Does home insurance cover roof replacement?

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If you are wondering, “does insurance cover roof replacement,” it depends on the circumstance. A home insurance policy covers damage to things like your structure and roof if it is damaged by a covered peril. Some policies will name or exclude specific perils. If your roof needs replacement due to unexpected acts of nature or severe weather other than flooding, it is likely covered. But if your roof is older or requires maintenance and repair, standard homeowners insurance typically will not reimburse roof replacement.

Bankrate Insight
  • Older roofs typically cause more home insurance claims — and the damage is more severe. (RMS)
  • The average life expectancy of the most common type of roof (asphalt shingle) is 20 years. (National Home Builders Association)
  • Insurance roof replacement is typically limited or excluded when roofs are 20 years or older. An insurance company may require a roof inspection before insuring a home with an older roof and may only allow for actual cash value in case of damage.
  • Many homeowners underestimate roof age. Inaccurate roof age costs home insurers $1.14 billion in lost premiums each year. (Verisk)

How does roof insurance work

Roofs can be considered the frontline of defense when it comes to keeping your home and its contents safe. This is because they are built to withstand the elements, including sun, wind, freezing temperatures, hail, rain and more. However, a roof — no matter how well it is built — weakens over time, making it more vulnerable to damage.

Repairing or replacing a roof can be costly. Insurance carriers will pay for the damage if it occurs due to a covered peril. To reduce the risk of taking on a significant damage claim, however, insurance companies may be hesitant to fully cover an older roof and may even require an inspection to confirm it is capable of withstanding the elements.

An insurance company could decline coverage if the roof is older or lacks maintenance. Instead, the carrier may decide to provide actual cash value insurance, which only pays for a portion of a claim based on the roof’s age and condition. The Texas Department of Insurance explains how actual cash value for a roof that will cost $10,000 to replace works:

5-year-old roof 10-year-old roof 20-year-old roof
Actual cash value of roof $8,500 $7,000 $4,000
Minus deductible – $4,000 – $4,000 – $4,000
Policy would pay $4,500 $3,000 $0

Types of roof damage

There are two main types of roof damage in the eyes of an insurance company: damage from a covered loss or wear and tear. For example, if your roof has a leak or damage due to covered losses such as rain, hail, snowstorm, a falling tree branch, wind or fire, the insurance company will usually step in to pay for the repair or replacement up to your coverage limits.

If there is a leak that is not associated with a peril due to the failure of the structure, lack of maintenance, or the roof’s older age, an insurance company will likely not cover the cost to repair the damage or replace the roof. That is why it is important to keep your roof well maintained — a failing roof can be expensive and most likely will not be covered by home insurance.

Keeping your roof safe

A roof in good condition can withstand extreme weather and damages better than an older roof. To keep yours in its best condition so it can continue protecting your contents for years to come, consider the following maintenance:

  • Schedule a periodic inspection: Hiring a roof inspector to take a look at your roof every few years could help find issues early. Finding a reputable inspector you can trust is essential — some roofing companies may claim there are issues simply to encourage you to replace your roof.
  • Prune nearby trees: A tree too close to a rooftop can cause damage in a couple of ways. If there is a strong wind or ice storm, a tree branch can break, falling on the roof and causing damage to the structure. A tree branch can also rub against the roof for prolonged periods, deteriorating the surface or dislodging shingles. It is best to keep trees too close to a roof trimmed and clear of the area.
  • Keep gutters clean: Gutters are meant to carry water — what could be a roof’s biggest enemy — away from the rooftop. If a gutter is filled with leaves or debris that clogs the gutter, water can overflow onto the rooftop, weakening the structure or causing interior leaks.

I need a new roof, now what?

A new roof is a significant investment. The average cost of replacing a roof is as much as $11,420. Start by searching for a quality, reputable roofing company. Referrals from friends or family can be helpful, but it is always a good idea to confirm that the company is licensed, bonded and insured.

Besides choosing the right company, the type of material you choose can make a big difference in how long the roof will last. As mentioned, asphalt shingle roofs have an average life span of 20 years. Modernize.com claims there are 18 types of roofing shingles available. Depending on the area you live in, you may choose:

Shingle material Replacement cost Life expectancy (according to the NHBA)
Copper Up to $19,500 Over 50 years
Slate Up to $50,000 Over 50 years
Concrete Up to $24,000 Over 50 years
Clay Up to $50,000 Over 50 years
Asphalt Up to $15,785 20 years
Fiber cement shingles Up to $16,500 25 years
Wood Up to $15,645 30 years

Roof repair vs. roof replacement

When deciding on whether to repair or replace your roof, you might want to consider the following options:

  • Repair if the damage is minor and localized in one spot.
  • Replace the roof if the repair costs close to replacing it.
  • Repair the roof if it is fairly new — 10 years or less.
  • Replace the roof if it is older and you plan on selling your home in the near future.
  • Repair the roof if the non-matching new shingles do not affect the home’s curb appeal.

The bottom line

A roof repair or replacement may be one of the most expensive aspects you may deal with as a homeowner. Your home insurance is there to pay for roof-related damages, but only for covered perils such as damages from severe weather, falling objects or fire. Your homeowners insurance does not typically cover damages or leaks caused because an older or poorly maintained roof is failing. A roof in good condition is more likely to withstand the harsh elements and any unexpected events. That is why it is important to stay on top of maintenance to avoid a more significant problem down the road.

Written by
Cynthia Paez Bowman
Personal Finance Contributor
Cynthia Paez Bowman is a finance and business journalist who has been featured in Bankrate, Business Jet Traveler, MSN, CheatSheet.com, Freshome.com and TheSimpleDollar.com. She regularly travels to Africa and the Middle East to consult with women’s NGOs about small business development and works with select startups and women-owned businesses to provide growth and visibility.
Edited by
Insurance Editor