What you need to know about roof inspections

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Whether you’re just buying a house or looking for a new homeowners insurance policy, you may need a roof inspection. To most people, a roof inspection doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but to an insurance company, the difference between a healthy roof and an older roof is often the difference between approving a policy or denying one.

What is a roof inspection?

When a roof inspector comes out to take a look at your home’s roof, he is essentially calculating how long the roof has until it needs to be replaced. Insurance companies need this done so they can calculate how much to charge you for a policy. If your roof is in really bad shape, 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, and you might not. With a general roof inspection, often, the inspector is able to ascertain your roof’s condition visually from a distance.

However, it’s not just your roof’s shingles an inspector assesses. Your roof has a lot of components to it outside of its protective layer. Therefore, an inspector also looks at the following during an inspection:

  • Flashing
  • Gutters
  • Vent pipe covers/ boots
  • Caulking
  • Signs of water intrusion/ mold on the inside

Why 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— which equates to you, the homeowner, receiving a higher payout if something happens. In other words, a loss of money for the insurance company.

Because of the cost of roof-related catastrophes, many homeowners insurance policies now come with ACV (actual cash value) roof coverage. This means what you think— the amount of life your roof has left on it determines what payout you’ll receive from a roof claim. 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. If you want a replacement cost policy, that type of policy costs more than an ACV policy, but it may be worth the additional premium.

You may be required to get your roof inspected when:

  • Buying a home, whether it’s a new or existing home.
  • Changing homeowners insurance providers.
  • After a storm and there’s concern about potential roof damage.

The benefits of roof inspections

Apart from not getting on your roof yourself, there are many benefits of getting a professional roof inspector.

A roof inspector can spot any of the following:

  • Damaged shingles
  • Deteriorating flashing
  • Gutter/ downspout issues
  • Leaks
  • Mold
  • Wood rot

And the faster any of these issues are discovered, the more money you have likely saved yourself. No, inspections are not free, but when you weigh the potential cost savings they provide, they more than pay for themselves.

Also, 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. All in all, roof inspections are good for everyone.

Frequently asked questions

Is a roof inspection the same as a roof certification?

No, the two are not the same, but they are highly similar in that they are both used to ascertain a roof’s value and condition.

With a roof certification, the inspector does a more thorough job than a standard roof inspection. 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.

What if my roof fails the inspection?

Your insurer may not agree to issue you a policy or cancel your existing policy until your roof is replaced. If your home is old, you may want to consider purchasing home insurance specifically made for older homes.

How often should my roof be inspected?

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

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.

Written by
Lauren Ward
Insurance Contributor
Lauren Ward has nearly 10 years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and Reviews.com. She covers auto, homeowners, and life insurance, as well other topics in the personal finance industry.