Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
County code denies roofing choice
Broward and Miami-Dade homeowners can’t buy what some say is the best option to keep water out
Homeowners in Broward and Miami-Dade counties who are planning to install a new roof this year don’t have the option to choose what some roofing industry officials say is one of the most effective ways to protect their homes from water intrusion during a hurricane.
The missing option, known in the industry as a “peel-and-stick” barrier that fully covers a roof ’s plywood deck, has been the subject of strong debate between the roofing industry and officials who enforce special windstorm resistance codes unique to Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Additionally, the disagreement can affect homeowners in those counties who hope to use the statefunded My Safe Florida Home program to help them pay for a new roof. If they want the peeland-stick option, they’ll have to wait months, or maybe even until next year.
The program provides grants of up to $10,000 for windstorm-mitigation improvements like installing impact-resistant windows, exterior doors and garage doors, or upgrading roofs to improve roof-to-wall attachments, roof-todeck connections, and creating a secondary water resistance barrier.
For every $1 spent by a qualifying homeowner, the state will spend $2, up to a maximum reimbursement grant of $10,000.
Since the program opened to applicants last November, 12,809 homeowners have had free windstorm mitigation inspections identifying improvements that could qualify for the $10,000, program statistics show. Of those, 2,081 have been approved to receive the grant.
That means there’s still time to become eligible. If all approved applicants seek $10,000 in reimbursement, the program currently has enough funding for 11,500 grants. To apply, go to mysafeflhome.com or call 1-866-513-6734.
Among the earliest participants, questions and confusion have arisen about roof improvement eligibility — what improvements are required,
how they must be documented, and whether homeowners can be reimbursed for the cost of the entire roof replacement necessary to make the improvements.
The only upgrades eligible for the grant are those that earn homeowners wind mitigation discounts off of their property insurance premiums.
For roofs, there are three types of improvements that qualify for the credit: strengthening roof-towall attachments; improving roofto-deck connections; and installing a Secondary Water Resistance barrier over the roof ’s wood deck, under asphalt shingle or several other types of roof covering.
Water resistance options for roofs
Outside of Broward and MiamiDade counties, homeowners can choose among three methods of creating a Secondary Water Resistance barrier:
One that’s rarely used is to seal the underside of the deck from the attic with a foam adhesive barrier. This method can work as a retrofit, but makes little sense if the homeowner is removing the old roof covering and exposing the deck from top.
Another method, which has qualified for the Secondary Water Resistance barrier credit for more than a decade, involves sealing the joins between plywood deck sheeting with four- to six-inchwide self-adhering polymer underlayment. The adhesive strip, known informally as “peeland-stick,” is applied on top of the wood, and then the entire deck is covered with a heavy felt and secured with nails to prevent it from ripping away during a storm.
A 2002 consultant’s report for the Florida Department of Community Affairs described the value of the Secondary Water Resistance barrier. “This mitigation technique is aimed at keeping rain water out of the house once the roof covering fails,” it says. “Generally, roof coverings begin to peel off in peak wind gusts ranging from about 70 to 100 mph.
“The underlayment (felt) also is easily torn and becomes separated from the roof deck, exposing the house interior to water damage. Water enters through the space between pieces of the roof deck. SWR covers these seams and provides for a redundant waterproofing of the house.”
The third method, not currently available in Dade and Broward counties, is a newer technique that uses larger sheets of the peel-andstick underlayerment material to cover the entire roof deck, including gaps between the plywood sheets.
The Florida Building Code offers the full-coverage method as one of five underlayment options for asphalt, metal, mineral surfaced, slate and slate-type roof coverings.
The Florida Roofing and Sheetmetal Association’s technical director, Mike Silvers, says covering the entire deck with peel-andstick provides a superior water resistance barrier because it resists being torn off by high winds better than the heavy felt underlayment. The material also contracts around nails to prevent water intrusion through holes, Slivers says.
Silvers says he became convinced of its superiority when he visited areas of the Panhandle struck by Hurricane Michael in 2018. “The people with the [peel and stick] underlayment that stayed in place had far fewer of their water-damaged belongings out on the street,” he said.
You can’t ‘peel and stick’ in Broward, Miami-Dade
Building officials in Miami-Dade County have resisted allowing the self-adhesive polymer material to serve as an underlayment for the entire deck because they say it’s too difficult to remove next time the roof must be replaced.
Since 1994, Miami-Dade and Broward have had special building code provisions to address construction shortcomings blamed for the destruction of hundreds of homes in southwest Miami-Dade by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Revisions to the Florida Building Code that took effect after Andrew included designation of the two counties as a High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ), with requirements to strengthen garage doors, exterior doors, and windows to withstand high winds and “large missile impacts.”
During workshops to consider revisions to the Florida Building Code that would take effect in 2024, the topic became “one of the most contentious and most heavily debated items,” said Jaime Gascon, director of code administration for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources. “The self-adhered option will cost less to install but will have negative consequences to the owner when needing to re-roof or when the roof deck deteriorates.”
Rules to change next year
But in recent months, the Florida Building Commission, which oversees building code revisions, and its Roofing Technical Advisory Committee both approved the Florida Roofing and Sheetmetal Association’s proposal to allow the self-adhesive material to cover entire roof decks in the two counties.
Gascon said he doesn’t expect Miami-Dade County to try to prevent the option from becoming legal in the HVHZ next year. Michael Guerasio, chief structural code compliance official for Broward County, says he is unaware of any effort to prevent it from taking effect in Broward County.
After the method becomes legal in the HVHZ, Gascon expects a majority of roofing contractors to begin using “because it’s cheaper.”
The method won’t be available to Broward and Miami-Dade homeowners planning to replace their roofs this year, unless they want to try to seek early approval from their local building officials.
When the revised building code is published in draft form on July 1, local building officials “may have the ability to accept use of the roof underlayment options before the official effective date of the code,” Gascon said. Those decisions will be up to building officials in individual cities, or county building officials in the unincorporated areas of Broward and Miami-Dade.
If rejected by their local building official, homeowners can appeal the decision to their county’s Board of Rules and Appeals, Gascon said.
For My Safe Florida Home applicants in Broward and MiamiDade who have already received approval for their grants and don’t want to wade through additional bureaucracy, they will have to seek the Secondary Water Resistance credit based on the more traditional method of covering the wood deck joints with four- to six-inch peel-and-stick tape, then covering the deck with mechanically fastened heavy felt.
Or they could wait until next January to get their roof replaced.
The sticky part for the grant program participants is that they have only one year after their grant is approved to get the work finished, pay their contractors, have their insurance company conduct an inspection to verify that the work has been done, and apply for the $10,000 reimbursement.
However, even if they fail to obtain the Secondary Water Resistance credit, applicants can still secure reimbursement for the entire re-roofing job if they verify upgrades to their roof-to-deck and/or roof-to-wall connections, program spokesman Devin Galetta said.