Can I have my roof re-shingled or do I have to do a complete roof replacement?

Roofs on homes in Florida are a hot topic of conversation these days. And with the real estate market the way it is now, they can make or break a deal from happening.

Insurance companies in Florida are more strict than ever on the age, condition and life left on a roof. Some may be open to a contractual agreement that the roof will be repaired or replaced within a certain time frame after closing, in an effort to not keep the sale from happening, but most want it done before hand.

There lies some confusion as to whether you can have your roof re-shingled or would need to fully replace the roof, which is typically much more expensive.

In most cases, just re-shingling the roof is not acceptable. The insurance company is looking for the shingles to be replaced down to the plywood rather than just on the surface.

The challenge with re-shingling is:

  1. If you just place new shingles on top of the old shingles, there is not an effective way to identify any issues with the roof decking (the plywood).
  2. If damage occurs in the future, it creates more cost for the insurance company because they are taking off two layers of shingles rather than just one.

Roofing contractors have confirmed that re-shingling may save money or be a temporary band aid for any leaks or issues but long term, it will end up costing more. There are also theories that a roof with two layers such as a re-shingle can hold in more heat, which speeds up deterioration, especially in Florida.

Why home insurance is such a hot topic with house fires

House fires can be one of the scariest and most dangerous events to experience but they serve as unfortunate reminders to homeowners about the importance of adequate home insurance. Although Florida homeowners may be more aware of summer fires that can be brought about during hot months with little rain, winter weather is cause for concern as well. The dry, winter air, as well as the combination of heating devices, holiday decorations and fire places can be a recipe for disaster. And of course there are other things that can start a house fire such as candles, electrical panels, heat lamps, overused or shorting outlets, chargers of all kinds, etc.

Home insurance provides protection for your house and the belongings inside of it in the event of an accidental fire. Your Dwelling coverage is supposed to be at what it would cost to rebuild the entire home (and keep in mind that often times a fire can end in a total loss, even if the flames are contained at some point, due to smoke or extinguisher damage). Then the Personal Property coverage would kick in for all of the furniture, contents, clothing, etc inside. These are two very important coverage limits you want to keep an eye on so they remain sufficient.

Here are a few house fire safety tips: 

Have a plan: Homeowners and their families should have an escape plan in the event a fire occurs while individuals are present.

Check your smoke detectors: If you forgot to check your smoke detectors when you changed your clocks, do so now. No really – get up and check your smoke detectors because if you don’t now, you may not later. It’s a good reminder and rule of thumb to do this twice a year when you adjust your clocks for daylight savings time.

Have your fireplace properly inspected before the start of the winter season and properly clean and put out fires after each use. Never leave burning or hot coals unattended.

Use electrical heating devices with caution. In addition to heating your home safely, if it is the holiday season, be sure to unplug all electrical decor and lights when going to bed or the home is unattended. Double check that your chargers (cell phone, computer, golf cart, gaming systems, etc) are not getting too hot.

Never leave lit candles unattended. Unfortunately, people think candles are safe and will just burn down to the wick and go out when the wax is gone. Or that they’re safe being in a glass jar. This is still a dangerous fire hazard.

Take photos or video of your belongings once a year and store with other important documents or sentimental items in a fireproof safe. This will be hugely helpful in the event of a loss.

When Should a 4 Point Inspection Be Done?

A 4 point inspection covers the main 4 points of a home and assesses the updates and conditions of those aspects of the home. This is an effort for the homeowner and insurance company to better understand the status of the home and likelihood of avoiding damage or injury.

Those main 4 areas that this inspection reviews are the roof, heating and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing. The inspection would look at the current condition, when any updates were done and if they are up to acceptable building codes, as well as how much life is left before needing repair or replacement.

Often times when it comes to homeowners insurance, this type of inspection can help determine the insurability of the home and whether or not it meets certain insurance company’s underwriting guidelines. This is extremely important on homes that are 25 years old or more.

