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Repair Or Replace? How To Assess Storm Damage To Your Roof

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After a wind storm, hail or other weather-related event that has moved through your area, you might find that several shingles from your home's roof are missing -- or at least damaged and loose. Perhaps the damage is more obvious: your roof is gashed or leaking. What steps do you need to take to decide whether you should repair the damage or replace the roof?

1. Your homeowners' insurance.

If your roof was looking pretty shabby before the damage occurred, it might be tough to get your homeowners' insurance policy to pay for some or all of the replacement costs. So your insurance coverage may play into your decision on whether to repair or replace.

Your first step is to immediately take lots of clear photos of the damage. Can't get up on your roof yourself for any reason? Skip to step two: contacting a local roofing company for an estimate. Provided that the storm hasn't damaged every roof in a two-state radius, you can ask for a contractor to come immediately and record the damage.

You'll also want to contact your insurance agent right away so you can get the ball rolling on filing a claim. They'll help you with determining policies on repair vs. replacement and send out someone to assess the damage, too. There will probably be a good amount of paperwork to fill out in order to get a replacement approved.

If you can have your roofing contractor on hand to talk to the insurance claims adjuster when he or she stops by, that can sometimes help you get approval to replace.

2. Age of the roof.

If you were inching closer to needing a complete new roof, the storm damage might put you over the edge. A good rule of thumb is that if the roof was more than 20 years old, it will need to be replaced no matter what. A roof that is less than 15 years old may just need to be repaired.

How do you know how old your roof is? There's often no way to prove the age of the roof, unless you have records or your roofing contractor can make an accurate guess. Many homeowners tend to estimate that their roofs are younger than they really are, which costs insurance companies more if they find reason for replacement. In fact, roof age misrepresentation might cost insurers as much as $1.14 billion a year and they're starting to crack down on inaccurate guesses.

3. Ability to find replacement shingles.

It sounds cosmetic, but if no matching shingles are available to use as replacements, it might be necessary for your roofing contractor to replace them all.

A 2010 Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling found that an insurance company did have to pay for full replacement of the roofs on several townhouses after a storm damaged many of their shingles. The homeowners' association had an insurance policy on the buildings that required repairs be made with comparable materials, but even after no replacement shingles could be found, the insurance company still refused to pay for full roof replacement. The Court found that it was reasonable to determine that shingles which are no longer made would have to be completely replaced -- not only for cosmetic reasons, but because non-matching replacement shingles might not be able to connect properly with the existing shingles.

If you're starting to get the idea that repair or replacement depends in large part on your insurance policy, you're right. In many cases, however, repairs after storm damage will be suitable and will extend the life of your roof. Talk to your roofing contractor like one from All American Roofing Incorporated to get the best information on whether to go forward with repairs or try to hold out for full replacement.