Think you Can Count on Insurance When your Roof Fails? Think Again.

Ever wondered why people call the place where they live as a “roof over their head?”

Your roof stands between you and the open sky above. It protects your home and your possessions from rain, wind, and snow. A home is not a warm, cozy place without a proper, sturdy roof on top. Unfortunately, roofs don’t last forever. When it’s time to repair or replace your roof, will your homeowner’s insurance pay for it? The short answer? It depends. The long answer? Keep reading.

Finding Fault

Typically, if your roof requires repair or replacement due to a one-time incident, that work is a covered expense. If the problem with the roof is the result of age or normal wear and tear, insurance won’t help.

For example, your insurer should cover roof repair or replacement costs if hail damages the roofing surface unless your policy excludes hail. Other common covered causes of roof damage include heavy rain, snowstorms, falling tree branches, and fire.

If your homeowner’s insurance does not cover damage from windstorms or hurricanes, it won’t cover your roof if those are the sources of the problem.

Insurance policies differ, so it is best to confirm with your insurer to confirm your coverage. Generally, damage caused by a sudden incident–like a tree falling or a storm–is covered. When a roof exceeds its expected lifespan or fails due to normal wear, that is considered part of home maintenance. Homeowner’s insurance does not cover that.

So, if your roof is getting up there in years, you should start preparing for the expense of replacing it.

Act your Age

Replacement cost coverage pays the entire cost of a new, comparable roof, minus the deductible. While this type of insurance provides the best coverage, insurers may hesitate to issue policies for older roofs since they are more likely to fail in heavy winds or during intense storms. Some may require a roof inspection before insuring an older roof, even if the policy only covers damage caused by significant events and not age-related failures. Roofs weaken over time, so an older roof is a more significant risk both to the insurance company and the home.

In some cases, particularly with older roofs, an insurance company might provide actual cash value insurance instead of declining to offer insurance altogether. Actual cash value coverage pays an amount based on the depreciated value of your roof over time. It may be cheaper or even the only coverage your provider will offer, but it does mean you will receive less money if you have a claim.

With this type of coverage, the homeowner only receives a partial payment based on the roof’s age instead of the entire cost to replace it. Thus, a 10-year-old roof would be covered at a higher amount than a 20-year-old roof, even if the bill from the roofing company was the same. Insurers depreciate a roof’s value every year, meaning reimbursement costs decrease as the roof ages.

Mixed Messages

Insurance coverage can become confusing when multiple factors come together. If you notice a roof leak after a major storm, that doesn’t always mean insurance will cover the roof problem.

The insurance company may determine that the storm caused you to notice the problem but that it didn’t cause the issue. In other words, it is possible that a problem existed as a result of normal aging, and it was simply the water from the storm that brought the situation to light. If the roof’s failure was due to gradual deterioration of your aging roof, it is a general maintenance issue and likely not covered.

If a storm blows off some shingles and an insurer determines that it is purely cosmetic damage, they may not cover it, either.

However, even if the insurance won’t cover the roof, it likely will cover any damage to the walls or contents caused by a maintenance or aging-related problem. In other words, you’d pay for the roof, and they’d pay for the drywall and your favorite chair that was sitting under the leak.

An Ounce of Prevention

Even if the type of damage your roof sustains is covered, you will still have to pay for your deductible and go through the process of filing a claim. And, you’ll have to wait with an unsound roof while everything is sorted out. That’s why it is best to keep your roof safe from even covered perils.

Here are three steps you can take to prevent making that call to your insurance company:

1. Branching Out

Falling trees and branches are a source of extensive roof damage. They can also damage the contents of your home and even injure anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby when they fall. Tree pruning is essential for roof care and a wise safety precaution. Branches that come down due to storms or diseased trees can cause significant problems. But, you don’t have to have a massive piece come down to have roof damage.

Over time, branches rubbing against your roof can wear away the roofing materials and lead to expensive problems. Trim your trees to allow plenty of clearance between them and any structures. Remove any large or damaged branches. Your roof will thank you.

While most policies would cover damage from a falling branch, they may not cover gradual wear from a branch rubbing the roof’s surface. An inspection by a roofing contractor can help you spot this sort of problem. That brings us to our next preventative measure.

2. Inspection Protection

Professional roofing contractors can spot signs of trouble before they become expensive issues. If you have concerns about your roof—especially if it is older—schedule an inspection with a roofing contractor. Ideally, you will do this every few years to head off any trouble before it occurs.

3. Keep Your Mind on the Gutters

Water is your roof’s biggest challenge, and your gutters are what help channel water safely away from it. If leaves or other debris clog your gutters, they can no longer do their job. As a result, water can back up and overflow onto the rooftop. This can undermine the roofing materials or underlying structures. Make sure your gutters are free from debris. While you are cleaning them out, check them for any pieces of roofing materials that have come loose, which is a sure sign your roof has a problem.

If a sudden snowfall or hailstorm brings to light roof issues, it’s nice to know your insurance will probably cover you. Still, it’s best to prevent the issues you can since insurance doesn’t cover everything. A trusted roofing contractor can help you spot problems before they reach a critical point, saving you both time and money in the long run.