What is the Easiest Way to Assess Storm Damage?

Assess Storm DamageAssessing storm damage helps you to figure out what you should put on your insurance claim, and what repair work you may need to perform. There are some quick ways to assess storm damage if you’re already not aware of its extent, most of which relate to the roof. Some signs of storm damage, such as damaged trees, broken windows, and downed power lines are all fairly evident after the storm has cleared. The type of damage you’re looking to assess is the damage that’s harder for you to notice normally.

Signs on the Ground

Since we’re focusing on the roof, your item to watch for when assessing damage from the ground level is roofing material. If you notice that there are pieces of roofing material scattered on the property adjacent to your home, then you may have sustained serious roof damage. You should also check any roofing on levels that are lower than the main roof of the home, as roofing materials can be blown onto them as well. You may also notice damage caused to the home by fallen tree branches during this part of the inspection.

A Closer Look

If the conditions are safe and you feel secure in doing so, you can use a ladder to inspect your own roof. You have to examine every side of the roof for an accurate assessment. Winds can change direction several times during a violent storm depending on its trajectory in relation to your home. Look for signs of penetration, missing roofing materials, and debris that may have caused damage. You can also visibly see damage to some parts of the roof from an attic window in some cases, but it won’t give you a full view.

Attic Inspections

Inspect Your AtticYour attic is the space that is closest to the main roof of the home, so it may be one of the best internal places to perform an inspection. If you can see light coming in through the ceiling, or can feel strong winds when all windows are sealed, the roof may have been damaged. Also, pay attention to water stains, streams of water, or pooled water in the attic. If any of these are present, you might be looking at water damage and leakage, which is also caused by damage to the roof.

Safety First

If you plan to climb up to your roof, you should have a second person to act as a spotter and a stabilizer. The second person can make your climb up and down the ladder much safer, and can point out areas of the roof that may need to be inspected with a pair of binoculars. Be particularly careful around areas of the roof that are missing their materials; without full knowledge of the extent of damage, you may have a situation where a part of the roof has been weakened by storm damage, thus making it unsafe to walk upon. Use caution whenever you are on a rooftop, and never inspect a roof if the conditions are still icy or windy.

How to Identify Hail Damage

Identifying Hail DamageHail damage is responsible for over $1.6 billion USD in damages every year in roof damage alone. If a hail storm hits your area, it is important that you identify any hail damage as soon as it’s safe to inspect your roof. Why? Most of the damage can begin as minor dents or cracks to shingles, but it can lead to further damage if weather gets severe again. Damaged roofs are more vulnerable to wind damage in the future, leakage from rain, and cold drafts during the winter. Identifying the damage now could help you to avoid much higher costs.

Identifying Roof Damage

Roofs are meant to protect the home, which means they take the brunt of damage from hail. Damaged shingles can allow water to leak through, which can lead to damage of the deck, support structure, or the interior spaces of the home. Damaged roofing shingles will look like a dark spot, similar to a bruise, which indicates where granules have been knocked off of the shingle. You may also find holes in the shingles themselves in cases of extreme hail.

Other types of roofing, such as metal, tile, or shake all exhibit their own signs of hail damage, but it is most commonly in the form of cracks or splits. You may also notice that there are missing shingles, tiles, or slats from a roof. This can be serious damage, as it exposes the underlying sub-roof to environmental hazards.

Window Damage

Hail Damage WindowOne of the easier forms of home damage to identify, damage to the windows is also quite common in a heavy hail storm. Check all of the windows on the top floors of the home first, as they are more likely to be hit with hail traveling at full speed. Lower windows on parts of the home that “stick out” away from the main roof may also be targets for hail. Cracks and chips are the most likely signs of window damage, but larger hail has been known to put full sized holes through glass. Storm shutters and other forms of window protection may be able to keep the glass behind them safe from the damage, but the shutters themselves may be damaged if they are made from wood. Aluminum and other materials are vulnerable to denting, but repairs are usually inexpensive.

Stained Wood Exteriors

Porches, fences, and other parts of the home that have stained wood can sustain damage from hail. Hail can cause small craters in wooden exterior surfaces that can break the protective seal that stain provides. Once the seal has been broken, it is easier for water to soak into the wood at these new points of entry. Inspect your deck after a hail storm once the deck has dried for signs of discoloring, or for rough patches where the protective seal has been stripped away. The treatment to protect the wood should be easy to re-apply if necessary, and doing so could save you hundreds of dollars in the future.

How to Identify Wind Damage

Roof Wind DamageAfter a storm’s taken place, it can be hard to identify what damage, if any, has been caused by heavy winds. Some of the damage may be fairly obvious, such as downed trees, torn fixtures of the home, or broken windows. Other types of damage, such as damage to the roofing, is difficult to diagnose from the ground. Wind can cause serious damage to integral structures of a home, and while these structures are designed to withstand strong storm conditions, they are not intended to do so without maintenance in between storm events. With proper inspection and maintenance, you can identify areas of wind damage and ensure that the home will be safe if the conditions ever present themselves again.

Wind Damage on Your Roofing

Evidence of wind damage can include shingles that have gone missing, or shingles which have been lifted out of place. These shingles are held down with glue seals, and once the adhesive is broken, it is possible for water, dirt, and other forms of debris to enter beneath the protective layer of asphalt. High winds can also break shingles in half, or tear them completely off of the roof. If there are any parts of the shingle layer that are out of place, missing, or broken in half, they need to be replaced as soon as possible.

