Current standards may increase tornado rebuild costs

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2019 @ 6:21 PM


            A fraction of repairs to homes and apartments has been completed after the Memorial Day tornadoes struck. This duplex on North Knoll Drive in Beavercreek was getting new siding and roof repair in this photo from late June. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
A fraction of repairs to homes and apartments has been completed after the Memorial Day tornadoes struck. This duplex on North Knoll Drive in Beavercreek was getting new siding and roof repair in this photo from late June. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

People looking to rebuild their older homes after damages left by the Memorial Day tornadoes may have added costs to meet current standards on building codes.

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Building permits are required to rebuild homes that sustained damage, and homeowners will need to work with county building inspectors to determine whether the reconstruction plans meet or need to meet a variety of current standards, such as insulation ratings and wall widths.

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Inspectors in Montgomery and Greene counties, where thousands of homes and businesses were affected, damaged or destroyed during the tornado outbreak, are evaluating what’s required on a case-by-case basis.

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“There are too many variables to give a one-size-fits-all answer,” said Michael Zimmerman, spokesman for Montgomery County Business Services.

“We have learned that there are often many variables to consider, so we welcome the chance to talk with homeowners if they are not sure of the right steps to take,” Zimmerman said.

Buildings are put into categories depending on the extent of damages from catastrophic, where only a few walls remain, to affected structures, where some roof shingles or siding were blown away.

Al Kuzma, Greene County’s chief building official, said the tornado that roared through Beavercreek affected each home and business differently. Building inspectors must “make reasonable application of the current energy conservation standards based on the extent of damage and repairs.”

“Those areas of the home not affected by the tornado or influx of rainwater thereafter need not comply with the current standards, since they are existing and unaffected,” Kuzma said.

New home construction or a partial replacement of a section of a home, room or several rooms will generally need to comply with current building code standards in both counties.

Kuzma said smaller damaged areas are assessed individually and “where possible, a reasonable application of the code should be provided.”

Rebuild costs go up generally when complying with current building codes. For instance, the owner of a 60-year-old home with a damaged wall that had minimal insulation to begin with would need to spend more on insulation per square foot to comply with the current energy standards.

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“Replacing missing or water-logged attic insulation in the damaged area, with insulation of the required thickness and R-value, will add a greater cost, but the additional benefit of adding insulation where none is present or increasing the R- value will pay for itself over time,” Kuzma said.

Building codes include measures for safety such as having a window in every bedroom large enough to accommodate a firefighter wearing an air pack.

“If the original house did not have sleeping room windows that met that standard, they will have to update their design to provide that level of safety,” Zimmerman said.

Another building code requires wind resistant bracing around garage doors. If the original home doesn’t have walls wide enough to accommodate such bracing, a homeowner would be expected to install plywood sheathing, but “not construct the stronger wind braced opening at the garage,” Zimmerman said.

Property owners with questions in Montgomery County can call the building regulations division at (937) 225-4622.

In Greene County, property owners can contact the building department at (937) 562-7420.