Key Signs of Storm Damage to Look for
With winds topping 100 MPH, battering rain, golf-ball size hail, and tornadoes, hurricanes are a force to be reckoned with. These destructive tropical storms are categorized in five levels. A Category 1 storm produces winds that range from 74-95 MPH. The most powerful Category 5 storm generates winds that exceed 157 MPH. Anywhere along this spectrum, hurricanes can cause substantial property damage with their high winds, torrential rainfall, and storm surge. The damage that storms cause to homes is sometimes apparent, but it can also be more difficult to detect and more significant than you realize. If want to rent or book a home in Florida for a vacation, but are worried about any damage that the rental might have suffered, read on for signs that it might not be worth your time.
The roof of a home has very little protection from the wrath of a tropical storm. After all, it takes the brunt of the wind and torrential rain. Debris tends to fall on the roof too, which can also cause significant amounts of damage. If the damage is substantial, you’ll be able to tell right away that a rental might have gone through a rough time. But in other instances, the roof may appear to be structurally sound and intact. Ask the person in charge of your rental if they’ve inspected it recently, as the next storms that follow may worsen roof leaks. You definitely don’t want to be held responsible for that.
While all homes should be evaluated following a storm, it’s especially important to ask questions on an older home. Even a stable home can have damage to the siding, gutters, and roof in a Category 1 storm. Category 3-5 hurricanes can tear off the shingles and roof deck. An excellent way to begin evaluating the roof’s condition is to check for signs of water damage or water stains in the ceiling, walls, and attic. On the ground, look for fallen shingles or other roofing materials. Walking around the house, check for visible signs of harm in the siding and points where the walls meet the roof. If you see dents on any pictures, it’s a good indication hail fell on the roof.
Whether you see damage or not, it’s always best to be sure the person that owns the rental has kept up inspections of their roof. Be sure they’ve had a professional thoroughly inspect there isn’t any damage that can cause issues.
Tropical storms also can produce considerable water damage. As with the roof, you can check for water damage by looking at the attic, walls, and ceilings for water stains or wet spots. Along with the house itself, water can also infiltrate the basement. Pools or puddles of standing water indicate water damage. Pockets of discoloration inside or outside the home, along with cracking, peeling, or warped wallpaper, are also signs of a problem. Musty odors caused by mildew and mold can also clue you into water damage. Mold can also appear as green or black spots. Along with the walls, ceiling, and attic, water damage can also occur around appliances, especially if they are older.
While this is usually checked, if you do notice signs of water damage, call a professional for assistance. If there is standing water, absorb as much of it as possible with paper towels, towels, and rags. If there is a lot of standing water, you may need to shut off the home’s water supply to prevent more destruction.
Interior and Exterior Wall Damage
Sometimes, intense storms can impact the structural integrity of the walls inside and outside a home. An excellent way to start checking for wall issues is to simply look at pictures of the walls in comparison to other points, such as the roof and even the ground. The walls should be vertical from floor to ceiling, and they should be straight and centered compared to the middle point of the roof. Any tilting or crookedness is a sign that the walls’ centers have shifted away from their normal position.
If you tour the rental, check the structural integrity of the walls by opening and closing the windows and doors. When the foundation or physical structure of a home is damaged, the walls are one of the first parts affected, as they are easily pulled out of alignment. Even if you can’t see any visible abnormalities, it’s possible to check for signs of hidden damage by trying out the doors and windows to see if they function properly. When you try them out, the windows and doors should open and close smoothly and without sticking. If you have trouble moving windows and doors that never gave you a problem before, there’s a good chance the storm caused structural damage.
As you’re trying out the doors and windows, keep an eye out for any unusual shapes in the walls. The walls should be straight and vertical from the ceiling to the floor. If you notice any bulges, wall damage may be present. Pressure placed against the plaster or drywall can create a bulge. The bulge may start out small, but it will get larger if the problem is not solved.
Whether you can see damage from a storm or not, it’s always a good idea to suggest to the property owner an inspection of the home if there is the possibility that the structure has suffered harm of some kind. You can do some basic inspecting yourself by looking at the interior and exterior walls, the roof (ideally from inside the house), and walking around the property to check for evident and underlying issues. If you’re staying at this rental for a while, you want to make sure you’re safe and not held responsible for any damages incurred.
Along with isolated damage to the roof and attic, a strong storm can create structural damage. Structural damage is especially significant to detect and fix, as it can pose a severe safety hazard left uncorrected. One critical thing to look for is the presence of sagging beams. Even if the beams are not visible, you can still check for signs of a problem. Standing in the house, look up at the roofline to see if it is straight. If it’s not, structural damage may be present. This problem needs to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid more damage or a roof collapse. Sagging in the middle of the roof can also indicate structural instability.
Damage from Debris
Although you might not be there to see it happen in person, debris can fall on a home and cause significant damage. The roof is the most likely place for debris to fall. Horizontal winds can also drive debris into the walls and windows. If you’re vacationing in Florida after a storm, you may notice debris on the deck or the roof. Smaller pieces of debris like leaves and twigs may seem insignificant, but they may have caused damage without showing visible signs. Therefore, you’ll have to do some detective work to determine if there are problems that you are not seeing.
Under and around the areas of fallen debris, check for physical signs of problems such as cracks in the walls or roof shingles. Shingles may also be missing from the roof. Walking around the home, check for piles of housing material. This indicates that the house may have been struck hard enough to damage the roof and siding. Beneath the gutters, check for large piles of granules. A small amount is normal, especially if the shingles are relatively new. But larger amounts can indicate damage to the house that warrants a follow-up inspection by a professional.
If you suspect that there is a problem somewhere in the house, or even if you just want reassurance that there’s not, it’s a good idea to call the owner or property manager before you book to ask some questions. This way, if there does turn out to be a problem, you’ll have escaped potentially being held responsible. Additionally, it is also a safety concern, and you’re going to want to be sure that you and your family are staying at a rental that is well-taken care of and not a danger to those staying there.