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

- By Ron Hurtibise

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 mysafeflho­ or call 1-866-513-6734.

Roof questions

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.

 ?? STEPHEN M. DOWELL/ORLANDO SENTINEL ?? Roofers complete a new shingle installati­on on a home near Orlando last year. It’s possible that under the shingles, the home was protected by a Secondary Water Resistance material that’s currently illegal in Broward and MiamiDade counties.
STEPHEN M. DOWELL/ORLANDO SENTINEL Roofers complete a new shingle installati­on on a home near Orlando last year. It’s possible that under the shingles, the home was protected by a Secondary Water Resistance material that’s currently illegal in Broward and MiamiDade counties.

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