If you want to pay less for home insurance, the age and quality of your roof may hold the key to substantial savings.
Roof damage is a common source of home insurance claims. In fact, the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety estimates roof damage occurs in 85 percent to 95 percent of wind-related property losses every year. As your roof gets older, it begins to weaken and suffer the effects of regular wear and tear. An older, weaker roof also is more susceptible to damage from thunderstorms, which can produce hail, falling trees and wind damage.
Since 2008, losses resulting from thunderstorms have totaled about $60 billion, compared with $20 billion for hurricanes, according to the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute. In 2011 alone, thunderstorm losses totaled $25.8 billion.
If a storm severely damages your roof, it might cost your insurance company about $8,000 to replace it. Yet the average home insurance premium is $800 a year, says Joe Emison, founder and vice president of research and development at BuildFax, a company that collects and tracks construction records. This means that if you sustain damage to your home and need your roof replaced, it could take more than eight years for the insurer to recoup the cost.
“It’s an expensive proposition for an insurer to replace a roof,” Emison says.
As a result, many insurers will charge higher premiums for a house with an old roof. Some insurers even may deny coverage if your roof is past a certain age, says Daniel Munson, founder of RiskMeter Online, a company that helps insurers assess the level of risk of insuring a particular property.
BuildFax and RiskMeter Online have teamed up to provide a database that lets insurers look up building permit data so they can more accurately determine the age of a homeowner’s roof before writing an insurance policy.
The quality factor
The age of the roof isn’t the only factor that can help determined how much you’ll pay for home insurance. The quality of the roof is equally as important. Most roofs are designed to last at least 20 years, says Kyle Larson, owner of The Roofing Experts, a contracting company Colorado. However, some costlier roofs could last nearly twice that long, Larson says.
Among the most durable roofing materials are asphalt, metal and slate, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Such materials may provide a number of benefits, including better resistance to wind and flying debris, as well as protection against fire. Recognizing this fact, many insurers offer discounts to homeowners with roofs made of these materials.
“Even though the upfront cost to purchase these materials may be more expensive, you can save more money over time due to reduced premiums and the reduced likelihood of damage,” says Amy Preddy, a spokeswoman for State Farm, which offers significant premium discounts for qualifying impact-resistant roofing in several states, including Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
While your home insurance policy won't pay for a roof that needs to be repaired because of old age or wear and tear, you still should call your insurer before replacing your roof to see whether the materials you use could cut your insurance premiums, says Jerry Hagins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance. “Each insurer can essentially determine the discount they will provide, if any,for the type of roofing products used, and it will vary by company,” Hagins says.
Maintenance is key
No matter what materials your roof is made of, maintenance is crucial, says Lee Wallender, About.com's guide on home renovations. A number of steps can ensure that a homeowner’s roof lasts as long as possible:
• Remove objects that land on the roof. Whether it’s moss, broken tree limbs or patches of leaves that refuse to blow away on their own, get rid of them, "as they can rot and cause problems to the shingles,” Wallender says.
• Get a regular checkup. Hire a roofing contractor to check the roof every two to three years to look for problems that could become more serious over time, Larson suggests.
• Don’t let noticeable problems go unresolved. “Obviously, a leak is a good indicator that something is wrong,” Larson says. Also, if the edges of the roof are “curling up or starting to look rough, then certainly that’s a time to call a professional and let him give you an assessment,” he says.
• Consider the weather. Certain parts of the country are more prone to weather occurrences that could decrease the lifespan of a roof. For example, “here in Colorado, we get so much hail,” Larson says. But he points out that other parts of the country may see hail once every four years, giving roofs a longer life.