Q: Any hints for temporarily protecting a storm-damaged roof? We sure could have used this information during the hurricanes we had last year.
—Nora, Pensacola, Fla.
A: Tom Silva replies: Anybody who lives where hurricanes or tornados are a regular threat needs to know a little about emergency repairs. But that same know-how can be helpful in other parts of the country, too. It doesn't take much for a heavy tree limb to snap and take out part of a roof, for instance.
Basically, what you want to do is cover the damage with a woven plastic tarp that is held in place with 1x3 wood strips. Here's how I do it. First I roll one end at least twice around a long 1x3, then screw it to the undamaged side of the roof. The 1x3 "roll" should be against the roof so it won't collect water and debris. The rest of the tarp goes over the ridge and down the other side of the roof several feet beyond the damage. Then I roll the opposite end of the tarp around another 1x3 and screw it to the roof sheathing, roll side down. Now it's just a matter of using more 1x3s and screws to hold down the tarp's sides. They don't have to be rolled in the tarp. A "blue roof" isn't pretty, I'll admit, but it will keep the weather out until someone can repair the damage.
Having said that, this type of emergency repair is best left to someone who has the equipment and skill to do it safely. Roofs are treacherous, particularly when wet, and tarps are slippery even when dry. You don't want to be wrestling with one in high winds, either. Better to submit a claim for property insurance than to have your family submit a claim for life insurance.