What you need to know about roof inspections
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A roof inspection is an important step when it comes to buying a house or getting a homeowners insurance policy. While a roof inspection may not seem like a necessity, it’s essential for homeowners insurance companies to assess the condition of a roof in order to determine how much risk it poses and how much your premium will be. During a roof inspection, an inspector looks at not just the roofing material, but also the flashing, gutters, vent pipe covers, caulking and other components to determine the condition of your roof. And, the difference between a healthy roof and an older roof may be the difference between an insurance company approving a homeowners insurance policy or denying one.
What is a roof inspection?
When an inspector comes out to take a look at your home’s roof, they are essentially calculating how long the roof will last until it needs to be replaced. An insurance company needs to do this in order to calculate how much of a risk your roof is to insure. If your roof is in poor condition, you will probably pay a higher premium, or you may even have some difficulty getting your home insured until you repair or replace it.
If you were to watch an actual insurance roof inspection, you might see an inspector get on top of your roof or you might not. With a general roof inspection, often, the inspector is able to ascertain your roof’s condition visually from a distance of the ground or a ladder. During a professional roof inspection, drones might be used to view your roof, so the inspector may not need physical access to the roof at all.
However, your roof’s shingles are not the only aspect an inspector assesses. Your roof has a lot of components to it outside of its protective layer. An inspector also looks at the condition of the following during an inspection:
- Roofing material (shingles, metal, etc.)
- Vent pipe covers/ boots
- Signs of water intrusion/ mold on the inside
Why do insurance companies request roof inspections?
If you live in an older home or an area that receives many storms, your insurance company will likely require a roof inspection. This is because your roof is your home’s first line of defense against Mother Nature. No matter what the weather is like, your roof must deal with it. If it fails, it can cause a domino effect of other issues within your home — including roof leaks and interior water damage — which equates to an insurance company having to pay out more in a claim if something happens. Your insurance is designed to help protect your finances after certain losses, but insurance companies still expect you to mitigate as much damage as you can, which includes keeping your roof in good condition.
Standard homeowners insurance policies generally come with actual cash value (ACV) roof coverage. This means that depreciation is taken out of any claim settlement you get; if your roof is in poor condition, your claim payout will be less than what it would be if your roof were in pristine shape. In other words, the insurance company will only pay for what the roof is worth at the time of the claim, and not the actual cost to replace it with a new one, which would be more expensive. If you want replacement cost coverage for your roof, you may be able to add it by endorsement. Just be aware that replacement cost coverage generally costs more than ACV coverage, but it may be worth the additional premium. Ordinance and law coverage can also help protect your finances from the added cost of improving your roof with better quality materials required by local building code changes.
You may be required to get your roof inspected when:
- Buying a home — whether new or existing.
- Switching to a new home insurance company.
- After a storm, if there’s concern about potential roof damage.
The benefits of roof inspections
Separate from not getting on your roof yourself, hiring a professional roofing contractor has many benefits.
A roof inspector can typically spot any of the following:
- Damaged shingles
- Deteriorating flashing
- Gutter/ downspout issues
- Wood rot
The earlier issues are discovered, the sooner you can fix them and potentially spare yourself the stress of further damage. The best part is that a roof inspection may not cost you anything. If an insurance company has ordered an inspection as part of the underwriting or claims process, you won’t be required to pay out of pocket. You’ll only have to pay for an inspection that you initiate. However, having your roof inspected every few years may be a good idea, even though hiring an inspector that often likely means you’ll pay out of pocket.
When you stay on top of your roof’s needs, you are more likely to increase its longevity. No roof lasts forever, but if you address hiccups as they arise, the chance of your roof undergoing a massive system-wide failure is greatly lessened. Generally, roof inspections may be a helpful tool that benefits you, as a homeowner.
Frequently asked questions
No, a roof inspection and a roof certification are not the same, but they are similar in that they are both used to ascertain a roof’s value and condition.
With a roof certification, the inspector is looking at more than just a roof’s condition. The inspector will still determine the roof’s value and lifespan but also looking at the following:
- Age of the roof
- Number of layers on a roof
- Square footage of the roof
- Type of roofing materials used
- Pitch of the roof
- Quality of previous repairs
This means that when you get a roof inspection report from a certified roof inspector, you’re getting a number that you can use to plan and prepare for future repair costs. With an inspection, the report isn’t as detailed or as specific.
When your roof fails a home insurance inspection, there are a few possible outcomes. The insurer may cancel your policy or deny you coverage. It may also impose exclusions, which are certain instances in which the policy will not cover a claim. You could also be given the option for homeowners insurance coverage if you make necessary repairs or renovations. If the roof fails the inspection but there is no sign of imminent failure or damage, the insurer might be able to provide coverage by excluding a claim related to the roof. If a company refuses to insure your home due to its condition, you may need to find a different company willing to take on the risk or look for high-risk insurance options. If your home is old, you may want to consider purchasing home insurance specifically made for older homes.
Most professionals recommend getting a roof inspected twice a year, during the spring and fall. If you’re comfortable with heights, you can do the inspection yourself, but you need to know what you’re looking for.
Here’s a quick checklist of what you should keep your eyes out for:
- Broken shingles
- Clogged gutters
- Damaged chimney caps
- Damaged shingles
- Loose gutters
- Low spots
- Missing chimney mortar
- Missing shingles
- Moss covered shingles
- Rusted flashing
- Termite damage
- Tree debris
- Worn out rubber boots that cover roof pipes or projections
Keep in mind that if you inspect your roof yourself, your findings won’t necessarily count toward official inspections that insurance companies may order. Typically, that will require a licensed roofer. In addition to inspecting your home during the fall and spring, you should also do it after a heavy storm. Strong storms can damage your roof in a matter of moments, and it might be catastrophic to wait several months before an inspection. If you were to do so, the damage could spread and necessitate more additional repairs than if you had spotted it earlier.