Wind and Storm Damage Assessment by Florida Engineering Solutions
In the Southeast United States, rebuilding is a way of life. Just like areas in the Northern United States deal with snow, in Florida, we have to deal with natural disasters, led by well-publicized tropical storms and hurricanes, in the Southeast. This challenging season for our local communities lasts about half of every year, meaning roughly half of our lives are spent knowing that an act of God can come into our area and change our lives forever with only a few days warning. While this can be a terrifying proposition, at least we have the opportunity to be prepared. Our geographical areas are prone to these events. Therefore we know they will come periodically. Frankly, we have no excuse not to be ready for these events, and we can only blame ourselves if we are not adequately set up to fend up these potentially disastrous incidents. With the likelihood of this damage occurring, unfortunately being very high, we can take steps to prevent and limit the extent of any damage. Our team can assist through a full assessment of your property. We approach each evaluation with a set procedure and a series of questions that will allow us to create an accurate picture of your property’s condition. Where do we begin? There is no set answer to this question. Each of our client’s situations is different from one another’s based upon a property’s location, topography, local density, local features (such as trees), and the home or lot’s existing conditions.
Our review of the property will begin with an initial survey, review with the client, and review of the property based upon the following basic review items:
What are your goals?
We ended up working together for a reason. As a client, you will have goals in mind that we are expected to deliver on. To be effective and provide you the best custom solution, we need to understand those goals. Do you have a comfort level in mind? A reporting level in mind from our team? We would like to know the amount you are willing to dedicate to these disaster mitigation efforts. Understanding those goals will allow us to execute appropriately.
Your current insurance plan.
What plan do you have in place? We ideally can understand the current picture of your coverages – what limits are in place, what are your specific policies, and others. Why was this plan picked? What are your thoughts on this current plan? Most importantly – do you even understand the plan you have had in place? Unfortunately, we find most of our customers do not. We will take the time to make sure you know what you are paying for. You should never pay for something without understanding what it is, especially when that plan is intended to act as a safety net. The wrong plan or a poorly structured plan will be more hurtful than helpful.
Review of existing conditions.
We need to understand the existing conditions to understand how far the starting line is from the finish line. To help us understand this, we will ask the following key questions:
- Is the property storm proofed?
- Are hurricane straps in place?
- What is the existing structural condition of the property?
- Is there a history of structural damage to the property
- What is the existing foundation condition of the property?
- Is there a history of foundational issues?
- Is there a history of foundational issues for any neighboring properties?
- Is there a history of any foundational issues from this same builder in comparable properties they constructed?
Understanding history will allow us to learn from past mistakes to plan for the future. Understanding your property is integral. We will walk the site and perform our evaluation to verify your answers and point out anything else we see. Often, we find conditions with the property, its structure, and/or its foundation that the property owner is not even aware of at all. This knowledge is valuable for a variety of reasons. To truly be effective, we need to not only understand your property, but its neighboring properties, and who built the home itself, along with the builder of its foundation. Suppose multiple homes nearby have had structural or foundational issues. In that case, it can be an indicator of challenging soil and ground conditions, meaning the houses may be more susceptible to high levels of damage from high winds or storms. We will include this review as part of a holistic effort to understand the site and the area. In addition, we will look into the builder and their history. Some builders are great, while others have a rollercoaster history of property performance. If a builder’s homes have a history of structural or foundational damage, we will need to be extra meticulous in our site review.
Understanding your goals will allow us to mold a plan around what you would like to see at the finish line. After we know the site and our starting point, we can start to plan. With your goals in mind, we will mold the best possible outcome to improve your existing foundation. We do not mean the foundation of your home, rather the foundation of your preparation. Your foundation will consist of your current home conditions, prevention materials, prevention planning, and insurance coverage, which will be your safety net in the event of a disastrous situation.
There is no shortage of options to help secure your foundation from a physical standpoint, from structural prevention to full complete property prevention. Structural hurricane proofing will include additional supporting of concrete pilings and hurricane straps to secure walls and rafters. A hurricane strap is a material piece that serves as a connector to strengthen wood-framed roofs and homes. Today’s popular hurricane straps are made of galvanized steel or stainless steel. Application areas range from rafters to foundations and everything in between – walls, floors, etc.
To reach full preparedness, installing other preventative items such as hurricane shutters, impact windows, and impact-rated garage doors will prevent additional interior damage. Ideally, a home is as hurricane proof as possible, but we understand that there is a cost to achieve this. Full hurricane proofing can push a home renovation or new construction cost to be double that of a non-hurricane proofed home. Our team will present you with various material improvement options ranked in order of importance and identifying needs versus wants. Hence, you know which elements are critical and which are not. Within each option, we will also provide you with a breakdown based upon effectiveness. While we all want the most expensive, shiny, and top of the line installation material, not all of us can afford them. With this in mind, we will take your financial goals into account to provide not only options but also recommendations. Overall, we will value engineer your home’s options to keep costs in line. These options will be presented in an easy to understand format so you and your family can review the reporting and truly understand our findings as well as your options.
While we do as much as we can to prepare you and your home in advance, we have to be allowed to do so. We often get the call too late – where we do not have the opportunity to assemble a preventative action plan and instead are tasked with a cleanup and property assessment plan to assist in rebuilding a storm-damaged property. To be effective, it is critical to have this assessment occur as soon as possible from the time of the damage incident. However, we must make sure we assess only after the scene is structurally safe to approach and walk. The damage may appear to already be completed; however, the damage may worsen over time. Structural or utility pieces of property see unnecessary physical pressure and give way to even more damage occurring – sometimes days or weeks after the initial damage occurred. In addition, moisture and other outside elements will eat away and damage anything that might otherwise have been salvageable. Our team will act quickly to assess the damage for you using our engineers, who will inform you of the extent of the structural damage and identify safe and unsafe areas of the property. We are capable of doing this due to our immense experience in the field and our engineering background. Many property owners look to cut corners and save a few dollars in the short term by hiring a contractor or home inspector with no engineering background. Despite the professional’s best intentions, we often see this backfire in the long run as properties misjudged will often be rebuilt or addressed improperly. With us, you will be in the best hands. You will be educated by the best in the business with an actionable work plan.