Did Your Home Get Damaged in a Storm?
Mother Nature can be unpredictable, and sometimes a little shady. Some storms cause instant and obvious damage to your home. Other times, the damage might not be as noticeable. We’ve come up with some useful tips to help you discover the potential damage you can’t see.
Check Out the Roof
The roof is pretty open and exposed, making it a prime target for a bad storm, and often takes the brunt of punishment. If you think damage has been done, the only way to really tell is to check it out, from the safety of ground level, of course. Can you see any raised or missing shingles? You might even find some in your yard or your neighbor’s. Inspect gutters and downspouts for dents and see if any large pieces of roof have washed down. The best time to look for dents in gutters and downspouts is typically at dawn or dusk when the shadows work in your favor to highlight damage. Very large dents can typically be seen at any time of day. Remember to walk around your whole house. Hail and wind storms tend to be directional so one side may be damaged while the other three sides look perfectly fine.
If you have an attic or a crawlspace, it’s also a good idea to check the area for any water leaks or peeks of sunlight coming through. A thorough inspection, performed by an expert, of your roof from top and bottom will give you the best view on storm damage.
How to Inspect for Storm Damage on Windows and Doors
Windows and doors are vulnerable to strong winds and flying debris. Examine all of your windows and doors from both sides. Look for cracks, holes, broken panes and any frame damage. If you have shutters, awnings or window caps (cladding), give these all a once over too. Cladding is the protective covering on the outside of the window frame. Most cladding is made from thin aluminum and easily dented by hail. In addition to your gutters and downspouts, cladding is one of the first places where you would see evidence of hail damage.
Go the extra step! Try opening and closing all windows and doors. If a window sticks, there might be some damage to the frame.
Your Home’s Exterior Requires a Thorough Check
The exterior of your home is durable, but storm damage can happen. Look for any cracking, chipping, dings or dents in your siding. Check at different times of the day to see if the change in lighting makes a difference.
If you’re not sure if the dent in your siding was caused by hail or something else, a little piece of chalk might be the answer. Rub the side of the chalk over the area, hail dents appear as a circle.
Stucco siding is tough, but a hole in the exterior can lead to more damage under the surface over time. Check for any holes, chipping, cracks or splitting in your stucco. These should be repaired by a professional as soon as possible to prevent deeper damage.
Don’t Forget to Check Your Air Conditioner
If you have an air conditioner or other outside units, don’t forget to give them a good review, too. Look for evidence hail or debris may have left behind. Air conditioner coils are vulnerable, too. If it looks like there might be damage, it’s a good idea to call a qualified professional before you try to use it, just to make sure it’s safe.
Are There Other Structures That Could be Damaged?
If you have other structures on your property that are covered by your homeowners insurance, you’ll want to look to see if they have any damage too. Other structures could include a detached garage, fence, sheds, and even your mailbox. Use the same inspection methods to search for dents, loose windows, doors or fence posts. If you have a similar roof on your detached garage or shed as your home, it’s equally at risk.
What To Do If You Have Storm Damage
You’ve inspected every area of your home and determined that you have some storm damage. Now what? The following list gives you a starting point for recovering from the storm.
Assess and document the damage. You’ve done your walk around, but now it’s time to really inspect the damaged areas. Take pictures and measurements. It’s always a great idea to hold a ruler next to any close up pictures so there’s a reference to scale. Remember to take pictures both from far away and close-up so nothing is missed. If there are special news articles about the storm it’s also a good idea to save them, just in case.
Contact your insurance company. Before you begin making any repairs, make a claim by calling 1-800-MYAMFAM (692-6326), or report it online. We’ll work quickly to help you get your life back to normal.
Your insurance company might want to have an adjuster look at your property to help them assess the damage. It all depends on the situation and whether they need additional information. So don’t be surprised if they do want an inspection or if they feel one isn’t necessary.
Finding and working with contractors. Finding a reputable contractor can be a challenge, but your American Family Insurance agent can offer a wealth of knowledge in that area. Be cautious if someone comes to your door after a storm offering to make repairs. Storms can bring scammers to the area, which is why it’s always a great idea to use someone who comes recommended by others in your area.
Remember that any unrepaired damage could lead to further problems. It’s a great idea to have your contractor expand on your written bid with a timeline of when the repairs will begin and end.
It’s common to pay part of the repairs upfront for the purchase of supplies. But it’s to your benefit not to pay the entire amount before the work even begins. If you can, withhold a portion pay until the job is completed — just in case something goes wrong. If an inspection is required, have an agreement with your contractor in writing that you will pay the balance once to work has passed inspection.
What if there’s a wait? If there are a lot of homes in need of repair, you may find that there’s a long line ahead of you. You may need to use a temporary fix to prevent further damages while you’re waiting for an adjustor and then maybe even longer while you wait for your turn in the repair line. Your contractor will be able to give you some tips on how to protect your property from further damage, but tarps and boards can often do the job in the meantime. If you’ve got your phone or camera handy, document any steps you take to stop the damage, just to be on the safe side. Then go an extra step and save your receipts and track the time you put into temporarily fixing your damages.
Have You Reviewed Your Insurance Lately?
Your homeowners insurance is going to be your primary go-to if you’re in a storm. If you haven’t experienced storm damage yet, but want to make sure you’re covered if you do, there are some additional endorsements you can consider adding to your homeowners insurance to help with covered charges.
Matching siding coverage. If you have vinyl or metal siding that is damaged during a storm you may really appreciate having matching siding coverage. Imagine you have to repair one entire side of your home but when your contractor goes to make the order, he discovers your color has been discontinued. If you have this added endorsement you not only get covered for the damaged side of your home, but you get up to $20,000 toward new siding for the rest of your home so it once again matches.
Actual cash value vs. replacement cost. One thing to discuss with your agent is whether you want replacement cost or actual cash value coverage for your roof. They’ll be happy to explain which coverage is best for your home.
Optional higher deductible. If you’re the kind of person who is more comfortable with risk, you might want to opt for a higher wind/hail deductible or a percentage deductible. This will mean you pay more out of pocket if there is storm damage, but it could save you a bit on your regular premiums. It’s just one of many ways you can customize your insurance to fit your lifestyle.
Remember, the most important thing in any storm is your safety and the safety of your loved ones. Once Mother Nature has left, then it’s time to take stock of your property and assess any damages. If you have any questions or you need to file a storm claim, reach out to your American Family Insurance agent to learn more. They’ll be happy to walk you through the process and help you get on the road to recovery.