What You Need to Know about Insurance Claims
Have roof damage and need to file a claim? In some cases, it makes more sense not to file a claim. Here are some things to consider before filing an insurance claim.
Too Many Insurance Claims
Before you file an insurance claim, consider how many claims you’ve filed on your homeowner’s insurance in the past three to seven years.
Insurance companies have a record of how many claims you’ve made. If you’ve filed more than two claims on your homeowners in the last five years it could drive up the cost of your premiums.
However, It’s almost always worth filing a roof claim if the type of damage or the extent of the damage is extensive. The cost of replacing a roof often outweighs the cost of higher premiums.
Let’s look at a few of the factors that determine whether your claim will end up covering your whole roof or leave you with a blemished record.
How Old Is Your Roof?
The age of your roof matters. However, an newer roof isn’t always better when it comes to filing a claim. You might think your roof is too old to be covered, but actually the opposite may be true.
When your roof is 25 years old, it’s pretty much at the end of its life. Your expectation might be that your insurance would never cover replacing it. But your insurance company may be more likely to cover a whole roof replacement for an older roof.
To be clear, they won’t cover your roof just because it’s old. However, if you have storm damage from wind or hail, an older roof is harder to repair than a newer one.
Because when a damaged shingle is replaced, the surrounding shingles have to be peeled back so that a replacement shingle can be inserted.
Older shingles aren’t flexible enough to be peeled back. This means that for every shingle that’s replaced, the surrounding shingles will crack and eventually fail themselves.
Your insurance can’t pay for a repair that’s going to cause further damage to the home. So, the only way to resolve the damage is to replace the whole roof.
A younger roof with same amount of damage can likely be repaired without damaging the existing shingles. In that case, it’s probably not worth an insurance claim.
If you do file the claim and the insurance company only approves a repair, you might not even meet the cost of your deductible. Now you’ve just added a claim to your record, and you haven’t even benefited from it.
That doesn’t mean you should never file a claim on a new roof, But you’re going to need a lot more damage before that makes sense.
How Much Damage Do You Have?
It’s not always easy to tell how badly a storm has damaged your roof.
Even people who have been super skeptical of getting their roof covered are surprised when their claim is approved.
That’s why it’s important to have a qualified roof inspector evaluate your roof and give you the information you need to decide if you should file a claim.
A good roof inspection will identify damage you might not be able to see from the ground, such as creased shingles, hail damage, wind damaged or cracked shingles.
Issues that Can Affect a Claim
It’s not always the damage itself that can determine whether a claim is approved or not. Most insurance policies cover the use of “like kind” materials.
If the shingles on your roof have been discontinued and are no longer available, the insurance company will have to replace all the shingles on your roof even if only one shingle was missing.
If the insurance company can’t replace that one shingle with “like kind” material, the only way to resolve the damage is to replace the whole roof, and they’ll likely approve the claim.
That appeal on a claim is valid with most insurance companies, but most people have no way of knowing if their shingles have been discontinued or not.
Choosing a roofing company you can trust is key to navigating any roofing project. They know the industry and can help you understand the options available to you.
Another thing to consider is how your roof is ventilated.
Ridge vents are installed along at the peak of the roof. A slit is cut all the way across the roof’s ridge under the vent to allow for air flow. However, this essentially separates the two sides of the roof.
Technically speaking, those two slopes (or sides of your roof) are not connected to one another.
When damage is limited to one slope of your roof, it’s possible your insurance company will only cover the slope that’s damaged.
If you don’t have a ridge vent, then all slopes of your roof are connected to one another. Your roof is considered one continuous roof. With a continuous roof, you’ll likely get all the other slopes replaced as well.
When deciding if you should file an insurance claim, knowing how your roof is ventilated can be a major factor to consider.
For example, if your roof…
- has a ridge vent
- is missing only a few shingles,
- is only 5 years old
- and all the damage is limited to one slope
…it’s probably not worth an insurance claim.
You may get the front slope repaired, or maybe even get the whole front slope replaced. But depending on your deductible, you may still decide against filing.
However, if you don’t have ridge vents, or your shingles have been discontinued, or the damage is extensive, you might decide it’s worth filing a claim.
Roof damage may seem like it’s easy to spot. Sure, missing shingles are sometimes visible from the ground, but other types of roof damage are not as obvious.
A roof inspection can give you the information you need to fully assess the damage.
Roof inspections are not just about having someone climb on your roof and walk around in hopes of finding some damage.
Today’s roof inspectors use high tech equipment to examine your roof, from drones that take high-res photos of every inch of your roof to infrared sensors that can detect how well your roof is reflecting heat.
Creased shingles, for example, can be especially hard to spot. Creased shingles are shingles that have been damaged by high winds.
The wind flaps the shingle back and forth causing the back of the shingle to break and crease. The shingle will still be on the roof, but wind blown rain can now get driven underneath it.
Furthermore, a creased shingle won’t shed rain the way it’s designed to. Water will get absorbed along the crease and eventually break down the shingle’s layers.
This means you might have zero shingles missing and therefore assume you don’t have the basis for a claim. But your roof may actually be damaged as badly as one with obvious damage like missing shingles.
Depending on the other factors we mentioned, like the age of the roof and type of ventilation, your insurance company may still end up agreeing to replace the entire roof.
Unless you have a metal roof or damage from unusually large hail, you’ll not likely be able to see hail damage from the ground.
But with the high-res photos from your inspection you can notice dents and crushed granules throughout the roof.
Hail damage won’t cause any immediate leaks. But hail will damage the structural integrity of the shingles. The impact of the hail stones can crush the granules and crack the fiberglass mat underneath.
The damaged shingle will continue to break down over time and eventually fail. That’s why your insurance company will likely replace your whole roof rather than risk waiting for the inevitable.
To File or Not to File
Some roofers will encourage you to file a claim every time there’s damage because it’s in their best interest to do so.
Even if there’s only a 10 percent chance that the insurance company will cover a new roof, that’s a 10 percent chance the roofer has of landing another roofing job.
You need to be the decision maker. But that means having enough information to make the right decision. Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself and your roofer before deciding to file a claim:
- How old is my roof?
- What’s my insurance deductible?
- What does my insurance cover?
- Are these shingles discontinued?
- Do I have roof vents that segment the slopes of my roof, or is my roof one continuous roof?
- How much damage is there?
- Is the damage limited to one area?
- What type of damage do I have?
- Can the damage be repaired?
- What is the cost of repairing vs. replacing?
Choosing a roofer you can trust is essential. But that’s not enough. You need to know what your policy covers, how old your roof is and what questions to ask your roofer so you can make an informed decision.
Roofsimple offers ideas, not advice. Any insurance or financial decisions should be discussed with a trusted financial adviser or licensed insurance agent.