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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Assessing structural damage after a disaster

STILLWATER, Okla. – One of the major milestones on the road to recovering after a storm is assessing the structural damage to homes and other buildings.

Once authorities have given homeowners the all clear to approach their property, they should thoroughly check their homes and other structures, including the foundation, roof and walls.

“Some damage will be obvious, but some of it will be less noticeable but can cause problems, just the same,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

Generally, it is a good idea to contact a licensed professional to inspect the property regardless of the presence or absence of any visible damage. All damage should be reported to the homeowner’s insurance company.

Closely examine the roof for missing or damaged shingles, loose nails or potential leaks, and inspect the roof truss system because any damage in the truss could affect its strength.

Study the ridge of the roof from a distance. If it sags in the center or at the ends, it could mean the load-bearing walls have shifted.

“Inspect the areas where the foundation and the structure meet to ensure no shifting has occurred. Doors and windows that no longer open and close correctly are other signs that some shifting occurred,” Peek said. “Water lines, gas lines and electrical circuits also may have been disturbed if the shifting is significant enough.”

Both inside and outside the house, scan for cracks in the masonry near corners, as well as under and around doors and windows. Also, visually inspect or use a carpenter’s level to make sure walls are vertical and straight.

After entering a structure, be on the lookout for sagging ceilings, pooled water and wet insulation.

“Keep in mind, insulation in the wall or attic that gets wet must be replaced. If it’s sealed inside your home or a building, wet wall insulation won’t dry,” Peek said.

Before repairs begin, confirm if the work requires building permits.

For more information on assessing damage to a structure after a natural disaster, contact the nearest county Extension office.


Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
158 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078