So what can be done when it comes to a 4 point inspection early in the process? How can you avoid any hiccups that could delay closing or cause insurance issues after the fact? 

  • If working with a buyer, help them understand the condition and age of those 4 main points of the house and the importance in updates or being up to code
  • If working with a seller, help get quotes to update those 4 main points as that can be a deal breaker for buyers or the re-insurability of the home

When should a wind mitigation inspection be done on a home?

A wind mitigation inspection is completed by a licensed contractor. On a standard homeowners insurance policy, a home may qualify for a hurricane/wind premium discount. A wind mitigation inspection would be required for homes built prior to 2002, since that is when building codes changed.

Homes built in 2002 or after were required to meet roofing regulations by building code, and therefore automatically receive wind mitigation credits. This inspection typically costs between $85 and $150 and the premium discount applied by the insurance company will remain for the life of the home policy.

Wind resistive construction features that are considered when a property is being inspected for wind mitigation credits include:
• Secure roof shingles and roof coverings that meet the Florida Building Code requirements
• Roof decking secured with larger nails or screws closer together
• Hurricane clips/straps that secure the roof to the supporting walls
• Window protection (i.e. shutters, impact resistant glazing, etc.)
• Additional water resistant barriers to prevent leakage in the event that the top layer of roofing is damaged
• Roof geometry or shape of roof

This information may be helpful when questioning whether or not a wind mitigation inspections should be done:

2002 or newer: No wind mitigation needed, credits automatically apply
1990-2001: Very likely to receive credits, especially if roof has been replaced since 2002
1980-1989: Likely to receive credits, especially if roof has been replaced since 2002
1970-1979: Not likely to receive credits, but possible if roof has been replaced since 2002
Older than 1970: Unlikely to receive credits
Flat roof (any age): Unlikely to receive credits

What exactly is a sinkhole and do I have coverage for it?

With sinkhole activity up all around the state of Florida and especially a few big ones in the news lately, many people are wondering what exactly a sinkhole is and if they have adequate coverage for the damage one could cause.

To first clarify what a sinkhole is – it is a depression, cavity or hole in the ground caused by some sort of collapse. Some believe these are a result of a soil issue, earth movement, nearby development, erosion, or running water such as a broken pipe underground. There are several things that can cause a sinkhole to open up and unfortunately, they can happen rather quickly and unexpectedly. Because there are not always indications or warnings, sinkholes can be very dangerous.

When there are symptoms of sinkhole activity, they typically include the following:

  • cracks in interior joint areas, windows or doors
  • cracks in exterior block or stucco
  • windows and doors become harder to close properly
  • depressions in your yard, other yards near you or the street
  • deep cracks and separation of paved concrete walks and drives
  • circular patches of wilting plants
  • sediment in your water
  • neighbors with confirmed sinkhole activity
  • observation of an actual cavity beginning to open

In order for a claim to be covered as a sinkhole loss, there must be “actual physical damage to the property covered arising out of or caused by sudden settlement or collapse of the earth supporting such property only when such settlements or collapse results from subterranean voids created by the action of water on a limestone or similar rock formation.” More simply stated, not all direct collapses from settlement problems fall within sinkhole coverage.

At this time, most home insurance companies in Florida do not provide sinkhole coverage unless you have an underwriting approved sinkhole inspection.

It is important to note that a sinkhole differs from catastrophic ground cover collapse. This coverage is almost always on home insurance policies in Florida. There are a few things to consider as somewhat of a rule-of-thumb when it comes to catastrophic ground cover collapse such as:

  • the abrupt collapse of the ground cover
  • a depression clearly visible to the naked eye
  • structural damage to the building including foundation
  • the structure being condemned or vacated by government authority or official

Because sinkhole activity has grown to be just about as common as hurricanes and water damage in Florida, it is very important for all home owners to understand what coverage their policy has and pursue endorsements and inspections as they see fit to protect their property and belongings from damage. If you ever suspect sinkhole activity, it is advised to secure the location from people and pets and then contact local authority and your insurance agent.