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What is roof uplift and what hidden problems can it cause?

When high winds hit Miami, you may think that your home stood up to the abuse fairly well. You don't see any obvious damage. You decide not to file an insurance claim.

Then, the next time that it rained, water started pouring in. It caused extensive interior damage as the water tore through drywall, paint, wood and other building materials. Carpets got ruined. Artwork got destroyed. Expensive electronics sparked and shut down forever.

What happened? It may have been something called "uplift." This is when the wind is so strong that it lifts the roof straight up for a moment. The roof then settles back down again. If you're not in the home -- and even if you are -- you don't notice that it happened. You can't see the damage afterward.

That damage is there, though. All of the construction materials ripped apart. If the roof even lifted an inch, that's enough to tear apart rigid materials like trusses, rafters and siding. You wind up with all of these little gaps in the roof, and that's where the water enters the building.

Is there any way to prevent this?

Unfortunately, even knowing the risk of roof uplift does not mean you can prevent it. In a tropical storm, anything is possible.

"Although I'd like to say that there is a simple and economical solution for housing that won't fail or collapse in the perfect storm, such information does not yet exist," said one civil engineer who studied it extensively. "However, it is obvious that thanks to the work of wind engineers and researchers that changes to home design and construction can make buildings safer for people, while saving government and industry billions of dollars annually."

One way to make them safer is to choose the right type of roof. For instance, experts note that gable roofs do not stand up to high winds as well as hip roofs. A gable is a cheaper style with just two slopes that meet in the middle. A hip roof is more complex and expensive, with four slopes -- one starting on each side.

Another tip is to consider the shape of the house itself. Some have found that octagonal and hexagonal homes do best in wind. You at least want a floor plan that is square.

Finally, the way that the roof gets connected to the home is very important. Ever since 1993, stapled roofs have been banned. Never use them or buy a house that does.

After the damage

If your home does get damaged in a storm, make sure you know exactly what steps to take. Remember that damage is often far more than meets the eye.

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Mintz Truppman, P.A.
1700 Sans Souci Boulevard
Miami, FL 33181

Phone: 305-893-5506
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