Keeping up with code changes in Florida

In 1986, a state promotional slogan was introduced in the Sunshine State: “Florida — the rules are different here.”

While the slogan may have since fallen by a wayside somewhere in the middle of the Everglades, it could certainly be the motto of every Florida roofer. T-shirts with that slogan could be big sellers at the Florida Roofers show in June.

Recently added to the Florida Statutes, Rule 9B-3.4075 Hurricane Mitigation Retrofits for Existing Site-Built Single Family Residential Structures has done several things to the residential re-roofing business in Florida. As is the intent with all codes, it will make for a stronger structure — the rules have to be different in Florida simply because structures are challenged more by weather conditions. The new code also increases the overall cost of re-roofing to the homeowner, who may be forced to install a roofing product less expensive and lower in quality than metal to stay within a budget.

One Florida roofer, who wished to remain anonymous, says, “It’s been confusion here due to Florida’s never ending changes. And, during a slow time, the mitigation created inflated prices causing people to rethink their ability to purchase a new roof adding to an already slow Florida economy.”

So, part of what the rule states is:

1. When a roof on an existing site-built, single-family residential structure is replaced, the following procedures shall be permitted to be performed by the roofing contractor:

    A. Roof-decking attachment and fasteners shall be strengthened and corrected as required by section 201.1.
    B. A secondary water barrier shall be provided as required by section 201.2.

2. When a roof is replaced on a building that is located in the wind-borne debris region as defined in s. 1609.2 of the Florida Building Code, Building and that has an insured value of $300,000 or more or, if the building is uninsured or for which documentation of insured value is not presented, has a just valuation for the structure for purposes of ad valorem taxation of $300,000 or more:

    (a) Roof to wall connections shall be improved as required by section 201.3.
    (b) Mandated retrofits of the roof-to-wall connection shall not be required beyond a 15 percent increase in the cost of re-roofing.
    (c) Where complete retrofits of all the roof-to-wall connections as prescribed in Section 201.3 would exceed 15 percent of the cost of the re-roofing project, the priorities outlined in Section 201.3.75 shall be used to limit the scope of work to the 15 percent limit.

Keep in mind the excerpt above is only part of the 15-page document, but you get the gist. Needless to say, it affects anyone installing residential roofing in Florida.

“The new hurricane mitigation law has changed the way we do business,” says Milo Olson, owner of Lifetime Roofing in Stuart, Fla. “The law put an added burden onto the consumer in an already tough and price increasing market. The law was written by politicians and not by people in the trade. It was forced into effect by the insurance company lobbyist. That is why it only applies to re-roofing and not to new construction thanks to the builder’s lobbyist. What the insurance companies do not realize is that it will cost them more in the long run in code upgrades when homeowners have another claim.”

Olson was featured in a story in Metal Roofing Magazine two years ago. He had just packed up his family in Nebraska and headed for Florida to install stone-coated steel roofing on homes in hurricane-ravaged Florida. He’s staying busy, but it’s a tough place to do business and keep up with the rules, different in Florida.

“Since the law has taken effect I do not see any logical benefit from it,” he says. “If a metal roof that has a -153 psf is going to blow off then there is no way a self-adhered modified bitumen tape will withstand the wind. The worst part of the law is that it has been changed twice, maybe three times, and has not been finalized, so every municipality has a different approach to the law. The building inspectors and city plan reviewers are not happy with it either. There are too many stipulations and holes on the way the law is written. Many building officials do not see how they are supposed to enforce a law since they are not police officers. The law makes you run a secondary water barrier. That contradicts the current NOAs and warranties from the manufacturers.”

Olson — like all Florida residential roofers — is dealing with the changes the best he can. Inconsistencies make it more difficult.

“Regarding the roof to wall connections portion of the law it is completely ridiculous,” he says. “If the value of the house is $300,000.00 or greater then it has to be checked by an engineer to spec a system to bring it up to current code. The work has to be done if it is less then 15 percent of the re-roof job. The law also states you need to brace the gable wall ends and that makes sense in the wind zone. The problem is that the general contractors and I have not figured out a way to brace a gable end wall that has cathedral ceilings. Let’s face it, to get an engineer and general contractor, and to coordinate the work is always going to be over the 15 percent limit. So that part of the law is not even applicable in 99 percent of the re-roofs.”

Not all is bad with the new law. Olson says when the work is completed, a home-owner can save 10 to 20 percent on the wind portion of their homeowner’s insurance policy. It kicks in when the work is done and that work must be documented throughout the building process.

Olson believes the law should be rewritten or at least “cleaned up” with input from the Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association as well as manufacturers who regularly test their roofing and underlayment products.
After the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, the re-roofing and construction markets were booming. There wasn’t enough labor or product to go around. Homeowners waited months — many more than a year — for new roofing. Since the hurricanes, insurance for all Floridians has gone up dramatically — Metal Roofing Magazine has heard reports of double or more. Some believe there was a great deal of poor workmanship done following the storms, citing people shortages and unskilled labor conditions.

With the new code in place, what happens during the next devastating hurricane season? Hopefully, any re-roofing jobs installed after the new code will stand up to the forces of nature. Hopefully there will be time, product and labor available to re-roof damaged homes to the letter of the new law.

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