Storm Surge and the Structurally Unsound: Impacts of Hurricane Flooding on Houses

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

Hurricane storm surge poses a major threat to coastal communities. As hurricanes make landfall, they push a wall of ocean water ashore with tremendous force. This storm surge can cause extreme flooding, especially in low-lying areas, with water levels reaching as high as 20 feet or more above ground level. The effects of this flooding on houses can be severe, even catastrophic. From foundation damage to total destruction, storm surge flooding impacts the structural integrity of homes in multiple ways. Understanding these impacts is key for homeowners in hurricane-prone regions.

Storm Surge Height and Destructive Power

The height of storm surge is a major determinant of its destructive capacity. Higher storm surge equals more intense flooding, with faster moving and higher volume water. This tremendous hydraulic force presses against the exterior walls of homes with incredible pressure. Six feet of surge flooding can demolish large sections of standard wood-framed house walls. Eight feet of rise or more leaves little standing but a home’s core and roof structure.

Even houses reinforced to withstand hurricane-force winds can fail under the intense lateral pushing water load of a tall surge. Two-story homes are especially vulnerable, as the first level floods while upper levels catch wind, leading to buckling or collapse. The more intense the surge height and flooding, the greater the probability of major home structural damage. Surge levels over 10 feet almost guarantee massive failures in all but the most robustly engineered coastal dwellings.

Soaking, Erosion and Foundation Damage

Even if they are not outright destroyed by storm surge, houses can suffer crippling impacts to their structural soundness. The floodwaters themselves cause damage, as prolonged soaking deteriorates building materials, warps support beams, and erodes foundations over time. Additionally, fast flowing surge water essentially batters the substructure of flooded homes for hours or days, scouring away supporting soils and rocks.

Undermined foundations crack, shift and sink unevenly, profoundly compromising the integrity of the overall structure. Concrete or masonry walls develop gaps and fissures as they settle while upper levels remain stationary, straining connections to joists and rafters. Any house left standing after lengthy major surge flooding likely has serious structural issues. Post-flood inspections invariably reveal alarming cracks, separations, and misalignments caused by uneven sinking and soil erosion. These undermine the load-bearing capacity the home requires to be considered structurally sound.

Mold and Rot: Pervasive Secondary Impacts

Even after surge waters recede, the problems compound for flooded homes. Waterlogged materials allow for rampant mold growth inside walls, floors, and furnishings. Wet wood beams, internal supports and external sheathings also rot progressively. Unchecked mold infestations create respiratory health hazards for occupants while advancing rot silently destabilizes framing elements. This pervasive moisture damage and material decomposition behind the scenes further undermines the overall structural stability of surge-flooded homes. On the surface, houses may appear largely intact at first. But on the inside, they continue to weaken bit by bit through these secondary moisture impacts in the weeks and months after the storm. By the time an owner discovers a buckling floor or wall, the unseen decay and mold growth have often already structurally doomed the dwelling.

Is it Worth Trying to Save Them?

For homeowners saddled with a surge-flooded house, a difficult question arises: is saving the home even worth the cost and effort? Foundation repairs, mold remediation, beam replacement and soil stabilization can run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – exceeding many homes’ pre-flood market values. Local building codes may require lengthy permitting processes or trigger improved codes during repairs, driving costs even higher still.

Delays also allow ongoing deterioration as owners wait on contractors, financing, permitting, and inspections. Depending on a home’s initial value and extent of damage, owners often reach the unfortunate conclusion that their once beloved home simply cannot feasibly be restored to a structurally sound, livable condition. Tragically, cherished dwellings that held a lifetime of memories must be left behind due to insurmountable structural and financial realities.

Insurance Battles and Seeking Compensation

Surge flooding leaves many houses totally demolished or structurally too unstable to repair at reasonable cost. This represents a painful financial loss for storm victims. Homeowners’ insurance policies may provide some coverage, but claims processes often involve steep hurdles in the aftermath of such widespread coastal disasters. Mass claims strain insurer resources, leading to systematic delays or denials to conserve funds. Even good-faith insurers often dispute the extent of structural instability, pressing homeowners to fund questionable repairs themselves.

By contacting competent legal counsel specializing in denied or limited insurance claims related to hurricane home damage, you take an important step toward getting fairly compensated. An experienced lawyer can advise if you have grounds to compel your insurer to fully cover your losses. They can also determine if negligence by other parties – home builders, for example – contributed to the extent of damages. In the long and arduous path to recovering from catastrophic surge flooding, getting legal help improves the odds of securing your financial rights.

