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Check Flooded Buildings’ Structural Soundness

Before attempting to restore nonresidential buildings that were exposed to floodwaters, evaluate the extent of damage and amount of cleanup and repairs necessary.

“The first thing to do with a building that has survived a flood is to check its structural soundness,” says Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University agricultural engineer. “If the building has been moved, shifted or twisted, it may not be safe to enter. Also, while damage is obvious in many cases, it may not be noticeable immediately and could weaken the building or cause other problems.”

If the building has extensive damage, tearing it down and rebuilding probably will be less expensive than trying to repair it. As a rule of thumb, if repairs and restoration cost more than 60 percent of rebuilding, building a new structure generally is the best option.

To do a thorough inspection, check:

  • Ridge and eaves to make sure they are straight
  • Walls to see if they still are vertical and straight
  • The building to see if has shifted on its foundation
  • Frame members, such as knee braces, to see whether they’ve been pushed into the siding or up into the roof
  • Trusses and rafters for signs of crushed, split or broken wood
  • Frame members to make sure they haven’t buckled or twisted, aren’t bowing out of alignment and don’t appear to have slipped relative to each other or have gaps in a truss joint
  • Gussets for signs of being deformed
  • Connections for indications that nail, screw or bolt holes are elongated and nails or other connectors are pulled out of the wood or bent
  • Pole building posts for crushed or broken wood near the ground or at truss connections or knee braces. Make sure the posts are straight and vertical. Look for indications that posts made of more than one board may have split along rows of nails.
  • Doors or windows to make sure they open as they did before flooding. If they do not, this may indicate the structure has shifted. In cases of severe shifting, water lines, gas lines and electrical circuits may have been damaged.
  • Electrical circuits or insulation for wetness and other water damage
  • Siding and metal roofing for tears around fasteners, evidence of fasteners being pulled, bends or buckles in the metal roof sheets and whether the sheets still are aligned with each other
  • Wood for indications of rotting or other damage that could weaken the building.

You should document any damage with photos and contact your insurance company. Also, consult with a building contractor or engineer if you see several indications of damage.

For more information, go www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood or www.extension.org/Floods.

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