Roof care and repair: A guide
When did you last check your roof? We offer advice to help maintain one of the most important investment areas of your home
Sometimes it pays to talk about the weather—especially in the case of homeowners insurance. That’s because some of the most common causes of home insurance claims are due to wind, hail and weather-related water damage—and many of these weather events can impact our roofs. Throw in other sudden or accidental risks like fallen branches, and you’ve got good reasons to make regular roof checks a part of your homeownership routine.
When it comes to mitigating these risks, it’s best to start (literally) at the top. “It’s vital to understand the condition of your roof,” notes Paul Cuzzola, Chief Claims Officer at Berkley One. “Your roof is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, investments you make when it comes to your home.” Lisa Barnes, Risk Management Consultant with Berkley One adds, “Checking out your roof on a regular basis for quality and any defects is key in helping to prevent future issues. Regular roof maintenance and repair can go a long way in preventing weather damage and other unforeseen hazards that may result in claims.”
With collectively over 50 years of experience in property claims and risk management, Paul and Lisa share insights on the best ways to help care for the roof above your head.
Q: Why should I care about roof maintenance?
A: A well-maintained roof helps protect your home and everything in it. A roof can be expensive to replace, and regular maintenance can extend the life of your roof.
A well-maintained roof can help protect your home from damage and loss from rain water, wind, hail, lightning, snow and more. Not to mention that a worn roof can detract from the appearance of your home and affect the value of your property, an important factor if you’re one of the millions of Americans looking to sell your home this year.
Q: How often should I be assessing my roof condition?
A: A good time to think about your roof condition is when the weather patterns change (think of it as part of your spring cleaning and fall home check). In addition to ensuring that you have an eye on your roof before more extreme-weather seasons, this practice also ensures that you are assessing your roof at least twice a year. It’s important to consider roof maintenance often and to catch repair items early, when they can be most effectively addressed, as long-term deterioration, wear and tear and rot are not typically covered by insurance—and can lead over time to things like leaks and rot which can be very costly.
Q: How do I complete routine roof maintenance?
A: When maintaining your roof, it’s a good idea to start on the inside:
- Check your attic and ceilings for any signs of a leak
- Don’t forget to check the insulation and ventilation for the attic to help prevent ice dams and reduce moisture
Then, go outside and visually inspect the roof from the ground:
- Look for cracked, missing, worn or damaged shingles
- Scan for debris build-up, moss, algae, pooling water or overhanging tree limbs
- Look for rust on any metal parts or valleys
- Replace sealant around vents, skylights and other areas of penetration through the roof
It’s also recommended to have someone get up on your roof seasonally for a visual inspection. Many people will use a ladder to access their roof in spring and fall to collect leaves or in early winter to hang lights. It’s a good time to do a roof scan at these times, as well as taking preventative maintenance steps:
- Remove debris and leaves regularly
- Ensure that gutters and downspouts are clear
- If you have solar panels, check that they are sealed correctly and are not collecting debris or water
As you’re performing these maintenance steps, it’s also a good time to assess your chimney. Look for signs of mortar cracks or any movement of the chimney itself.
Q: Can local weather patterns affect my roof?
A: Yes! It’s important to consider where you live and what weather conditions your home faces to ensure you have the most appropriate roof overhead. For example, metal roofs are typically more susceptible to hail damage, while wood roofs are more susceptible to wildfire—and if you’re in an area of high-moisture salt water content, an impervious, concrete tile roof is a good option.
Q: Does it matter what material roof I have?
A: Yes. Knowing more about the material of your roof can help you to better assess the roof’s lifespan (the average life of a roof can vary from 15 to more than 50 years depending on type and environment) and strength against certain weather patterns. It can also help you in making decisions about repairs, replacement (an asphalt shingle roof may be easy to repair, while a concrete tile roof, which is sensitive to weight, can make such tasks trickier) and even home purchases (considering the kind of roof material for the area’s weather patterns).
Q: How do I know if a problem is aesthetic versus one that requires repair?
A: There are a few telltale signs that can help you identify the need for a specialist and potentially for future repair. Look out for any loose or missing tiles or shingles, any nails that are popping, any punctures from tree limbs or debris falling on the house, curling or cupping of wood shingles, shingle rot, concrete tile chips or algae. If you spot any of these signs on your roof, bring in a specialist who can help you to further assess the damage. Many roofers will even offer complimentary inspections.
Q: I’m looking to buy a home soon—if everything passes inspection, the roof should be fine too, right?
A: Because it’s difficult to assess roof conditions from the ground, consider bringing in an inspector who can get up on the roof to take a look. In addition to understanding the weather patterns affecting your new home, it’s also important to research any significant storms or conditions that may have caused damage to the property in recent months.
Q: I don’t see any water damage from inside my home. Could I still have a problem that I don’t know about?
A: It is possible that you may have an issue like missing shingles and have no other indication of a problem, which is why an inspection can be helpful in catching issues accurately and early—and preventing future ones from happening. At Berkley One, when we do a TrueRisk OneTM inspection for new insurance clients, we often use infrared technology to help us uncover issues behind the walls like leaks or missing insulation. Small leaks may not be readily apparent, but may be causing damage to your sheathing over a period of time. This can lead to things like rotted sheathing—which can be big, and expensive, issues.
Q: Help! I have damage to my roof following a storm. What’s my next step?
A: Note the time and date of the storm and take photos of the damage (this is a good idea to do with any damage!). Take any steps, if needed, to protect your property from further damage, then contact your agent or insurance provider. Your insurance adjuster will assist you with the inspection of the damage, and may even be able to help you find a reputable contractor.
One word to the wise—be cautious of door-to-door contractor/salesmen that canvas neighborhoods following large storms. They may encourage you to rush the process by asking you to sign a contract for repairs. Look for a reputable and trusted contractor, and work with the insurance adjuster to help guide you.
Q: What can my insurance provider do to help from a preventative stance?
A: Berkley One can provide imagery and risk management services to equip homeowners with information to help with necessary roof repairs or replacement. For example, when you become a Berkley One client, we can use TrueRisk TechTM like flyover imagery and drone services to provide a condition report on your roof, use infrared technology to help determine whether there is any missing insulation or small roof leaks happening throughout the home, or even use photos you submit during a virtual inspection to help detect damage.
We also offer access to our PlusOneSM Service Network, a team of fully vetted and insured contractors and service providers at your fingertips who can help with proactive installations or repairs at any time. To learn more, contact us here.
With a well-maintained and protected roof, we wish you a safe and warm shelter for years to come!
Berkley One is a Berkley Company.