Hurricane storm surge unleashes fierce destructive energy against houses in its path. The force of the floodwaters themselves, combined with ensuing moisture damage, takes a heavy toll on the structural integrity of soaked homes. Even houses left physically standing often prove to have critical underlying compromises, making saving them an unreasonable proposition for owners. Yet insurers all too frequently fail disaster victims through unwarranted claim denials and delays.

By consulting qualified legal counsel, you improve the chances of obtaining fair insurance compensation, or possibly damages from negligent home builders. After having your life turned upside down by catastrophic hurricane flooding, getting proper legal support helps the long process of staying on your feet and securing accountability. Though material possessions may be lost, hope lies ahead – if you know your legal rights and work with an experienced professional to demand the resources you need to rebuild.

If you’re struggling to receive an insurance payout following a storm, contact us today.

You can visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or give us a call for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

Roof Damage and Leaks: How to Spot and Prevent Storm-Related Roof Issues

Monday, January 15th, 2024

Severe storms can wreak havoc on your roof, leading to extensive damage and leaks if preventative measures aren’t taken. Being able to identify potential issues before and after storms can help you take quick action to mitigate costs and avoid headaches down the road. This guide will overview what to look for and how to protect your roof against storm-related damage.

Inspecting Your Roof Before a Storm

The best defense is a good offense when it comes to storm prep for your roof. Taking the time to thoroughly inspect for existing trouble spots or areas needing repair is key.

Look For Previous Repairs: Carefully inspect surfaces for any previous repairs, patches, or sealing. The materials or application methods used may not be as durable or weather resistant. These patches are more likely to become points of failure during storms.

Check Flashing: Flashing details around chimneys, vents, joints, valleys, and eaves are common leakage points. Look for cracked, loose, or missing flashing seals. Also, check for areas where flashing may have pulled away from the roof surface.

Examine Shingles/Tiles: Shingles or tiles that are cracked, cupped, or deformed need replacement. Curled-up edges or corners indicate loss of adhesion. Also, look for any missing or broken shingles/tiles that leave the roof deck exposed.

Clear Gutters and Downspouts: Clogged gutters can’t effectively divert water off the roof. Prune overhanging tree limbs, remove debris, and make sure downspouts are securely attached with water directed well away from the foundation.

Trim Overhanging Trees: Check for tree limbs or branches extending over the roof surface. Trim them back to avoid abrasion damage and keep excess leaves/debris off the roof.

Seal Exposed Fasteners: Exposed nail heads, staples, or screws create ready entry points for leaks. Brush waterproof caulk over and around exposed fasteners.

Inspect and Repair Vent Boots: The rubber boots around plumbing vents tend to crack over time. Look for signs of aging and re-seal using roofing cement or urethane sealant.

Check for Exposed Roof Deck: Curled back or missing roofing materials can leave sections of the vulnerable roof deck exposed. This needs patching prior to any storms.

Address any issues found without delay. It’s also smart to capture images of the roof’s condition before a storm for comparison later if damage occurs. Thorough prep work leads to better storm resilience.

What to Look for After a Severe Storm

Once the winds die down and the clouds part, get up on the roof again ASAP after a major storm. Look for the following trouble signs:

Wind Damage

  • Shingles/tiles that have blown off or become dislodged
  • Debris impact damage, like punctures from blown objects
  • Roof coverings peeled up or ripped along the edges
  • Sections of ridge cap blown away
  • Gutter hangers detached, causing whole sections to fall away
  • Evidence of wind turbulence, like patterns of missing granules scoured from shingles

Water Intrusion

  • Water stains on interior ceiling surfaces directly below the roof
  • Blistering or bubbling of interior paint near roof/ceiling joints
  • Buckling or sagging of drywall along the ceiling line
  • Mold or mildew developing around ceiling areas

Compromised Roof Deck

  • Visible daylight from the attic through the failing roof deck
  • Water dripping from previously secure nails/screw penetrations
  • Cracked or splintered roof decking is visible when inspecting attic
  • Soft, spongy, or weakened areas when walking on the roof surface

Flashing Leaks

  • Watermarks or staining on siding near flashing joints
  • Rust streaks originating from flashing details
  • Visible gaps, separation, or spreading where flashing meets the roofing
  • Missing or degraded caulk at seams and joints

Don’t delay addressing any storm damage spotted. Even small issues like a few blown-off shingles can progress to major roof problems if not repaired quickly. Prioritize trouble areas directly above living spaces prone to water intrusion when deciding where to start repairs.

