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Rebuilding after the Hurricane

So many of our homes and businesses sustained significant damage during the two devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.

The events of September sixth will be a memory etched on our minds for a very long time.

As we recover, many homeowners have had to decide to repair, rebuild, or relocate. For some of us, the BVI is our permanent home, so there is no choice but to rebuild.

Whatever decisions you make, you should strive to provide a safer and stronger home for you and your family.

The risk you face today might not be the same risk in the future. We have to believe that we will not be hit with another category five hurricane, but still, we have to prepare for the worst case scenario.

Get in touch with your insurance provider to discuss the planned repairs, what is and what isn’t covered, and how the repairs or rebuilding will affect your insurance coverage.

If you have opted to renovate or rebuild, here are some points to take into consideration:

Architects and Contractors

If you want to rebuild your home stronger and safer, select architects and builders who have a reputable standing in the BVI. 

Get more than one quote for the proposed work to ensure you can benchmark the costs, but there is truth in the old adage that you get what you pay for.

Talk to other clients who have had work completed by these contractors so you know they have a proven track record. 

Contact the local planning authority before starting renovations. They may have specific guidelines in place that you will have to follow and will make sure your work is safe, meeting all the requirements.

Structural upgrades

Here are some tips from David Brockelbank, a structural engineer who resides on Virgin Gorda:

Given the widespread roof damage recorded in the last hurricane, it makes sense for homeowners to review their existing roofs to identify key areas for improvement to make them more resistant to storm winds. Having a structural engineer inspect the home, and make recommendations, can be the first step towards this goal.

  • Overhangs and Eaves: large overhangs and eaves are generally more vulnerable to damage than other areas of the roof. Consider reducing the size of these elements in a rebuild and ensure that they are designed and anchored properly.
  • Rafter Size and Spacing: In a wood framed roof, the rafter size and spacing is critical to the strength of the whole system. Many homes are seen to have rafters too small and spacings too large for the wind loads expected in a powerful storm.
  • Fasteners: It’s important to review how the roof components are attached to one another as well as how they are attached to the supporting walls and further on down to the foundation. Like the weak link in a chain, a house needs continuity of fastening top to bottom to avoid failure. For example, properly sized and attached hurricane clips should be used to secure wood rafters to the wall plate. If they are already installed, they should be inspected for corrosion and replaced if needed. Stainless steel versions are often available for a longer life-expectancy in the corrosive salt air environment.
  • Roofing: concrete or clay tiles; corrugated or standing seam metal roofing; shingles or shakes; whatever your choice of roofing material, it is important that it be installed according to manufacturer’s specifications for hurricane regions. Heavier roofing materials have greater resistance to the uplift force of the wind, but any material of adequate strength and fastened correctly will do.
  • Windows and Doors: Many homes experienced failure of windows and doors that allowed wind and water to enter and further destroy the contents of the home. Homeowners should consider impact rated windows and doors with laminated glass as replacements for those damaged in the storm. Once again proper installation is critical for sound anchorage. It is also wise to plan for exterior shutters or other protective coverings that can be deployed quickly as the first line of defence for the next storm.
  • Upgrades and Changes: A badly storm-damaged home can also be seen as an opportunity to not only correct deficiencies but also to upgrade and make changes. If there were elements of your home that needed replacement, this might be the time to do it. A homeowner may find that there are more suitable replacements than that which was there before the storm. For example, if changes were being contemplated for a room layout or kitchen cabinetry, this may be a convenient time to do so. Taking the time to research the options can even result in cost-savings over simply replacing what was there to begin with.

Finally: Homeowners Insurance Policy

The financial consequences of not having insurance have given many sleepless nights. If you do not have homeowners’ insurance, consider applying for it. Shop around and make sure you understand your policy before you agree to it. Protect yourself. Get to understand what ‘windstorm deductible’ and ‘coinsurance’ mean. They can make a substantial difference to any settlement you may receive. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Talk to someone who can explain it to you in simple terms or do your own research online.

Smiths Gore

Smiths Gore

Smiths Gore is one of the preeminent real estate advisers in the British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean. Contributing authors include Kate Henderson, Morgana Tilling, Bernadette George, and Lucienne Smith
Smiths Gore

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