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Getting a building back to pre-storm condition: What to expect

[fa icon="calendar"] Jul 27, 2021 10:30:44 AM / by Greg Hoyt, PE

Recovery after a hurricane or tornado is a multi-step process. After the storm has passed and it is safe to be back in the area, it is time for building owners, with the help of their insurance companies, to start the rebuilding process. There are several considerations in rebuilding structures to pre-storm condition, including assessing the damages, making repairs, and the associated costs.

Before rebuilding, it is critical to assess the damages to the building to determine what can be repaired and what should be demolished and rebuilt.


Water Damage

In hurricanes and severe storms that include rain events or flooding, it is important to find out if the damage was caused by water or wind. This is necessary as many insurance policies do not routinely cover flood-related losses but will cover damage from wind-blown rain.

After water intrusion, materials need to be either dried out or replaced. Gypsum products, for example, need to be replaced after getting wet. They lose structural integrity and may become home to mold growth. FEMA recommends removing any wallboard that is soaked to at least a foot above the high-water mark.

Plywood and lumber are typically okay to allow to dry if they have been wet by windblown rain or a flood. If they are covered in water or left in very wet conditions for more than a day or two, however, you may need to replace them. When wood fiber gets wet it can become a home for fungi and rot.


Wind Damage

Assessing wind damage is a little more straightforward than water damage. Replace any components that are cracked or otherwise visibly damaged. In the case where wind damage has breached the building envelope, it is important that any repairs or replacements ensure the building is weather-tight.



Insurance companies play a key role in the recovery after major weather events. The first step is having the insurance company assess the damages. That assessment will provide an idea of what parts of rebuilding they will help pay for and which are your responsibility. Typically, insurance carriers need to review the damages as quickly as possible. In the event of a storm that damages a broad geographic area, it can take weeks before the insurance company can be on-site to conduct an assessment.

Your responsibility, no matter when the insurance company is able to visit the site, is to make the building weather tight, which typically entails approaches such as tarps on the roof and plywood over windows. Insurance may not pay for damages that happen after the initial storm if you do not protect the building as much as possible. That means you may need to make repairs to the building and interior to avoid additional damages. In that case, make sure to document the damage, costs, and coordinate with the insurer.



Shortly after the assessment, it is time to line up a contractor. While it may be difficult to find available contractors after a widespread storm or disaster, try to get two to three bids for the repairs and rebuilding. It is likely to cost more than under normal circumstances because labor and materials are at a premium.

This is where CCA can help. Our job is to assist building owners and insurance companies assess damages, scope out repair costs, and do the work for rebuilding. Give us a call to find out how we can help.


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Topics: Catastrophe Response

Greg Hoyt, PE

Written by Greg Hoyt, PE