advance of future storms. Following the guidelines might help a homeowner reduce their annual insurance premiums, as many insurance companies provide discounts when presented proof that such improvements have been completed.

The roofing recommendations in the program are aimed at increasing the resilience of roofs to the effects of hurricane-force winds. They include sealing the seams between roof deck plywood sheets beneath shingles and using “ring-shank” nails, which have ribs that double their resistance to wind uplift. 

But it’s up to the homeowner to ensure that the contractor they choose for the repairs is qualified to do the work, Giammanco said.

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“My parents in Baton Rouge did this, put on a FORTIFIED roof two years ago,” Giammanco said. “But they had to go through four different roofing contractors just to get someone who would acknowledge you should do this and who knew how.” 

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Florida and some Alabama coastal counties have amended their mandatory building codes to require roofers to follow standards similar to those in the FORTIFIED program, he said. Louisiana has not. However, the Louisiana Legislature this year passed a law that encourages contractors to use the FORTIFIED standards beginning in 2022.

Giammanco and officials with the Louisiana Department of Insurance said that even before that law goes into effect, many insurance companies will reduce premiums if presented proof that the standards have been used in roof repairs or replacements. 

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