The shingles themselves may not be resealable, and as a result it may be best to replace them. This is especially true of shingles which have been partially broken, cracked, or warped by wind and exposure to water.

Wind Damage to Trees

A more visually obvious type of damage, wind damage to trees in your front, back, or side yards will usually stand out. Broken branches, split trunks, or even trees which have been uprooted can all occur as a result of heavy winds during a storm. Identify trees which pose the greatest risk first; if there is a tree branch which is cracked, and which also hangs over an area where people walk, then that is a problem that should be addressed as soon as possible. The same is true of trees that have sustained structural damage that are near your roofing, your overhead cables and wires, and the property of your neighbors. If you do not take care of a broken tree, and it causes damage to the property of others, you may be held liable for the damages.

Professional Inspections

Roof InspectionIn cases where you are unsure of the extent of the damage, it never hurts to get a professional opinion. A professional roofer can provide your roof with a thorough diagnosis, and may be able to identify problematic areas that you have missed. If you live in an area that is prone to several, heavy storms throughout the spring and summer seasons, then it is always better to be safe than sorry. Any damage you fail to properly identify could lead to more expensive repairs should another storm event occur in your area.

How Long for Leaks to Show After Storm Damage

Fix Leaking RoofHaving a leak in your home is never a welcome sign. The leaking that you can visually see is most likely the least problematic part of having a leak in your roof. Water can also run through the substructures of the roof to cause weakness, into the electrical systems behind your walls, or even make its way down to enclosed spaces like closets, crawlspaces, and more depending on the height of your home and the amount of floors. Once water reaches these spaces, it can lead to mold growth, wood rot, and pests. The best way to assess the situation is to identify leaking and water damage as soon as possible so that you can get proper repairs for your roof.

Sooner, Rather Than Later

The roof can start leaking within an hour of when a storm occurs. That means that you will begin to see leaks rather quickly once the rain has started to fall, but that is no indication that the leaking is being caused by damage that has occurred recently. In fact, you could have a leaking roof for weeks, or even months, without noticing the signs. The first time that you see a leak, you should immediately begin to consider getting repairs.

Why? The answer comes down to where the leak is in most situations. If you see a leak on the top floor ceiling, for example, then you already know that water has entered the home through the roof. You can also assume that it had to follow a course to get there, and that every piece of roofing along that course has also been exposed to water. These are dark, enclosed spaces of the roof, where damaging mold and mildew can grow and weaken the wood. Without a proper addressing of the issue when it is noticed, that damage could become extensive, and expensive, in a relatively short period of time.

Taking Action

Roof LeakingIf you plan to diagnose the problem on your own, you have to work backwards. You can do that by identifying where the leak actually is in the home, and then examining your roof for signs of damage. If there is a leak in the bedroom, for example, perform a serious check of the roofing that stands above that area of the home. If the leak is above a wall, you may have a more serious issue of water running down to the subwall, and thus into any wiring.

Also, it is important to remember that not all leaking damage is visible water. You may experience issues with your electricity, for example, or may notice a moldy smell in certain parts of the home. This could be evidence of a leak that exists out of view. If you notice that these events occur during or soon after a storm has taken place, it may be a sign that the roof should be inspected. Catching these problems as quickly as possible can help you to avoid further damage to the roofing, and higher bills.

5 Tips to Maximize Your Insurance Claim

Insurance ClaimAfter you’ve been through a storm, the last thing you’ll want to do is have to deal with insurance companies and their red tape. That’s exactly what you need to do, though, which is why you should try to turn in the best performance possible on your insurance claim. If you fill your claim out properly, it can help you to get much needed funds to repair your home and get it back to its original value. Understand that insurance companies are businesses; if they have an opportunity to cut costs, they will do so. It’s up to you as the homeowner to make sure that your claim covers everything that you need it to.

Keep Records of Everything

Receipts from the event, including hotel stays, need to be kept. All of the costs that are related to the storm may be relevant to your claim, and should be included for the sake of completion. In addition, you will need to keep a record of any other damage that has occurred to your home in the past and work that has been done to repair it, in the event that a part of the claim is disputed. The more thorough your records are, the more you’ll be able to get from the claim.

Take Pictures and Video

As with car accidents and insurance claims, damage to a home is something you should make a visual record of as well. Just describing damage to a roof in words is not enough. The company may insist that you are overstating damages, or that certain aspects of the claim have been fabricated. With pictures and video, the evidence will be irrefutable. Thanks to the rise of smartphones and high quality digital cameras, taking pictures should be simple. If you don’t have a phone or a camera of your own, borrow one as soon as possible. Disposable cameras work just as well.

Get an Estimate

Insurance companies want to save money, which means that an insurance adjuster from your policy provider is very likely to give you the lowest estimate possible on damage. Get third party estimates that you can use during the negotiation process if you want to have more leverage. The more estimates that you can get, the better off you will be.

Review Your Policy

Be fully aware of what your insurance does and does not cover so that you can file your claim properly. If you do not have your policy on hand for some reason, the company should be able to either provide it over the internet, or send you a copy. The policy information could help you to better organize the claim, and avoid situations where you leave something out that would have been covered.

Exhaust Your ResourcesMaximize Insurance Policy

Finally, if there are organizations in the area that can assist you with natural disaster relief, it is best to contact them for information. These organizations can provide you with guidance on how to best file the claim, and what you can do to speed the process of claim recovery.