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When does homeowners insurance cover roof replacement?

Updated Jan 10, 2024

Key takeaways

  • Roof insurance is not a separate coverage, but is covered as part of your home insurance policy’s dwelling coverage.
  • There are many exclusions for roof coverage, so you should read your policy carefully.
  • Replacing a roof can be expensive, costing more than $9,000 on average.

Your roof is one of the most important parts of your home, keeping the elements out. Roof damage can be exceedingly expensive to repair, but the good news is that home insurance policies can help you cover repairs and replacement if something damages your roof. However, home insurance won’t protect you from normal wear and tear, and roofs do tend to wear down over the course of a few decades.

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What roof insurance covers

Roof insurance isn’t a specific type of insurance policy like auto insurance or health insurance. Rather, it’s part of a home’s dwelling coverage. If your roof sustains damage in a covered event, your home insurance provider would help you pay for repairs or replacement, minus your deductible. 

Factors that impact roof coverage 

The amount of coverage that you receive depends on a few different factors, and home insurance doesn’t automatically cover every situation that could put your roof in need of repair.

Age of roof 

Your roof’s age heavily factors into how much coverage you can receive for it. Over time, roofs wear down and need replacement. How long a roof lasts largely depends on its material, but a lifespan around 20 years is considered average. Roofs built with high-quality materials may last longer with proper maintenance.

Some insurers may deny coverage for a home with a roof that’s 20 years old or older. If your roof is older and you are wondering how to get homeowners insurance with a bad roof, it’s worth looking into replacing it.

An insurer that is willing to offer coverage for a home with an older roof may include additional stipulations in the policy, such as a statement that it won’t cover replacement or will only cover the cash value of your roof with depreciation factored.

Cause of damage

If your roof gets damaged, your insurer will need to know the cause. Your insurance policy will outline exactly which damages are covered and which are excluded.

  • Covered perils: These are specific causes of damage outlined in your policy. A standard home insurance policy covers 16 named perils, including falling objects, fire, windstorms, hail and weight of ice, snow or sleet.. Home insurance typically excludes mold damage.
  • Roof leaks: Most home insurance policies do not cover leaks that are caused by a lack of maintenance or normal wear and tear. Leaks caused by a covered peril would be covered by the policy.
  • Rodent damage: Rodent damage may or may not be covered based on your policy and the cause of damage. If a rodent chews a wire and starts a fire, receiving coverage is more likely. However, rodent damage that results from being neglectful about pest control is unlikely to be covered.

Why roof insurance is important

Your roof is a key part of your home and it’s also expensive to repair or replace, so ensuring your roof is covered in your policy is critical. According to home improvement site Angi, the average roof replacement costs $9,228, though factors such as size, height, pitch and material used could significantly increase or decrease that cost.

As your roof ages, it can be damaged or weakened by weather such as rain, snow and hail. While it’s best to repair or replace a roof before a catastrophe, a roof may spring a leak or experience other major damage unexpectedly. Without insurance, you’d be left to foot the bill out of pocket. Additionally, a damaged roof may make it difficult to get home insurance until it’s fixed. 

Securing home insurance before damage occurs can help you avoid financial strain related to your roof and make for an easier insurance shopping experience.

How to know when roof insurance will apply

Make sure to read through your home insurance documents to understand under what circumstances your roof is covered. In general, home insurance will only cover named perils or causes of damage not specifically excluded in an open perils policy. Carrying an open perils policy is likely the best insurance for covering roof replacements.

Keep in mind that your roof is covered only up to the dwelling coverage limit. You should also know whether your insurance will pay your roof’s replacement cost value or actual cash value. Replacement cost is more expensive, but offers more coverage.

Your insurance won’t cover roof damage resulting from wear and tear or maintenance. There may also be cases where coverage is denied for damage from a named peril. For example, a storm breaking some shingles may not be covered if the damage is perceived as only cosmetic. Similarly, a weather event that leads to a leak may or may not be covered. If your insurer feels that the leak is due to wear and tear rather than damage caused by the weather, you’d have to prove otherwise to receive coverage.

How to file a claim for roof damage

If your roof gets damaged in a covered event, you should file a claim with your insurance company. To do so, follow these steps.

1. Limit additional damage

The first thing to do after any damage to your roof is to make sure the situation doesn’t get any worse. As soon as it’s safe to do so, patch any holes or complete temporary repairs to prevent further damage, or you can hire help if needed. Your insurance company may reimburse you for any expenses involved.

2. Document the damage

Take photos and videos documenting all of the damage and the measures you’ve taken in response. Note times and dates when the damage occurred, what caused the damage and describe any belongings that were damaged by things like leaks.

3. Reach out to your insurance company

Contact your insurer as soon as possible to inform them about the damage and that you plan to file a claim. This is also a good time to ask the best method to file the claim and verify any details you should provide. It’s also worth reviewing your policy documents to see if it has helpful information. Speak with your agent if there’s something in your policy that you don’t understand.

4. Get an estimate

An insurance adjuster will inspect the damage and come up with an estimate of how much repairs will cost.

You should also consider getting an independent repair estimate by contacting a contractor and asking them to review the roof damage for a quote. You can work with the insurance company to figure out how much it will cover and what your financial responsibility will be. If you have difficulty working with your insurer or it isn’t willing to cover a large amount, you could consider working with a public adjuster.

5. File the required paperwork

Fill out any documents required to complete your claim. After your insurer reviews everything and approves the claim, it will issue your claim payout. Keep in mind that a deductible would apply.

Tips for protecting your roof

While you can receive coverage for roof damage from covered perils, it’s a good idea to try to prevent roof damage from happening in the first place. Consider these tips.

  • Get your roof checked regularly. Hire a professional to inspect your roof and recommend repairs on a regular basis, such as annually or every other year. They can let you know if the roof needs repairs or replacement before catastrophe.
  • Perform maintenance. Based on the results of the roof inspection, take necessary action such as replacing broken shingles or any other needed maintenance.
  • Clean your gutters. Clogged gutters can lead to roof issues, so it helps to keep them clear.
  • Remove or prune nearby trees. During a storm, a falling tree branch can cause significant damage to your roof. Prune or remove any tree limbs that could lead to future issues.
  • Hire professionals. Roof maintenance is difficult and dangerous. Unless you’re experienced, hire a professional to complete repairs. Low-quality DIY work could put your roof at additional risk and lead to excess damage or denied claims.
  • Document everything. Despite your best efforts, your roof may still suffer some damage. If you take regular photos of your roof and show that it was in good condition prior to something like a storm, it can help with potential future claims.

Frequently asked questions

Written by
TJ Porter
Contributor, Personal Finance

TJ Porter is a contributing writer for Bankrate with eight years of experience writing about finance.  TJ writes about a range of subjects, from budgeting tips to bank account reviews.

Edited by Editor, Insurance