When it comes to roof damage, whether it’s from windstorms, heavy rain, hail, falling objects or another catastrophic event, the issues that result from it can be devastating. Paying to repair roof damage can be costly, but ignoring it can lead to other issues, like water damage, mold or even flooding. And, while you may think you’re insulated from the issue, the truth is that even the strongest roofs are susceptible to the damage caused by storms or other major events.

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The good news is, though, that while fixing or replacing a roof out of pocket can be expensive, your homeowners insurance policy may be able to help. Most home insurance policies will financially protect the roof and reimburse the homeowner for the cost of repairs, up to policy limits, assuming the damage is caused by a covered peril. Before you rely on your home insurance policy to cover the damages to your roof, though, it can benefit you to make sure you understand how this type of roof insurance works.

Why roof insurance is important

Insurance companies place high importance on the roof of a home. Roofs are one of the most important features of a house, providing the first line of defense against damage to the interior, and the condition of the roof often determines at least part of the property’s structural integrity.

Roofs are built to withstand hail, wind, freezing rain and similar weather events, but as a roof gets older, it weakens and becomes more susceptible to major damage. Fixing a damaged roof is often a big expense, even if an insurance company is contributing to the cost.

To avoid a major claim, insurance companies want to ensure that the home’s roof is structurally sound and in good condition. Some companies will deny coverage if a roof is deemed too high-risk or has deteriorated significantly, particularly if the home is in an area where wildfires or extreme weather are common.

How to make sure your roof is covered by your insurance policy

While “roof insurance” isn’t a specific policy, most standard home insurance policies include coverage for roofs, and homeowners should check their policy documents or ask an agent to see what perils are covered. Most roof damage that is sudden or accidental, like a tree falling or hail, will be covered under dwelling insurance.

There are two types of dwelling coverage in home insurance policies: named perils and open perils. Under a named perils policy, the roof is covered against specific losses listed in the policy. With an open perils policy, the roof is typically covered against any loss not explicitly excluded from the policy.

It’s important to keep in mind that there may be limitations on what insurance will cover. Homeowners insurance does not cover wear and tear or gradual damage. If a home’s roof is older or has pre-existing damage, the home insurance policy may not cover new roof damage. If a roof is in extremely poor condition, it’s possible that the insurer will exclude all coverage for damage to the roof or resulting from the condition of the roof.

Homeowners who want additional roof coverage may have the option to increase their dwelling coverage limit. Some insurance companies also sell a roof replacement cost endorsement that means you’ll get the replacement cost to repair or replace a damaged roof. In either case, increasing insurance coverage may change your premium.

In addition, it is important to consider whether your policy has actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost value (RCV) coverage for your roof. ACV takes into account depreciation, which means you would likely assume more financial responsibility in the event it needs to be replaced after experiencing extensive damage from high winds or hail, for example. Replacement cost value ensures the policy will account for the full replacement cost of your roof, up to policy limits.

What roof insurance covers

Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks?

Generally speaking, homeowners insurance does cover certain types of roof leaks. However, whether a leak is covered depends on the source or cause of the leak, as well the age or condition of the roof. If the roof leak is caused by a covered peril, like a hurricane or tornado, the damage is more likely to be covered by insurance.

Roof leaks may not be covered by insurance if the roof is older or outdated. For instance, a 5-year-old roof may qualify for full coverage, but a 25-year-old roof might not. Some insurance companies will cover older roofs but may offer a much lower payout after a covered claim.

The source of the leak is another thing insurance companies look at when reviewing a claim. If the roof had pre-existing issues due to homeowner neglect or lack of maintenance, an insurance company might deny a claim because the leak was preventable.

Does roof insurance cover rodent damage?

Most homeowners insurance policies have a broad exclusion for “infestations of vermin, including insects and rodents.” These exclusions generally apply to the costs necessary to remove or eradicate these pests and additional remediation costs.

Infestation exclusions in your insurance policy are usually comprehensive and typically will also apply to damages to your home, including the roof, which resulted from rodents. Though specific coverage language will vary, generally homeowners policies treat the removal of rodents and other pests and the repair of resulting damage, as ordinary issues of home maintenance.

It is always important, and worthwhile, to discuss questions of coverage like this with a licensed insurance agent. Ask if the policy does cover rodent damage and removal and if not, review the exclusionary language. Follow up and inquire if the insurer offers any add-on riders which can be included to cover these damages.

Finally, you may also want to talk to pest control companies. Often, these businesses will offer some form of warranty following treatment for pests which might assist with any subsequent damage caused by rodents or other infestations.

