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How To Install A Temporary Cover Over Roof Damage

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Severe weather can damage a home in many ways, but one of the worst things it can do is cause penetrating roof damage. Roofs are susceptible to damage from foreign objects; heavy tree branches and other falling objects are capable of breaking through the relatively thin roof decking. When this happens, water, snow, ice and other debris can enter your home through the roof and cause even worse damage. Therefore, it's critical you act swiftly to protect your home from further harm. Below is how you can quickly respond to this situation by installing a temporary tarp cover:

Be safe

Your first priority if your home's roof is suddenly and catastrophically damaged is to keep yourself and family safe. Some possible hazards lingering in the aftermath include dangling live electrical wires, broken natural gas pipelines, and weakness in structural components. Remember your life isn't worth any amount of dollar damage, so don't take any unreasonable risks.

Protect your home from the elements

After a roof suffers penetrating damage, a permanent repair may not be ready available depending on when the incident occurs and where you live. For example, it's unlikely that a roofing contractor will be able to rebuild your roof at 3:00 AM in most locations. That leaves it up to you to install a temporary, but sturdy, barrier against further intrusion into your home:

1. Gather the tools and materials you need :

  • Roof cement – this petroleum-based, tarry product that is used to seal leaks and the edges of vent pipes and chimneys. It can be found at home improvement centers and is sold in cans and caulk tubes.
  • Tarp – read below for more information about what you will need.
  • One-inch putty knife
  • Claw hammer
  • Number 11 roofing nails (1-1/2 inch length)
  • Extension ladder
  • Tape measure

2. Access the roof – climb the ladder, and slowly crawl out on the roof until you come to the damaged area. Using your tape measure, determine the maximum length and width of the hole rounded up to the nearest foot. Make a mental note of anything else you observe about the damage such as wiring breaks or other problems.

3. Prepare the tarp – after taking the measurements of the damage, you will need to get the tarp ready for installation. Buy a tarp, if you don't have one available, at least two or three feet larger on each side than the hole. Tarps can be purchased from general merchandise retail stores as well as from most sporting goods and hardware stores. Try to find one that has grommets on each corner; these will help provide strength when you nail down the tarp.

4. Lay out the tarp – take your tarp, roof cement, putty knife, claw hammer, and roofing nails up the ladder. With the help of one or two assistants, spread the tarp over the hole and pull it taut. At each corner of the tarp, hammer one roofing nail through the corner grommets to hold down the tarp.

5. Nail down the tarp – the next step is to nail down the edges of the tarp. Space the nails about two inches in from the edges, and separate each nail by 6 inch intervals as you work your way along the edges.

6. Waterproof your edges – with your roof cement and putty knife, spread a thin layer under the edge of the tarp on the rooftop surface and push down the tarp to hold it in place. Don't worry if the roof is wet; roof cement is designed to adhere in wet conditions. Be sure to thoroughly cement all the edges of the tarp so that wind can't lift it and rip it free from the nails.

Your temporary repair should keep water out for a while, but make contact with a roofing company as soon as possible. They can restore your roof to its proper condition by repairing the damage and putting on new shingles.

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