The short answer is: yes. Well, usually.
Your homeowners insurance policy typically covers roof leaks and other roof-related damage, unless the cause of the leak is specifically excluded in your policy. For example, if your rook leak is caused by a flood and you don’t have flood insurance, or if leaking occurs due to general wear and tear, you might have to pay for repairs out of pocket.
Roof leaks can become expensive, especially when you factor in additional damage that could be caused by them.
In this post, I will discuss:
Let’s get started with this post.
What Causes Roof Leaks?
Roof leaks can be caused by many factors, but usually, you can narrow them down to one of five things:
Poor upkeep is potentially the most common—and often the most costly—cause of a roof leak. If you allow debris to accumulate after a rough storm, if your shingles begin to wear and tear, or if your roof is just old, you’re going to eventually have a problem.
Failing to maintain your roof can lead to weak points where water can soak through. Often, the serious issues that require urgent roof repair or even a full roof replacement start small.
Monitor and reseal your roof when necessary. It doesn’t take long, but it can add many extra years to your roof’s lifespan.
Obviously, shingle-shattering windstorms, raging blizzards, and violent tornadoes can instantly destroy your roof. However, roof damage is more often caused by everyday wear and tear, including steady rain or snowfall over time, whippings by tree branches and limbs during a storm, and the heat of the hot sun.
Temperature changes can also cause a leaky roof, because it can cause some materials to contract or expand over time.
Your roof isn’t covered by a single sheet of material. Roof covering involves large rolls of membrane fully adhered or mechanically hot-air welded. Multiple layers are joined and placed atop each other, forming the structure of your roof.
Seams in open, flat spaces tend to hold up well unless a small pond accumulates. However, the edges of your roof, particularly around your pipes, flashing, or spots you’ve patched up, are susceptible to leakage.
Speaking of pipes, check out this article on home insurance and frozen pipes for more instances where an insurance might (or might not) cover specific damages.
Aside from negligence, you can accidentally cause roof damage while trying to repair it. Your roof is designed to handle a little foot traffic, but not a lot. If your membrane isn’t protected, or if you’re operating heavy machinery or dropping tools on your roof, you can end up doing a little damage, which can snowball into a much larger problem.
As I just mentioned, rooftop equipment is another common cause of most roof leaks. Exhaust fans and HVAC units can cause leaks or punctures, washers or gaskets can dry rot, and screws can loosen or fall out—all of which can lead to roof leakage.
How Tell If Your Roof Is Leaking
Most signs of a leaking roof are obvious: water spots on your walls or ceiling, or cracked, damaged, and missing shingles.
However, locating the cause of your leak isn’t always easy to spot. For example, once water seeps through your roof and into your attic, it can travel along your rafters and other horizontal surfaces, concealing the leak’s point of origin. You might assume your cracked shingles are to blame, but it could actually be a leak around your chimney instead.
Follow the trail of water to see if you can find the source. If not, you may need to hire a roofing company to find the starting point and assess the damage.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Roof Leaks?
Your standard homeowners insurance policy will cover your roof as long as it’s covered by a peril you already have coverage for. Your home insurance policy’s declaration page should clearly identify when you’re covered and when you’re not. While each insurance company and policy is a little different, here’s a list of situations where you’re typically covered:
In general, any sudden and accidental damage done to your roof is usually covered, unless it’s specifically excluded.
When Doesn’t Homeowners Insurance Cover Roof Leaks?
The main reasons why your homeowners insurance policy won’t cover roof-related damage are if they’re excluded in your policy, or if it’s due to wear and tear that you should’ve fixed long before it became an issue.
In addition, here are a few more hazards typically excluded from homeowners insurance policies:
Mold And Fungus
Standard homeowners insurance policies can be vague about when they do and don't cover mold damage. Often, policies only cover mold and fungus when it’s the result of something else you have coverage for. For example, if your home insurance policy covers water damage, and the mold-related damage stems from that water damage, then your claim will likely cover mold.
