A home is only as good as its roof. Roof leaks come in all shapes and sizes, but the implications of the problem are always serious. A leak indicates there is a sufficiently severe issue with the roof integrity. To make matters worse, the resulting moisture can create interior water damage and mold issues. If not addressed effectively, the problem can get complicated fast.
The extent to which your roof leak is covered under insurance is significantly impacted by the determined cause of the problem. While home insurance is designed to protect against accidents and unforeseen issues, you may be written off in the event that the leak has resulted from negligence or natural “wear and tear.” Here’s how to minimize damage, prepare a claim, and prevent future leaks.
Finding the source and cause of the leak
When the roof leak only appears after a clear incident such as a windstorm, there should not be an issue with getting your full coverage. After all, home insurance exists specifically to defend against these unforeseen problems. Your coverage should apply to manmade issues (such as vandalism or poor work from contractors) and even personal accidents you would otherwise be liable for.
All home insurance policies come with a provision against covering natural “wear and tear,” so it’s therefore unlikely an insurer will approve your claim if the damage is a result of poor maintenance. You’ll have to pay out of pocket or repair it yourself if that is shown to be the case.
Step 1: Check for signs of exterior damage. Regardless of the cause or coverage, you’ll still need to find the location of the leak on your roof. In the cases of exterior physical damage (such as a falling tree) you may be able to spot the problem from the ground.
Step 2: Get on the roof to inspect it at detail. Smaller leaks can be difficult to spot, particularly if the roof is worn. Climb a ladder onto the rough and examine the shingles. If your roof has suffered from wear, you should be extra careful while climbing on it.
Step 3: Check the attic. The attic is naturally a great place to check for signs of leakage. Signs of dampness (such as mold growth) localized to a certain part of the attic will give you a solid indication where your leak is.
Step 4: Check the point of the roof that corresponds to the interior leak. Looking indoors for the resulting water damage and figuring out the corresponding patch of roof just above it should narrow your search.
Damage control and immediate concerns
Whether the repairs are covered by insurance, out of your own pocket, or minor enough to even do yourself, timeliness is key. Upon finding the source of the leak both inside and outside, a few steps should be taken to help ensure the damage doesn’t get any worse than it needs to be.
The insurance provider will expect that you enact some reasonable damage control upon discovering the issue; if you neglect to do anything, they may deny insuring the extra repairs.
**Step 1: Address the leak on both ends. ** If the leak has advanced to the point where a short spell of rain over an unsound roof can bring in enough moisture for mold and rot to develop in your home.
If the leak is beyond your abilities to fix, secure a tarp over the area to keep water from leaking in the case of rain. Creating a makeshift seal over the leak in the meantime will at least hold you over until you’ve arrived at a plan.
Step 2: Gauge the severity of the problem and plan accordingly. A roof leak should always be taken seriously. However, it may not always be clear just how severe the leak is at the stage it was caught. In the event of a full-fledged interior leak, chances are the damage is more extensive than it appears.
On the other side of things, if you’ve spotted an imperfection in the roof well before any leaks or issues, it may be minor enough to solve on your own. Loose shingles are fairly easy to fix with some rudimentary skills as a handyman; if you have some nails and heavy-duty exterior adhesive in stock, you could fix the roof problem without spending a dime.
Step 3: Photograph evidence of the incident and damage. Unless there’s a clear understanding by both parties what caused the leaking roof, you should do the best you can to compile as much data and evidence together as you can.
Take photographs of the leak both from outside and inside from the attic. Provided the rest of your roof isn’t as worn, it’s recommended you photograph healthy roof sections to emphasize contrast.
Your options depend on the source of the problem
Any insurance company worth its salt will have the customer’s well-being in mind throughout all proceedings. They’re seldom lax with doling out funds for repairs however. You should have a comprehensive list of belongings that were damaged by the leak and a hopeful understanding what suddenly caused the issue.
Any receipts of roof work from the past five years should be presented as well. Being able to prove you’ve given due care to maintaining your home will go a long way towards convincing the insurer.
You should keep in mind that every insurance company abides by different standards. Your mileage is also going to vary based on the scope of your insurance policy. If it doesn’t look likely that you’ll be covered for the full amount, you can still try to have certain portions covered.
Being insured for water damage could mean you’ll be covered for the loss of personal belongings and the interior repairs. On the flip side, even if you get the roof paid for, your coverage may not extend to clear up toxic mold that may have grown due to the moisture.
With any luck, your roof repairs will be covered by insurance. Fixing a roof out-of-pocket is expensive even in the mild cases, but there’s no way for a homeowner to get around a shoddy roof. Once the repairs have been completed by a roofer, you should have your roof inspected at least every three to five years and maintained regularly to keep it in proper form.
Last but not least, don’t take any actions unless you’ve first cleared it by your insurance company. You never know what they might be able to help you with, and going ahead without authorization with a contractor they don’t approve of could result in complications.
Roof leak prevention methods to keep in mind
Especially in the case of natural wear and tear, your best bet is to catch the problem in its earliest possible stages, well before there’s the opportunity for real damage to occur. As a homeowner, it is generally good form to make a habit of surveying the roof at least once every six months or so.
If there’s been a storm or another reason to think your roof may have been affected, give the roof a look over at the earliest convenience; if branches from nearby trees were broken off in the storm, it may be an indicator of potential damage.
Any sign of shingle damage or looseness should be addressed as soon as possible; so much as a loose shingle will beckon in more extensive damage if given the chance.
Insurance companies are unforgiving in cases of “wear and tear” because it often amounts to negligence on the homeowner’s part. If you have a shingle or wooden roof, you should get your roof inspected at least once every three years; tile-based roofs can be inspected every five years.
If signs of wear are beginning to appear, the contractor can take the appropriate steps to bolster it. The money you spend on prevention can pay you back many times over. Let alone the sheer expense of replacing a dilapidated roof; any leaking water and moisture can create its own host of problems for your home, including dry rot.
Provided your coverage is sufficient, you should be able to breathe in the case an external issue causes your roof to leak. More often than not however, a leaking roof is the manifestation of long-term wear and disrepair. By maintaining proper upkeep of your property and giving the roof a check-up every few years, you’ll minimize the risk of the issue occurring in the future.