Prevention Tips to Limit Storm Damage

Aside from inspection and repairs, some other preventative measures can bolster roof resilience:

  • Invest in impact-resistant shingles designed to withstand high winds and resist penetration from debris blows. Architectural-style shingles provide more durability than basic 3-tab shingles.
  • For flat roofs, coatings like urethane foam increase weatherproofing and help resist punctures during storms.
  • Have large trees near the roof professionally trimmed and thinned out to remove weight and wind resistance from branches.
  • Brace gable end framing with extra blocking to provide shear strength against roof failures along gable ends during high winds.
  • Add supplemental roof framing members and hurricane clips to strengthen critical joints prone to uplift and failure in high winds.
  • Install zinc strips at valleys and change roof planes to resist corrosion and leakage from stormwater runoff.
  • Caulk and seal all flashing, skylights, vents, and around chimneys prior to storm season using long-life flexible sealants.
  • Clear all roof drains, gutters, and downspouts before storm season to allow unobstructed drainage.

Applying preventative measures along with vigilant inspection before and after storms offers the best assurance of weathering storms with minimal roof damage. But even with diligent maintenance, unexpected damage can occur.

Seeking Help from a Storm Damage Attorney

If your roof suffers significant storm damage, you should be covered by your property insurance. But if they deny or delay claim payment, a storm damage attorney can advise you through the process. An attorney experienced with storm insurance claims may be able to:

  • Review your policy language and determine if the damage described should be covered.
  • Negotiate directly with your insurance company and their adjusters to gain claim acceptance and/or improve settlement amounts.
  • Assist you in compiling the necessary documentation and evidence to support your damage claim.
  • Represent you in litigation or settlement hearings if a fair claim resolution cannot be reached otherwise.

Don’t struggle alone if your insurance provider is unresponsive to a valid storm damage claim. Seek guidance from a qualified storm damage attorney to protect your interests and maximize claim resolution.

You can visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

Storm Preparedness: Protecting Your Home Before Severe Weather Hits

Saturday, January 6th, 2024

When severe storms are in the forecast, it’s important to take steps to protect your home and property from potential damage. Being proactive and preparing in advance can help minimize destruction from high winds, flooding, hail, lightning strikes, and other storm impacts. Follow these tips to help safeguard your house and belongings before turbulent weather arrives.

Stock Up on Essential Supplies

Gather important supplies you may need if the power goes out or if you are confined at home during a storm. This includes non-perishable food, water, batteries, flashlights, a manual can opener, a first aid kit, prescription medications, pet food, and other necessities. Make sure you have enough supplies for each member of your household to last at least three days.

Secure Outdoor Objects

Walk around your yard and bring any loose objects indoors or tie them down securely. This includes patio furniture, grills, potted plants, decorations, garbage cans, and anything else that could blow away or cause damage. Check for tree branches that look weak and prune them so they don’t break off in high winds.

Protect Windows and Doors

Windows are one of the most vulnerable parts of a home during storms. Install storm shutters or plywood over them to provide extra protection. Alternatively, you can use tape in a crisscross pattern to help prevent shards of glass if the windows break. Make sure exterior doors are securely closed and locked. Consider using water barriers or sandbags around exterior doors that are prone to flooding.

Clear Gutters and Downspouts

Remove debris from rain gutters so that water can drain properly. Clogged gutters can cause interior water damage during heavy storms. Ensure downspouts direct water several feet away from your home’s foundation.

Inspect and Clear Storm Drains

Clear leaves, dirt and other debris from storm drains near your property. Clogged drains can contribute to street flooding. Notify local authorities if there is a publicly owned drain in need of maintenance.

Check Your Roof

Replace any missing or damaged shingles to prevent costly leaks. Trim overhanging tree branches so they don’t break and damage the roof in high winds. Secure any loose tiles or shingles and inspect flashing around chimneys, vents, and fans.

Know How to Shut Off Utilities

Locate your main water valve, gas valve, and electrical circuit breakers so you can shut them off quickly if needed due to a leak or other damage. Only turn the power back on once electrical systems have been inspected after the storm passes. Contact utility companies for guidance.

Protect Important Documents

Place important documents like insurance policies, medical records, and financial statements in a secure, waterproof container. Have copies stored electronically or in a safety deposit box as added protection.

By taking these proactive measures before a major storm strikes, you can greatly improve the safety of your home and belongings. Pay attention to local weather alerts so you have as much advance notice as possible to implement storm preparations. And if the worst does happen and your property is damaged, speak to us today.

