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Roofs and walls

Your home will be more resilient and safer in an earthquake or extreme wind if the roof is lightweight and well secured. This includes the roof being well connected to the walls and making sure the walls are safe and strong too.

Check your roof

Find out about the basic checks you can do inside and on top of your roof, for all roof types.

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Inside the roof

Find the access point to your roof space so you can check the condition of the framing.

  • If it’s a timber frame, look for borer or rot. Check that nails are in good condition and the timber isn’t split around the heads of nails.
  • If timber needs to be replaced, you will need a licensed building practitioner to do the work and may need a building consent. Find out whether the roof needs any additional bracing for extra strength.
  • If you have a steel framed roof, check for signs of rust or loose connectors.
  • If you have concrete, clay or slate roof tiles, make sure they are well secured to the framing so they don’t slide off in an earthquake.

On top of the roof

  • Make sure all materials are securely fixed down, and all nails and other fastenings are in place.
  • If you have a flat roof, make sure the fixings and the roofing material around the fixings are in good condition (no rust in the steel roofing or the fixings). Flat roofs may be more hazardous during a storm as the increased lifting forces of the wind can pull them off more easily than pitched roofs.
  • If you’re considering replacing heavy roof tiles, such as concrete or clay, find out about lighter weight metal options. You can get some metal roofs that look very similar to clay tiles.
  • Keep gutters clear of leaves or debris so water doesn’t overflow into your roof space, wall cavity or ceiling during heavy rain. Check your gutters if a volcanic eruption is predicted in your area, as ash build up could cause blockages.

You can read more about providing sufficient bracing capacity for wind and earthquakes in the bracing supplement on BRANZ’s Build Magazine website.

Quick fact – roof tiles need to be well secured

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Check your walls

Your roof needs to sit on external walls that will perform well under stress. Different types of wall construction behave differently in natural disasters.

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In most cases, you will need a licensed building practitioner to help you check the walls and carry out any strengthening work.

Gable roof and brick walls

Check in the roof space to make sure the gable walls are braced, as they can cause damage if they fall during an earthquake. Check that the brick veneer is properly tied to the gable end framing.

Brick or block masonry walls

If your house was built before 1950 there’s a high chance any external brick (such as double brick) and concrete block masonry walls are not reinforced. These are at high risk of being damaged in an earthquake.  

A double brick wall is about 200 mm thick and the inside face may be plastered flat for wallpapering or painting.

Brick veneer walls

These walls are much less hazardous than brick or block masonry walls in an earthquake. The veneer could come off the timber framing if the ties have corroded or their fixings have weakened. The best time to check the ties or fixings is when you have the wall open for renovations. 

Lath and plaster walls

Houses built before the 1930s often have ‘lath and plaster’ wall linings. These are closely spaced horizontal thin timber strips covered with plaster. These types of wall linings are not intended to provide bracing in an earthquake.

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Working safely at heights

If you decide to go into or onto your roof, make sure you do so safely.

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Some key steps:

  • If you’re going up on the roof, check the weather and delay your inspection if necessary.
  • Ask someone to watch while you’re inside the roof or up top, and let them know which areas you’ll be inspecting. 
  • Check it's safe to work around any power services. If not, turn them off. 
  • Check your equipment is in good condition (for example, your ladder or torch).
  • Wear appropriate safety gear for the task, such as non-slip footwear, hard hat, high vis vest, gloves, mask, overalls, kneepads, boots and protective eyewear.

You can read more about working safely at heights on the Worksafe website.

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How safe is your roof?

  • Check your roof inside and outside. Does its material or condition create a hazard?     
  • Can repairs be done to make your roof safer in the event of a natural disaster? If re-roofing, consider a lightweight material.    
  • Are your walls solid and reinforced? Unreinforced brick and masonry can be a significant hazard in the event of a natural disaster.  

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