Reinforcing Your Roof1

Hal S. Knowles III, Craig Miller, Kathleen C. Ruppert, Karla A. Lenfesty, and Barbara Haldeman 2

This publication is part 4 of 6 in the Education + Action = Wind Damage Mitigation series. For the rest of the series, visit https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_series_wind_damage_mitigation.

The roof helps keep your home comfortable and dry. But during the high winds of a hurricane, poorly designed or maintained roofs can fail (Figure 1). Here are a few tips to reinforce your roof.

Figure 1. Roof failure.
Figure 1.  Roof failure.
Credit: Institute for Business & Home Safety

Why does roof design matter?

Roofs with very steep slopes perform poorly against horizontal winds. Roofs with very shallow slopes allow increased vertical uplift. Slopes between 3:12 and 6:12 (horizontal run: vertical rise) are often considered the safest.

Both hip roofs and gable roofs are common throughout Florida. Because of their design, hip roofs are more resistant to high wind loads.

Gable roofs can be made safer with a few minor improvements.

Cross ("X") Brace the Gable ("A" Frame)

First, install diagonal cross bracing between the gable truss and the fourth truss back (approximately 8 feet). See Figure 2. Be safe: remember to "X" the "A."

Figure 2. Reinforcing the roof—diagonal cross bracing.
Figure 2.  Reinforcing the roof—diagonal cross bracing.
Credit: Barbara Haldeman, UF/IFAS PREC

Brace to Avoid the Domino Effect

Second, install horizontal truss bracing to prevent the trusses from getting pushed together by extreme winds. This is shown in Figure 3. Be safe: remember to "avoid the domino effect."

Figure 3. Reinforcing the roof—horizontal truss bracing.
Figure 3.  Reinforcing the roof—horizontal truss bracing.
Credit: Barbara Haldeman, UF/IFAS PREC

Third, install a shutter over any vents on the gable end wall. If you are building a new house with a gable roof, consider using continuous wall construction or balloon framing. This creates a solid unit of wall framing from the ground through to the roof on the gabled end of the house.

Create a Continuous Load Path

A house is a system of connected parts. If there is one weak link in the system, the whole house can be damaged. This is why it is important to create a continuous load path between the ground and the top of your house. This unifies the vertical structure of your house and resists the uplift forces of hurricane winds.

A continuous load path requires that you anchor the house's roof to the walls, the second floor to the first floor, and the walls to the foundation (see Figure 4). This can be done using hurricane straps for the roof-to-wall and floor-to-floor connections, and anchor bolts for the wall-to-foundation connections.

Figure 4. Create a continuous load path.
Figure 4.  Create a continuous load path.
Credit: Barbara Haldeman, UF/IFAS PREC

Proper Sheathing and Shingle Attachment

When installed improperly or with substandard materials, roof shingles, siding, and other exterior materials can be torn from a house. This allows wind and water inside, damaging the house. Also, these materials can become dangerous flying or "wind-borne" debris during a storm. Proper fastening techniques can prevent materials from being torn off a home during severe storms.

Connect roof sheathing to the roof framing with ten-penny weight common or eight-penny weight ring shank nails. Space them four inches apart along the edges and six inches apart in the middle of the plywood sheathing. Use wood adhesive underneath the sheathing along the connecting joint with the roof trusses.

Ring shank nails provide increased holding power as a result of their threaded rings (Figure 5). These rings bite into the sheathing and framing and resist higher uplift forces.

Figure 5. Ring shank nail (not to scale).
Figure 5.  Ring shank nail (not to scale).
Credit: Barbara Haldeman, UF/IFAS PREC

Other Resources

Federal Alliance for Safe Homes: http://www.flash.org

Federal Emergency Management Agency National Preparedness Resource Library: https://www.fema.gov/national-preparedness-resource-library

FloridaDisaster.org: Florida Division of Emergency Management: http://www.floridadisaster.org

Institute for Business and Home Safety: http://www.disastersafety.org/

University of Florida: UF/IFAS Extension Disaster Handbook: https://branding.ifas.ufl.edu/disaster-handbook/

Footnotes

1. This document is ABE377 (it is Part 4 of 6 in the Education + Action = Wind Damage Mitigation series), one of a series of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 2005. Revised October 2013, November 2016, and May 2020. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication. This publication was initially partially funded from a Florida Department of Community Affairs Residential Construction Mitigation Program Grant.
2. Hal S. Knowles III, lecturer and charge agent, Sustainability and the Building Environment and Department of Urban and Regional Planning, College of Design, Construction and Planning; Craig Miller, associate professor, Program for Resource Efficient Communities; Kathleen C. Ruppert, professor emeritus, Program for Resource Efficient Communities; Karla A. Lenfesty, family and consumer sciences agent, retired, UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County; and Barbara Haldeman, editorial assistant, Program for Resource Efficient Communities; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.