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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Assessing structural damage after a natural disaster

Structural_Damage.pngOne of the first major milestones on the road to recovering after a natural disaster is assessing the structural damage to your property.

“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.

Homeowners should wait to approach their property until authorities give the all clear, then it is important to thoroughly check the entire house, including the roof, foundation and walls.

Regardless of whether there is visible damage to the property, arranging for inspection by a licensed professional is recommended. Also, document the condition of the property with photos or video and report any damage to the insurance company.

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

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

Examine the roof closely 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.

“Check areas where the foundation and the structure meet to ensure no shifting has occurred. Other signs of shifting include doors and windows that no longer open and close correctly,” 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. To make sure walls are vertical and straight, perform a visual inspection as well as use a carpenter’s level.

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

For more information on recovering from natural disasters, contact your local county Extension office.

 

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Oklahoma State University
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Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
405.744.5000