Beware of “Active” 2020 Hurricane Season

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Water pooling on roof after heavy storm.

And “active” is not good! The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predicts another possible 15+ named storms during the 2020 hurricane season.

This is not an article about the weather per se, but it is an article about how severe weather and heavy rain and wind can affect your roof and home and property. Hurricane Isaias in August caused some significant damage in the DMV area and it’s kind of scary that another dozen or more tropical storms or hurricanes could make landfall in the US this year. Growing up as the son of a Capitol Hill roofing contractor and fishing-fanatic-father, I realized at an early age to pay attention to the weather!

Over the last 10 years or so, the DC area has had its fair share of stormy weather including such events as Snowmageddon of 2010, Hurricane Irene in 2011, the Derecho event and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, all of which caused varying degrees of significant damage to homes and property. As a local roofing contractor we have assisted numerous Capitol Hill homeowners to secure some extraordinary roofing emergencies and assessed and repaired:

* Damage to roofs causing leaky and failing ceilings

* Flooded windows and basements caused by gutter and downspout damage and failure

* Tree branches puncturing roofs

* Wall caps and flashing blown off

* Broken skylights

* Blown off shingles, and more.

Officially, according to the National Weather Service, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30. So, how can Capitol Hill homeowners lean forward and get ahead of the curve? If you wait until the next storm arrives it may already be too late to prevent significant roofing-related damage. And after the storms, roofing contractor phones, texts and emails are flooded (sorry about the word choice!) for days and weeks and it may be difficult to assist you then. So, while I’m trying to be informational and factual (and not trying to “sell”) I would say this; CALL YOUR ROOFING CONTRACTOR NOW to get an inspection of all things that are roof-related because the season doesn’t end for another three months!

Preparing For The Worst
To be better prepared for the reality of storm damage what can you do now to protect your home? Here are some important actions for your roofing professional to take:

  • Gutters and downspouts should be cleared of all debris, including leaves, small tree branches, dirt and mud, acorns and other nuts (true!) that fall from trees. This will enable water to flow more effectively to the drain and off the roof. In addition, if gutters and/or spouts are not properly secured (due to aging, etc.) to the fascia or house frame they can also fail and cause significant damage.
  • Roof flashing and wall caps (parapets) are found on the roof on both the inside and the perimeter of your roof including at vent pipes/stacks, chimneys, skylights and virtually all roof penetrates. High winds and heavy rains can cause flashing to loosen, rip and tear. This aspect can allow water to easily find its way inside your home and damage the ceilings, walls and floors.
  • Stains and signs of leaks on ceilings and interior walls could be roof leaks. Make sure to have all roof leaks repaired before major storms can cause major damage.
  • The roof deck itself (the main roof surface) should be checked for any signs of deterioration, tears and holes. Joints should be checked for signs of splits or thin areas or roof membrane and failed caulking or loose metalwork.
  • All penetrations on the roof (including those from satellite dishes, solar panels, gas lines, heat and AC units, ducts, vent pipes, chimneys and other structures) should be inspected. Any point of possible water or air infiltration needs to be checked and, if necessary, restored to a properly sealed condition.
  • Check the condition of your chimneys especially loose mortar which can be a serious source of water damage.

Let me share a couple real life examples that our Capitol Hill customers had to deal with.

Consider the case of an elderly couple living on A St. SE. They suspected that they might have a slow roof leak because of the yellow stains on the ceiling in their master bedroom. But there was no visible sign of water. So, they felt it was more of an aggravation than an immediate concern because the stains had not really grown much over time. They were early risers, usually out of bed well before 7:00 a.m.

One morning while having their morning coffee and toast in the kitchen they heard a noise from upstairs. Betty made her way to the top floor and to her surprise, and probably horror, she discovered a large chunk of the ceiling had fallen onto their bed and the floor! She immediately realized the roof should have been looked at early on.

And let me close with the case of a couple on Constitution Ave. NE who were puzzled by the peeling, puffy paint on the ceiling of their kitchen on the FIRST floor. There was no problem of staining or peeling paint on the top floor ceiling so they were really confused. We discovered a damaged metal box on the roof that holds the AC wiring and that box penetrates the roof and water dripped directly to the kitchen  ceiling! It was actually a pretty easy fix to a confusing problem.

A final word; stay off your roof or be very careful if you are up there! We and other roofing companies usually offer free inspections, so let us do our job for you.

Tom Daniel is owner of R. Thomas Daniel Roofing, LLC, and is the third generation of the Daniel family to provide roofing services to Capitol Hill homeowners for nearly 100 years. Tom was born in Capitol Hill, attended Gonzaga College High School on North Capitol St. and supports numerous community organizations. For help with all your roofing needs please contact him at 202-569-1080, 202-544-4430 or [email protected].