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After a severe weather occurrence, the media is usually the first to start describing the devastation (it makes for good ratings) and most viewers are anxiously awaiting a dollar figure of the damage. Many of the concerned viewers tuned into the weather reports are homeowners that may have to deal with their own financial consequence of the storm. A responsible homeowner will mitigate the damage(s) that may have resulted from a storm or natural disaster. But before any attempt to mitigate the damages is made, the entire property should be inspected to identify and quantify the potential damage. Note that we are not suggesting that you wait for a storm to inspect your property; there are many other things than can and may pose a threat to your property, especially to your roof (see below). As a good rule of thumb, your property should be inspected no less than once a year for potential problems and leaks.

In the event you think there is damage to your property, some of your first thoughts may be how bad is the damage and how much is it going to cost me. You may even be hoping that the damage is something that would be covered under your insurance policy. To start things off this in no way should be considered a recommendation for or against a claim. Only a licensed adjuster, you and your insurance carrier can make that determination. Before you make that determination it is a good idea to gather some data. Listed below are 3 important questions a homeowner should research in order to determine a sound resolution to address any potential property damage.

3 Important Questions:

Is my roof damaged?

If so, how severe and what else might be damaged. We start with the roof because damage here can lead to the biggest problems. So what is the definition of damage? My definition includes two parts. Firstly, has the water-shedding capability of the roofing system been compromised? Secondly, has the service life of the roofing product been reduced? If the answer to either or both of these questions is yes then it's safe to say your roof has damage.

Other things to consider include whether or not the manufacturer’s warranty has been voided as a result of the damage.  Once this is determined your roofing professional can recommend if the damage will require a full replacement or if a simple repair will address the issue.  As tempting as the cost of repair vs. replacement might be, sometimes a repair is simply not feasible.  For example, if you're roofing product has been discontinued, if you're roofing system is too delicate or brittle, or if there is an underlying code compliance issue that prevents you from making a repair to an outdated roof you may need to replace the entire roofing system.  Conversely, replacing a roof that can easily be repaired is just senseless.  It is important to note that codes change over time and the cost of repair may grow as noncompliant code issues are uncovered.

What caused the damage to my roof?

There are various things that can damage a roof under normal circumstances. Let's take a look at the five most common culprits:

  • Weather related damage - usually the result of hail in excess of 1" in diameter or high winds in excess of 40mph.  High winds might also cause overhanging branches to rub against your roof and damage it over time. Be sure to keep all branches cut back away from the sides of your home and away from the surface of your roof.

  • Manufacturing defect - blistering is the most common one here, different products have different propensities to fail.  A little research on your product will let you know what to look out for.  On rare occasions a product will be discontinued due to an inherent tendency to fail.

  • Improperly installed - All reputable manufacturers print instructions with the recommended application techniques.  These are there for a reason - to ensure that the product works correctly. Ignoring these instructions will often lead to a reduced life span of the roofing system and may increase the chance of leaks.  

  • Vermin - animals such as raccoons, squirrels, rats, and birds have been known to damage roofs in order to make themselves cozy in your attic. Homes with overhanging tree branches are at a higher risk for this problem.  A pest control company may be of assistance if this is your culprit.

  • Manmade - There are two distinct variations of man-made damage. (Unintentional and intentional) Unintentional man-made damage is often referred to as mechanical damage. This happens when a worker drops his hammer on your roof, or from heavy foot traffic in a particular area. If there is an AC unit or other appliance installed on your roof that requires regular servicing, the area just in front of the appliance will be susceptible to additional wear and tear.  Intentional man-made damage is pretty self-explanatory and something that happens all too often these days. It is a felony offense if the person that created the damage tries to pass it off as weather damage to an insurance provider. Be sure to keep an eye on anyone that wants to offer you a "free inspection".  Burglars can also find vantage points to later break into your home by getting on your roof and walking into your backyard.      

With such a limited number of things that might create damage to your roof, process of elimination is a good place to start when solving the mystery. However, sometimes it’s blatantly obvious what caused the damage.  Another great tip is to document the findings of your roof inspection. Take pictures and keep damaged property until you know for sure that the insurance company will not be responsible for indemnifying you for your loss.  If there was a storm, keep notes about the storm. (date, time of day, duration of the storm, which direction it came from and what was damaged as a result, invoices for emergency repairs) Remember, as  the homeowner, you have a duty to mitigate any damage and to have any necessary temporary repairs completed as soon as possible.

Is the damage to my roof covered under my homeowner's insurance policy?

As stated in the opening this question requires a license insurance professional to interpret your coverage in regards to any damage.  Beware of contractors selling themselves as a claim expert.  September 1, 2013, HB 1183 went into effect in the state of Texas.  This bill says that contractors may not adjust your claim or interpret your policy language. This bill does not prevent your contractor from discussing his estimate, the scope of his estimate, the extent of the damage, and the technical matters around his proposed method of repair or replacement of your roof.  It is important to remember your Roofing Professional is the expert when it comes to the repair and replacement of your roof.  When it comes to what IS and what IS NOT a covered peril under your insurance coverage you need to consult with someone who is lawfully able to answer these questions. Your insurance agent, a property adjuster, a public adjuster, or an attorney are your subject matter experts.  Here are two questions every homeowner should consult with their agent about to understand their policy:

  1. How much is my deductible? Don't wait to make a claim and to find out. You need to know ahead of time if your deductible is something you can financially afford. Don't make the mistake of saving a couple hundred dollars on your premium by increasing your deductible to a number that you can’t afford when the repair is needed

  2. What type of policy valuation do I have? There are two broad types of policy valuations: ACV and RCV.  ACV policies have non-recoverable depreciation on your roof and other items, meaning that once the job is completed you will not be getting another check for the depreciation. RCV policies will allow you to recover the depreciated amount on your roof and other depreciated items after the repairs are completed. Remember that the older and more worn down your roof is the more it will be depreciated. A 20 yr old roof that has a 20yr product on it will be depreciated the full amount and if you have an ACV policy you may be paying a premium for coverage that doesn't exist.

Now let’s briefly recap. You’ve just had your property inspected by someone you trust and have verified their inspection analysis. If there’s no damage then there’s no problem. In the event that there is damage you want to consider three important questions before you determine your plan of action. 1) Is there damage to my property?  2) What caused the damage to my property? (there may be multiple causes) 3) Should my insurance provider cover any of the damages? One key thing to keep in mind is that you will need two kinds of professionals to answer these three questions. Never let a contractor or roofer interpret your policy; it’s illegal. And always check your contractor’s or inspector’s qualifications.