While roofs may vary drastically in shape, style, and size, they all serve a similar purpose and protect our homes from the elements. Unfortunately, even the strongest shingles cannot always withstand the full fury of Mother Nature’s wrath. Strong winds, flying debris, and pummeling hailstones can wreak havoc on this vital and valuable component to your house, so it’s imperative to act quickly if you detect—or even suspect—damage to your roof. Even light damage can lead to very costly repairs down the road if not addressed promptly.

Just After the Storm

First, you’ll want to take note of the date and approximate time of the storm and any preventative or maintenance work you’ve had done on the roof. These pieces of information could be important to reference when speaking with your insurance company. In the case of a hailstorm, take pictures of the hailstones—you might even want to bag a few up and freeze them to show the adjuster (seriously).

Next, you’ll want to get a sense of what kind of damage you might be looking at.

  • Since venturing out onto the roof is quite dangerous, it should be left to skilled professionals. Instead, try to get a good view of your roof from a window, or grab a pair of binoculars and find a good vantage point nearby.
  • Walk around your yard and look for any pieces of broken shingle in the grass or bushes.
  • It’s also a good idea to check your gutters and windows. If they’ve sustained damage, you can bet your roof has as well.
  • Check your downspouts for granules loosened from shingles. They tend to congregate there. Without the coating of granules, traditional shingles have no protection from the sun’s relentless UV rays, and the asphalt beneath will slowly but surely degrade.

Significant roof damage can be very subtle, so if you harbor even the slightest suspicion that your roof has been in any way impacted, you should go ahead and call a reputable roofing contractor for an inspection. If you end up filing a claim, you’ll want the contractor present for the adjuster’s own inspection, so be sure to confirm this when you set up the appointment.

Up On the Roof

Once on your roof, the contractor will perform a thorough investigation—think of a detective arriving at the crime scene. The roofer will be looking for missing granules from shingles, tiny bruises and dimple-like divots in the shingles (from hailstones), lifted or missing shingles, and any tiny cracks in order to determine the scope of work necessary. If your roof has taken a serious beating, it’s often more sensible and cost-effective to replace the roof entirely rather than perform repairs. After the inspection, the roofer should provide you with a written estimate and a general scope of work.

At this point, it’s a good idea to take a close look at your homeowner’s insurance policy and decide whether filing a claim is really in your best interest. Unless the contractor’s estimate is considerably larger than your deductible, it might make more sense to pay out-of-pocket.

NOTE: While homeowner’s insurance typically covers most storm-related damage to your roof, including tree removal, damage from earthquakes or floods is not normally covered by these policies and must be addressed by a separate insurance policy.

The Claim Game

After you’ve decided to file a claim, your insurance provider will set up an appointment for an adjuster to come out to your house to perform their own inspection. Like the contractor, they will be looking for tell-tale signs of roof damage. They may also investigate other areas of the house where damage would be expected and check to see if the damage follows any sort of pattern that might indicate that it was man-made (in other words, fraudulent). After the inspection, which should take about 30 minutes, the adjuster and contractor will confer, and the adjuster may be able to offer a quote right then and there. If you or the roofing contractor disagree with the proposed figure, there can sometimes be room for negotiation. Roofing contractors are able to point out minute details that the adjuster may have overlooked. If all else fails, you’re entitled to another assessment with a new adjuster.

Assuming the numbers are satisfactory to all parties, the insurance company will provide you with an initial check so that the work can begin. Once the repair or replacement is finished, your insurance provider will issue a second, final check. These numbers can get complicated, so it’s a good idea to ask your insurance company to explain it in greater detail when you file the claim.

While the whole process can be a bit of a headache, your roof is an enormous investment and asset, and you’ll be glad you tackled the problem as early as you did.

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Sources: EBSCOhost Home Improvement Reference Center: Planning for New Roofing & Siding—Evaluating Your Needs—Tips for Identifying Problems; National Storm Damage Center.

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