You can visit our office at: 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

Flooded Basements: How to Dry Out and Repair Water Damage

Sunday, December 24th, 2023

Coming home to a flooded basement can be a nightmare. Water quickly causes damage, destroys belongings, promotes mold growth, and creates safety hazards if electrical systems get wet. Prompt action is required to start the water removal and drying process before permanent damage sets in. This article provides step-by-step instructions on what to do upon discovering a flooded basement, how to thoroughly dry it out afterward, and critical repair work to restore your basement after water damage.

Assess the Flooding Situation

Your first step is to identify and address any unsafe conditions. If the floodwaters reached any electrical outlets, circuits, or wiring, turn off the power at the main breaker before entering. Ensure the gas lines did not sustain damage. Watch for shifting or collapsing areas in the floors or walls indicating serious structural issues. If you have any concerns about safety, evacuate the home and call emergency services.

Next, stop the water source. Find where the floodwaters entered and stop additional flow. This may require sandbags, redirecting gutters, unclogging drains or sump pumps, or contacting the local authorities if public storm drains overflowed. Until the water ingress point is controlled, removal efforts will be hindered.

Remove Free-Standing Water

Use an electric submersible sump pump, gas-powered pump, or manual sump pump to start removing free-standing water. Position the pump’s discharge hose so water releases far from your home’s foundation, sloping downhill. If electricity is still unsafe to use, gas pumps provide strong pumping capacity to rapidly remove floodwaters. Use an extension cord if your flooded area is far from electrical outlets.

In severe flooding reaching several feet that overwhelms pumps, you may need to rent additional heavy-duty water removal equipment such as trailer-mounted diesel trash pumps from an equipment rental company. Call local water and fire damage restoration companies for assistance if DIY pumping proves inadequate.

Clear Out Damaged Possessions

Sadly, many items flooded in a basement will need disposal. Remove and throw out furniture, boxes, decorations, shelves, padding, toys, supplies, and anything else permeated by floodwaters. These soaked porous contents will fuel mold growth if left in place. However, you can likely salvage more valuable items later once the space fully dries out. For now, clear as much as possible to open up the area.

Clean Surfaces of Silt and Residue

Use hoses, shop vacuums, mops, and buckets to remove silt, mud, and dirt left behind by floodwaters. Clean from higher surfaces down. Pay extra attention around and underneath appliances, mechanical fixtures, pipes, wiring runs, ductwork, and framing where sediment easily hides. Removing muddy residue quickens the drying process. Wipe down walls with disinfecting cleaner.

Assist the Drying Process with Fans, Dehumidifiers and Heat

Open exterior-facing doors and windows to provide maximum airflow. Use large drum fans and blowers to vigorously circulate air, directing it into corners and areas shielded from natural airflow. The basement’s air needs to be completely changed over several times a day.

Dehumidifiers actively condense excessive water vapor from damp air. Continually drain the units so that condensed water does not reintroduce moisture. Position several mid-room and away from walls where humidity especially lingers.

If it’s safe to do so, restore central heating/air conditioning system operation. Run the air handler fan on continuous circulation to filter indoor air through the HVAC unit repeatedly. Route warm dry air into the basement if ductwork extends there. The heat aids evaporation. Depending on the season, portable space heaters may help raise temperatures.

Be patient for natural drying once excess water is gone. With airflow assistance, a previously flooded basement usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to dry, though residual dampness may linger for months requiring ongoing dehumidifier usage. You want wood framing moisture content below 15% before considering repairs or reinstalling drywall, flooring or possessions. Use a moisture meter to check progress.

Identify and Repair Structural Damage

Once drying sufficiently completes, shift your focus to identifying and repairing water-induced building damage. Look for bulging, buckling or cracked foundation walls. Check for soft spongy flooring, peeling paint, powdery drywall, warped wood framing, and any new gaps indicating shifting structure requiring support. While you can hope for the best, assume that the water has loosened adhesives, corroded fasteners, and weakened integrity that requires restoring for stability and functionality.

Most flood damage requires replacing saturated gypsum drywall and scrapping wood framing. Treat exposed masonry block walls with waterproofing paint. Lay new cement board to withstand moisture before re-drywalling. Consider closed-cell spray foam insulation that resists moisture and air infiltration better than fiberglass batting. Replace warped doors and window frames allowing water intrusion. Despite desires to repair items, flood damage often warrants new materials.

For flooring, remove soaked carpets, pads and cheap plywood subflooring which compact moisture and mold food. Replace with mold-inhibiting drycore panels before installing new vinyl plank, ceramic tile or laminate flooring and rugs. Reinstall original hardwood if restoration is viable but assess it carefully for underlying rot. Integrate sump pumps, French drains and grading for improved drainage, preventing repeat disasters.

