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Avoiding Roof Water Damage from Leaks and Weather

By Dawn Killough

September 11, 2020

A close-up, blue-tinged image of raindrops falling into water.

As the first line of defense between your home and weather, your roof should be able to give you a feeling of peace, comfort, and security. But maintaining that security means taking action at the very first signs of roof water damage.

Damage to your roof can let moisture into the home, which can create problems. If you do find signs of potential damage, such as water stains on ceilings or walls, it's important to contact your insurance company or a reliable contractor as soon as possible. Delaying repairs can lead to additional costs and compounding problems, but prompt action can keep the damage at a minimum.

Inspecting for Roof Water Damage

Water damage can look different depending on what it's affecting, but in all cases, it's important to take steps to lessen the impacts. Finding leaks early is key to preventing further damage and keeping repair costs down. The good news is, taking some simple steps now can help you avoid that process.

Regular inspections are the best way to prevent water damage. You should inspect your roof twice a year and after major weather events to make sure it's in good condition.

Try to conduct as much of your inspection as you can from the ground—climbing up and down ladders can be unsafe, especially if your roof is steep or you have multiple floors. When it's time to get a closer look, it's best to contact a professional who has all the necessary safety equipment.

When looking at your roof, try to gauge the condition of your shingles. If there is lifting, tearing, or missing shingles, you may have leakage. Also pay careful attention to the areas around any penetrations, such as pipes and chimney vents. These areas are covered by flashings. If there's any lifting or tearing of the flashings, there may be damage.

You may not see evidence of damage on the outside, so be sure to check the underside of your roof too. Look in the attic for signs of water infiltration like staining of the underside of the deck, ceiling, or walls.

The Truth About Insurance

If you do find signs of damage, prompt reporting to your insurance agency may save you money. Insurance payouts are based on the damage at the time the leak occurs. So if you wait several months to report a leak and additional damage occurs in the meantime, your insurance may not pay for those extra repairs.

So what will your insurance pay for? The exact answer will, of course, come from your insurance agency and depend on your insurance policy. However, there are some common trends to what's most likely to be covered or not covered.

Many homeowner's insurance policies will cover water damage caused by weather (with the exception of flooding, which requires separate insurance). If you have water damage caused by a tree falling on your roof, your homeowner's insurance policy will likely cover those repairs.

Nearly a third of homeowners think that their insurance will also pay for damages caused by lack of maintenance or ordinary wear, according to a study done by Erie Insurance. However, damages caused by lack of maintenance aren't covered by most policies. So if you have a leak in your roof caused by a maintenance issue, such as worn-out roofing materials, you may have to pay for the repairs yourself.

The prospect of dealing with roof water damage may seem stressful, but performing some proactive inspections, and taking quick action if you do uncover a problem, can keep you warm and dry—whatever the weather may be.

Need help with inspections or repair work? Find a local GAF-factory certified contractor.*

*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products.

About the Author

Dawn Killough is a freelance writer in the construction, finance, and accounting fields. She is the author of an ebook about green building and writes for construction tech and green building websites. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband and four cats.

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