How to file a claim for roof damage

There are a number of key steps to take in filing a claim with your homeowners insurance company for roof damage. Throughout the process, it is best to be both thorough and prompt.

  1. Mitigate damage. First and foremost, do what is necessary to prevent additional damage. In the case of roof damage, take necessary steps, including obtaining service, to patch leaks or temporarily repair other damage to stop additional interior or exterior damage. Remember that you are obligated to take reasonable steps to “mitigate” your loss and may not be able to recover for loss you might have easily prevented.
  2. Assess and document the damage. Take detailed notes about the timing of events that caused the damage and record all of the steps you took during and after the event to deal with the damage. Take numerous photographs which show the damage both inside and out. This is critical for determining the cause and scope of loss and showing your due diligence in preventing further damage.
  3. Contact your homeowners insurance company. This should be done as soon as feasible after the damage is incurred. Put the insurer on notice that you want to file a claim and ask for specific instructions on how to do that. It may even be helpful to create a log of all conversations with your insurance company, such as saving email correspondence.
  4. Review your policy carefully. It can help to reference areas in the policy which you feel may apply to the claim and if you don’t understand certain sections, ask your carrier. If the answer doesn’t satisfy you or you have any concerns about being compensated accurately for the scope of work and based on the cause of loss, a Public Adjuster or other legal advocate is an option you can explore.
  5. Get your own estimate. Your insurance company will send out an adjuster to survey the source and extent of damage. In addition, it is usually beneficial to engage your own contractor and have them make an assessment and provide an estimate for required repairs. Based on the scope of work provided by your general contractor, you can discuss what the insurance company will approve for payout and get a better idea of how much, if any, financial responsibility you will need to cover — in addition to the deductible amount.
  6. Complete all paperwork with your insurer. Be prompt in providing your carrier with all requested documentation. This will ensure your claim is processed efficiently.

Ideally, this process will lead to a beneficial resolution and your roof will be restored to at least its condition prior to the loss. However, this is not always the case and it is important to know that you have the ability to advocate for yourself as a policyholder. Every company has a claims escalation process that can be explored if you feel a payout amount or scope is inadequate given the extent of damage and what perils your policy covers.

Tips for protecting your roof

Protecting your roof is a great way to help prevent a costly claim from ever needing to be filed, even if your insurance policy covers roof damage. Here are some roof protection tips:

  • Hire a roof inspector: It’s a good idea to hire an inspector once a year or so to assess the roof’s condition and recommend repairs, especially if it is an older roof. They can also help determine if and when it is appropriate to replace the entire roof.
  • Take pictures of the roof: Take pictures of the home’s roof from the outside, or have an inspector take pictures while on the roof — especially prior to hail or hurricane seasons. Having recent pictures of the roof’s condition before the damage occurred helps adjusters assess a claim.
  • Keep up with regular maintenance: Once per year, have a roofing company survey the roof and make necessary repairs. Even a few broken or loose shingles can cause major damage and jeopardize future claims.
  • Avoid DIY solutions: Unqualified homeowners should avoid fixing roof damage themselves. It’s typically a much better idea to hire a licensed professional to make roof repairs to prevent additional damage and to ensure future claims are not denied due to improper installation.
  • Prune overhanging trees: Large trees that hang over a roof can fall and cause major damage. Keep trees and branches pruned year-round to protect the roof in storms or high winds.

Frequently asked questions

    • There is not one home insurance company that will work best for every homeowner. Because needs and wants differ by homeowner, the best home insurance company varies. For example, you may prioritize low rates on your homeowners insurance policy, while another homeowner may need or want access to unique types of coverage, and others may prioritize customer service ratings or financial strength over coverage options and cost. In turn, the best options for homeowners insurance will be different. If you’re looking for the best home insurance, it’s typically beneficial to shop around and learn which companies will meet your specific needs. From there, you can request personalized quotes and compare the options to determine which may be the best one for you.
    • As of 2022, the average cost of homeowners insurance is $1,383 per year for a homeowners policy with $250,000 in dwelling coverage, based on Bankrate’s study of quoted premiums from Quadrant Information Services. However, rates for homeowners insurance will vary based on a range of factors, including the home’s location, safety features, age and more, which means that your rate will differ from the national average.
    • The timeframe in which a roof needs to be replaced depends largely on the materials used to construct it. Most roofing professionals recommend replacing asphalt shingle roofs every 15-30 years, wood shingle roofs every 20-25 years, metal roofs every 50-75 years and rubber roofs every 30-50 years. Any damage to a roof during its lifetime can accelerate the timetable for replacement. It’s a good idea to speak with a licensed roof inspector to determine when a roof needs to be replaced.