Installing a flood prevention system can add further protection. Perimeter basement waterproofing seals exterior walls vulnerable to groundwater seepage. Interior drainage systems of trenches, pipes and sump pumps capture and eject subsurface liquid before flooding starts. Overhead sewer backflow valves prevent inbound surges from municipal drains. Such preventative measures provide security if you are located in flood zones.

Recovering a flooded basement requires prompt water removal followed by aggressive drying aided by fans and dehumidifiers. These DIY actions reduce permanent damage from lingering moisture. Unfortunately, most flooded basements need extensive structural repairs and material replacements due to contamination – don’t take shortcuts attempting to salvage framing and finishes after water intrusion.

Consider consulting professionals specializing in storm damage claims to properly inspect your unique situation and ensure repairs restore your basement to pre-flooding condition. With dedication to the drying process and proper restoration work, you can revive a flooded basement into a usable living space. Preventative measures like waterproofing and backflow valves also help avoid repeat disasters.

For help with repair estimates and insurance claims, visit Storm Damage at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

Wind Damage: Securing Loose Objects to Limit Storm Destruction

Monday, December 18th, 2023

Storms that produce heavy winds, like hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms, can cause major property damage as winds rip off shingles, break windows, and destroy structures. But much of the destruction comes from wind-propelled debris crashing into buildings. Properly securing loose outdoor items before a windstorm can significantly reduce damage to your property.

Potential Windborne Debris Hazards

Many common objects can turn into dangerous projectiles in high winds. Anything sitting outside that is loose or weakly tied down poses a threat, including:

  • Lawn furniture like chairs, loungers, and picnic tables
  • Grills, propane tanks, and DIY equipment 
  • Yard decorations and ornaments   
  • Plant pots, flowerpots, and planter boxes
  • Tree branches and firewood stacks 
  • Building supplies and leftover scrap material
  • Garbage cans, recycling bins, and dumpsters
  • Children’s play equipment like trampolines
  • Vehicles, boats, trailers, and covers/tarps over them

Strong winds can pick up even heavy items, hurling them large distances at high speeds. Getting struck by windborne debris is extremely dangerous to people and pets outside during windstorms. Indoors, these projectiles can smash windows, punch holes through walls, and wreak havoc once entering the building.

Securing Potential Hazards

Prevent wind damage and hazards by properly securing anything sitting loose outside well before a windstorm arrives. Consider bringing precious or valuable items inside a sturdy building to keep them from blowing away or slamming into structures. For objects left outside, follow these general guidelines:

Tie It Down

Use durable ropes, straps, or cables firmly anchored into the ground or attached to fixed structures to tie down lighter items. Things like grills, propane tanks, lawn chairs, flowerpots, and garbage/recycling bins can usually be secured this way. Make sure tie-downs won’t loosen and provide enough slack for some movement during intense gusts.

Weigh It Down

Heavier objects that can’t easily be brought inside may still shift, blow over, or slide along the ground during powerful winds. Weigh them down by placing sandbags, cinderblocks, or other extremely heavy items on or around them. Filling large planters, pots, and garbage bins with soil, rocks, or cement will make them harder to tip over or drag. 

Take Down Removeable Items

For outdoor structures meant to be dismantled, like pool covers, small sheds/enclosures, temporary event tents, and screened patio systems, attempt to fully take them down if a windstorm is approaching. Removing them eliminates the chance they will be ripped apart, protecting surrounding buildings.

Clear the Yard

Do a thorough sweep for any loose debris already scattered around the yard. Place rocks, lawn decorations, tools, trash cans, children’s toys, bicycles, and anything not secured indoors or in a locked shed or garage. Even small pieces become dangerous projectiles when blown by wind.

Inspect Trees and Vegetation

Examine trees and bushes to identify dead branches or any vegetation needing pruning before extreme weather arrives. Remove unhealthy limbs that may easily snap or uproot. Also, check for loose fence planks or pickets that need repair.

Protect Windows

Install storm shutters or durable plywood coverings over all windows on structures to defend against windborne debris and flying glass shards if window glass breaks during high winds. Leave window protections up until the threat passes.

Having an emergency response plan ready to enact can ensure you properly secure hazards when high-velocity winds threaten. Protect people, pets, and property by limiting potential windborne debris before storms approach.

Get Help Assessing Storm Damage

If intense winds cause damage despite preventative efforts, contact a licensed professional service specializing in insurance claims and repair estimates, like Storm Damage. We can properly evaluate destruction and work with your insurance company, supporting fair compensation to restore your property. With an expert assessment in hand, you can feel confident reconstruction will return your home or business back to pre-storm conditions.

Visit us at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.