What To Do When You Have A Leaky Roof
If you discover your roof is leaking, here are a few things you can do to minimize potential damage. Some of these things are simple, but can mean the difference between getting your insurance company to cover it or not. Even if your insurance company doesn’t cover it, you can save a lot of money.
Move Your Belongings
If you have valuable belongings in your attic or wherever else water appears, you should move them somewhere safe. You don’t want any furniture, artwork, or other items damaged. Also, some fabrics trap water, which can then emit a nasty mildew smell. It takes forever to clear out, so prevent that from happening right away.
Relieve Any Water Pressure
If you spot a bulge in your ceiling, that’s where water is collecting. It doesn’t seem smart to poke the bulge, but if you don’t, the water can spread elsewhere and cause more damage. If left to accumulate without your supervision, the bulge could eventually break and cause a larger mess anyway.
Gentle poke a hole in the bulge with a small, sharp object, and have a bucket placed beneath it to catch the water.
Contain The Water
Speaking of buckets, try to contain the water as much as possible. Use buckets, towels, tarps, garbage cans, etc. The more you contain, the less damage it can do.
Let’s not forget: while water can wreak havoc on your roof, it can also damage your floors.
Document The Scene
Take photos, videos, and write everything down in great detail. Doing this will be very important when it comes time for you to make an insurance claim. Documentation will show the severity of roof damage, and can also show that some of your personal belongings were damaged or destroyed.
Use A Tarp
If you can’t get someone to fix your roof right away, use a tarp to protect it from additional rainfall and other weather damage. Sometimes, the root cause of your roof leak is hard to find, especially if it’s dark out. A tarp can at least help minimize any damage that can be done until you’re able to get a good look at your roof or until a roofing contractor can inspect it.
Call A Roofing Company
While there are plenty of DIY tips and tricks to mitigate damage, calling a professional is usually the best option. You should do this before the damage can get worse. If not, a simple leak could turn into a large and expensive job. Also, a roofing contractor can find other potential leaks that you might miss, preventing future issues before they happen.Note: Before you call someone, you need to make an insurance claim first. Your homeowners insurance company might have a list of approved contractors for repairs. If you hire someone outside that list, the cost might not be covered.
How To Make An Insurance Claim For A Roof Leak
If you’re just buying a property, get it inspected for roof leaks first. You never know if the former homeowner was negligent in their upkeep. If there’s roof-related damage, it should be something that they fix, so that you don’t have to later on.
As with any homeowners insurance claim, you should be thorough and follow the procedure carefully. While the process of filing insurance claims differs by company, here are the general steps:
How Much Coverage Do You Get For A Roof Leak?
The good news is that roof leaks are part of your dwelling coverage. Dwelling coverage protects everything considered part of your home’s structure, which obviously includes your roof. Dwelling coverage usually covers the full cost of the repairs or replacement for your roof, minus your deductible.
How Much Do Repairs Cost?
The cost to repair or replace your roof varies greatly based on what the damage has done to it. If you just need to reshingle a section, the materials and labor cost could total around $400 to $700. Substantial repairs or roof replacement can cost a lot more.
What Should You Do If The Damage Is Not Insurable?
If the damage done isn’t covered by insurance, you will have to pay for it out of pocket. However, if your roof claim gets denied and you believe your policy covers it, here are a few things you can do:
How To Prevent A Roof Leak
The best way to ensure a claim will go through is to take important measures to prevent roof leaks from happening. Not only will this save you some stress, but it can also greatly extend your roof’s lifespan.
Here are a few ways to prevent leaking roofs:
A leaky roof can lead to serious trouble. Even though roof damage is often covered by insurance, I recommend taking preventive measures to ensure that an insurance claim will cover it. Also, don’t hesitate to shop around to find the best, cheapest homeowners insurance policy for your needs, and read your policy thoroughly so that you know what’s covered.