Texas experts believe construction changes can cut destruction from weather events down

HOUSTON – Whether it’s old or new, construction is consistent throughout Texas.

For years, the state has been one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation. The population growth has been the driving force behind $37.9 billion of new construction poured into the single-family market in 2020, according to the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University.

Now there are even more dollars being poured into the rebuilding sector after last week’s historic freeze.

James Howard, an independent and public insurance adjuster, said he believes better construction would have resulted in a vast number of claims that “would not have happened.”

Howard has done home inspections across the nation and noticed a dramatic difference in the construction of homes that experience temperatures similar to what Texas experienced last week.

“Up in the northern part of the United States, they require a material called ice and water shield to go 2.5 feet up the warming space of the house,” said Howard.

Texas requires plumbers, AC technicians and electricians to be licensed, but contractors and home builders get a pass.

“There are too many homebuilders out here that don’t know what they are doing. They’re just slapping them together,” said contractor Michael Ferguson.

KPRC 2 Investigates caught up with Ferguson as he was making repairs in a Fort Bend County home following last week’s freeze. He made it clear to us he was in favor of changes being implemented in Texas construction.

“I can’t tell you how many people want me to just build a home for them, so they’re just going to who they want, who they like to build a home whether they are qualified or not,” said Ferguson.

There are 19 states that do not require home builders or general contractors to not be licensed. Texas is the only state along the Gulf Coast that does not.

“We’ve been trying for years to regulate just even roofing contractors in Texas. We don’t have a chance to regulate homebuilders,” said Dallas-based attorney Steven Badger, who represents insurance companies in catastrophic claims.

In the last decade, Badger said over a million claims have been filed in Texas that are associated with hail, wind, flood and now freeze events. Construction is part of the problem, according to Badger.

“We could do a lot better with better building codes in Texas and better enforcement of the building codes that do exist,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see from this event what happens,” said storm attorney Rene Sigman.

Devastation from corners cut or cheap materials used in home construction is not an uncommon sight for Sigman, who said it’s time to do things differently in Texas considering the recent frequency of extreme weather events.

“I think you to have evolved. I think the codes have to evolve. I think regulation has to evolve and people are buying more but getting less,” said Sigman.

Homebuilder Brian Thompson has been using protective weather measures in his home construction business for more than a decade. Thompson said spray foam is a big help during a freeze.

“I think that spray foam insulation and pex pipe is the way to go,” he said.

Extra protection that he said doesn’t cost a lot.

“The spray foam used to be really expensive but now it’s come way down because it’s getting used so much,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s biggest advice is for an owner to know the layout of their home and how to manage it from the moment they walk through the front door.

After last week? Thompson emphasizes specifically the one with the greatest and costliest vulnerability.

“I think the biggest takeaway is being familiar with your water supply,” he said.

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