by Jim Butters & Matt Weber
We expect our roofs to protect us from wind, rain, hail, UV rays and even falling trees, and those elements can take a toll over time. A very strong storm can shorten that time. Roof damage can pose an unavoidable expense for a homeowner, so it makes sense to be prepared and know how to handle it. Whether you’ll be repairing damage or replacing the roof, there is a lot to consider. For expert advice on what to do when disaster strikes or when the roofing simply wears out, HIR turned to Jim Butters of Advanced Roofing and Metal Works in Birmingham, Alabama.
Before the Storm
“Do your homework before a storm hits,” says Butters on the value of preparation. “Now is the time to do a few things and know a few things.”
Start by finding some dependable contractors. Every homeowner should have a few key companies in their contact list; a reputable plumber, a reliable electrician, a solid HVAC company, tree-removal company, and a solid roofing contractor are the “must haves” in our book.
Know the particulars regarding your homeowner’s insurance policy. The worst time to find out there is exclusionary fine print in your policy is after a tree crashes into the living room or wind rips shingles off your roof.
It’s also a good idea to know what your deductible is. That percentage option may have looked great when you were originally budgeting and choosing your policy, but now that a tree is resting on the dining room table, you might be wishing you had opted for a fixed specific deductible amount. Or, if you were one of those diligent people who opted for a “split deductible,” where some events trigger a fixed deductible and others trigger a percentage, you need to know what damages trigger which, and how much either is going to affect your checkbook.
It might also be wise to review how much your deductible covers on your January ’To-Do’ list each year, at least until you get a feel for your home’s value as it relates to any type of percentage deductible.
Not all roof damage is immediately obvious, and not all damage qualifies as “storm damage,” so it’s important to know what your insurance policy will cover.
After the Storm
It’s not uncommon to wake up the morning after a storm and find loose shingles strewn across the lawn. The first question is always: Did this come from my house or my neighbor’s?
More questions follow. Is the damage due only to the storm, or is the roof getting old? Should you patch damaged areas, or is a total roof replacement required?
First, assess your situation.
“Your first impulse may be to grab a ladder,” says Butters, regarding DIY homeowners, “but should you? Our recommendation is no. First and foremost, it could be dangerous. Multi-story homes and steep roofs pose challenges we don’t recommend the average homeowner take on. Secondly, we see a lot of roof issues created by well intended homeowners or
handymen who don’t know the ins and outs of correctly traversing a roof, and insurance doesn’t cover homeowner-inflicted damage. A better option is to grab a pair of binoculars.”
Hail damage marked on a roof.
The main expanse of the roof (called the roof field) is usually covered with shingles, metal, tiles or wood shakes.
With asphalt roofs, look for shingles that are slipped, missing, or not lying flat. If you notice discolored shingles, that can also indicate a problem, but it most likely isn’t storm related.
If you have a tile or slate roof, look for any missing tiles, or tiles or slate that have slipped out of position, especially along the ridge line. Look for cracked or chipped tiles on the field. If you spot any of these things, it’s time to call a qualified tile or slate roofer (no, not all roofers are qualified for tile or slate installations). Never walk on the tile yourself, and don’t believe anyone who tells you a drone inspection can find all of the wind damage on a tile roof.
On wood-shake roofs, look for shingles that are shifted, slipped, cracked or missing.
On metal roofs, look for seams that are not laying flat, bent edges or missing fasteners. If you spot any of these things after a good windy storm, it’s time to call a roofer.
The vertical board running along the edge of the roof line is called the fascia. This area can sometimes be affected by storm damage due to flying debris, or gutters twisted by extremely strong winds.
The scope of work involved in roof replacement typically requires multiple installers working in concert. Shown here is Jim Butter’s Advanced Roofing and Metal Works crew installing synthetic shake from Davinci Roofscapes.
After looking over the roof from outside your home, it’s time to hit the attic. Be careful to step only on solid framing while inside.
“You don’t want to drop in on your wife in the kitchen via an unannounced crash through the ceiling,” warns Butters.
While inside the attic, do you see any rays of sunshine peeking through the roof? Using your flashlight, do you see any funky stains on the insulation or attic floor (interior ceiling). Do you detect any odd smells floating around?
If you find these things but didn’t find anything on the outer roof, then odds are high you have some maintenance issues. If you found issues on the outside, these things can confirm your exterior findings.
You Found Damage. What’s Next?
On discovering roof damage, most homeowners impulsively pick up the phone and call their insurance company.
“But hold up,” says Butters. “Anytime you call and say ‘hi, I have storm damage,’ most insurance companies will put a little note in your file, but we’ve learned that word
‘storm’ can mysteriously disappear after the insurance adjuster comes to investigate, and that can cause problems down the road for you claim.
“Now, if your favorite oak tree is hanging out in your living room after a tornado touched down nearby, that’s one thing—you definitely have storm damage. However, those drips around your chimney in your den might not actually be storm damage, and you don’t want your insurance company noting you have damages due to ‘lack of maintenance,’ so this is when you’ll be thankful you have a qualified roofer in your contact list. By consulting a contractor first, you can get an accurate assessment with approximate cost to repair before you ever get your insurance company involved. You don’t want to call your insurance company for a $500.00 repair when your percentage deductible is $5,555.00, now do you?"
That’s when the insurance assessment on your January "To-Do List" comes in handy. Assuming you’ve done your homework and have called that roofing contractor, you are solidly equipped to make an informed decision on whether to consult your insurance company or to pass and pay for the repairs firsthand.
Editor’s Note: Jim Butters is a professional roof contractor and host of the “Your House Inside and Out” radio show on Talk 99.5 FM in Birmingham, Al. Find out more about his roofing business at Advanced Roofing and Metal Works or call (205) 822-3231.