Dealing with Insurance after a Storm
This article is geared for cedar roofing but is applicable for other roofing types as well. Cedar shake roofing systems have a few factors that make them especially fickle when it comes to getting an insurance claim approved. When dealing with insurance after a storm it’s best to follow a few guidelines to safeguard your home and your wallet.
Cedar and wood roofing was once the standard in the US, but today composite shingles rule and the price of keeping the beautiful and prestigious cedar shakes has raised. With costs higher, homeowners in places like the suburbs of Chicago have a harder time convincing their insurers to intervene. The second problem with this type of roof is finding a reputable expert that understands how damages to its cedar shakes/shingles and other components work symbiotically. These roofing systems are far different from composite shingles in a multitude of ways so finding a company that specializes in the proper cedar and composite installation is paramount.
The following steps and reasoning for them will help ensure you get the help you need in the wake of a storm:
STEP 1 – Act Fast But Not Too Fast
After a severe hail and or wind storm occurs most homeowners won’t think they have damage unless they see it or have resulting leaks. Leaks, however, may be a symptom that is months if not years away in many cases. Most damage may look benign from the ground and some may be totally undetectable. Here’s what to do if you see or suspect damage even if neighbors are saying they’re doing so:
- Don’t call your insurance right away; unless there is an immediate issue, but only call them after a roofer has been called. Contacting a roofer first is the best move if you want to get a quick response to secure the property (tarping/patching). Calling your insurance provider is a gut reaction but not the right one. They’re out for themselves when it comes to big payout items like cedar shake roofs. If the level of damage falls into a gray area, they’ll put up a fight.
- Do call a cedar roofing expert for a quicker response in the case that damage can be seen from the ground or if neighbors are mentioning issues. Waiting a few days or even a week before calling a pro isn’t a bad idea. Let other homeowners start the conversation for you to show that the storm was powerful and broad. It’s best to let there be a consensus before getting the ball rolling if you want less static from your insurer.
TIP: Insurance companies cite storm dates and give 6, 12, or 18 months to file a claim after the day of a storm. The vast majority of policies give a year followed by 6 months. They rightly do this to protect themselves and they are able to leverage this clause very well.
STEP 2 – Get a Top Notch Roof Exam
A free inspection from a cedar roofing expert should provide detailed photos and notes on any damage found. The inspector should be able to clearly explain why the damage needs repairing or make a strong case for why they believe a replacement is called for. If they don’t recommend trying an insurance claim it’s because there is not enough fresh storm damage.
Ask if the inspector is a certified hail and wind damage technician. This will ensure a better chance of getting a claim to pass – even if other roofers failed to get approval!
If you need out-of-pocket repairs, be sure to get 2-3 estimates.
Tip: Ask the priciest company if they price match! It can’t hurt to try getting the best for less. Do make sure they don’t sacrifice cedar quality to revise their price point. When it comes to cedar, you want to spend the money on those who know shake roofing best. Chances are, if a price seems really good to you, there’s a lot being sacrificed.
STEP 3 – Getting a Claim Approved
The following are the main Q&A’s we deal with from homeowners who already know they have damage and those who we’ve determined do have damage.
Q: Can I go it alone and get my roof repairs/replacement approved?
A: If it’s a clear-cut case of damage the answer is almost always YES. If it is a gray zone, there is going to be some hard conversations with little chance of success.
Q: I’ve been denied for a cedar shake roof replacement already. Can I fight it?
A: You can spend money getting a lawyer or you can get a pro like Shake Guys to take a look and take on your insurance company free of charge. No matter how you look at it, this is the best course of action.
Q: Can I upgrade my shake quality or will I be stuck with the same poor quality cedar?
A: In some cases with some insurers there is nothing you can do here. However, Shake Guys is famous for making upgrades possible. We’ll typically get the best product; 100 Premium 100% Edge Grain heartwood cedar shake, or its runner up, 90% Edge Grain (Hand selected #1 Grade).
Q: How long does an approval take?
A: It can be a day, weeks or months depending on a host of variables. Roof age and current product (grade of cedar) are big factors while other issues like craftsmanship problems, poor maintenance/preservation techniques, and past storm damage can affect decision making. Roofing companies should meet with the field adjuster to speed along the process as well. Some insurers are just more stubborn than others and drag their feet. In short, there is no way to know.
Q: Do “certified inspectors” actually have an advantage when getting a claim approved?
A: YES! Proper documentation from a HAAG Engineering trained and certified hail & wind technician is crucial.
Dealing with Insurance after a Storm is a Pain in the Neck
In all, you’re looking at a headache going it alone and dealing solely with your insurer. The process will last longer and you may get talked in to using their “preferred roofing contractor” which is often a crapshoot. A big ticket item like a cedar roof needs maximum settlement dollars to properly repair or replace and many homeowners have a hard time getting what they need. Having someone to walk you through the process and handle some of the aspects will help ensure an approved claim that pays for the best repairs.
Final Tip: If you’ve brought in a roofer to fix your storm damaged roof and they don’t want to help with the insurance claim it’s time to find someone else. They may just make it harder for you to get the job done yourself.