Homeowners insurance policies cover many forms of roof damage that are the direct result of winter weather. These policies cover roof damage caused by what insurers call a “covered peril.” Common examples are fire, wind and hail. As Allstate says regarding this policy, “it typically helps pay to repair sudden, accidental damage.”
Consider these examples of roof damage common during the winter:
- A tree or large branch falls on the roof
- Extreme winds in a blizzard damage the roof
- Ice dams cause leaks and water damage
- Snow accumulations collapse all or a part of the roof
Allstate recommends regular roof inspections, presumably for the sake of both parties. Keep in mind that the insurance company will not cover leaks due to wear-and-tear or lack of maintenance. The company may deny the claim, citing evidence that leaks were ignored for years. When this happens, the homeowner has to foot the bill unless it is possible to successfully challenge the claim denial.
The lines are often blurred when a leak happens because of heavy accumulations of snow and/or ice. It’s not exactly a sudden event. So, is it a “covered peril” or not? It gets even more complicated because leaks may occur even when a roof is subject to regular inspections.
Insurance companies give a wide variety of reasons for denying claims. Some are legitimate while others are attempts at dodging policy terms. For example, the insurer might deny a claim by citing improper installation of shingles, flashing or other roof components. If poor installation is indeed the problem, you still might have a claim against your roof warranty if it is still in force.
The insurance company might say that a tree or large branch was not removed when it should have been. The tree or branch was more vulnerable when heavy wet snow or freezing rain brought it down. An insurer might even say the homeowner should have done more to prepare for a bad storm. Some homeowners’ policies require the prompt removal of excess snow and ice from the roof. Therefore, an insurer might deny a claim by asserting that the homeowner neglected this task.
You don’t want to see a claim denied for questionable reasons. When damage does occur, it’s important to be proactive. Get an independent, local, reputable roofing contractor involved. When you file an insurance claim for roof damage, don’t leave it all in the hands of the adjuster. Remember, the adjuster works for the insurance company. An independent roofing contractor can arm you with the facts, documenting any and all damage. You’ll have key information at your fingertips if there’s ever a questionable claim denial.
Sometimes, winter roof damage is much worse. For example, a residential roof may collapse without warning. An engineering firm in New England cites these common reasons for a roof collapse:
- Undetected leaks
- Poor design
- Improper construction
- Inadequate maintenance
Leaks that allow water into the roof’s substructure may contribute to a roof collapse. Alternating freeze-thaw cycles make matters worse. First, water seeps into crevices in wood framing. Water expands as it turns to ice, expanding gaps or cracks in the process. In turn, more water enters the expanded crevices during the next freeze-thaw cycle.
A National Weather Service article discusses the effect roof pitch has on snow loads. Roof pitch is relevant when heavy, wet snow accumulates evenly across the entire roof. Of course, in northern New Jersey, heavy snow in light winds is the exception rather than the rule. Often, blowing snow piles up in deep drifts. Ridges are laid bare as snow in the valleys piles up.
That poses a real problem. Those valleys help to drain water off the roof. In the winter, the negative pitch of a valley works against you. Blowing snow drops into these low areas. Water flowing into low areas adds to localized snow loads. Deep snow and heavy ice accumulations may drive moisture up and under the shingles. Roof systems that work well in the summer may fail in the winter.
Sudden leaks may damage the roof’s framing. They may damage the drywall, studs and electrical wiring below. In the worst situations, sudden leaks may damage possessions. If your roof suddenly starts to leak while you’re on vacation, the damage may be extensive.
Value of a Certified Roofing Contractor
When storm-related roof leaks do happen, you don’t want to leave things to chance. Insurers find a variety of reasons to deny claims. Reduce anxiety during the claims process. Enlist the services of a certified roof inspector without delay. Get a reputable local roofing contractor out to your property immediately.
If any part of your roof doe collapse, call on a reputable local contractor to temporarily secure the area. To protect your interests, have your roofer thoroughly document all the damage. Ultimately, you want a complete repair using high-quality materials. This ensures peace-of-mind, and it protects your home’s resale value.
Contact Us Today
Since 1977, CRS has helped NJ homeowners get through the winter. If your roof leaks, call on our certified roof inspector to take a look. When there’s a need for an insurance claim, we will thoroughly document all the damage to the roof and its substructure.
CRS is a full-service roofing company. We offer everything from routine maintenance to full roof replacements. We are factory-certified by Owens Corning and GAF, two of the nation’s largest roofing manufacturers.
When disaster strikes, a CRS crew will temporarily cover and stabilize your roof. They’ll complete the permanent work using high-quality materials. For prompt, professional help, please contact us today.