Scrap or Salvage: Deciding Whether to Repair or Replace after a Disaster Part I: Roofing, Frame, and Foundation
Homeowners face a long list of difficult decisions following a significant property loss. As a result, property owners must lean on experts such as property insurers, contractors, salvage experts, and others to assist in the response and recovery process. One of the most important decision revolves around whether to repair or replace the major components of a home. Below is the first post in a three-part series focusing on how to analyze home damage in an effort to determine the best course of action following a claim.
Homes sustain roof damage for many different reasons. Events such as wind, hail, extreme temperatures (hot or cold), fire, and tree damage are culprits when it comes to damaged roofs. The peril leading to the damage may not necessarily predict the level of damage but could be useful in determining the extent of the damage.
Some of the most common roof damage includes visible deterioration of shingles. This involves curling, loss of granulation and broken, damaged or missing shingles. Roof damage evidence is visible in tears or buckling around roof penetration points. Often damage is in soffits and fascia boards as well. Chimney flashing is another point where roof damage may be found. This occurs by leaning or missing flashing, damaged bricks, cap or cracked joints. The severity of this damage varies widely depending on many factors. In order to determine if a roof needs to be repaired or replaced, roof experts consider the below items:
- Age of Roof – older roofs tend to sustain damage easier than younger roofs. An average roof should last approximately 20 years, so roofs older than 20 years are more likely to receive a replace recommendation than a young roof, even with similar damage.
- Severity of Damage – if the damage affects the integrity of the roof then replacement is likely in order. On the other hand, if only a few shingles sustain damage, then a simple repair may be all that is needed.
- Interior Water Damage – water damage on the interior of a home underneath the roof indicates a failure. This evidence along with visual roof damage may lead to roof replacement.
- Cost to Repair – after considering other applicable factors, roof experts calculate the cost to repair the existing roof damage. If the repair cost exceeds the replacement cost then the expert will likely recommend replacement.
Roof repairs, if completed timely, are generally straightforward. If damage remains unrepaired, however, then a home is at risk of significant damage. You can read more about roof damage in our article, Is Your Roof Ready for Storm Season?
The most common causes of damage to a home’s frame are water damage and wind damage. This damage may result from a flood event or another peril that allows water to enter the home. Often water seeps to the home's frame structure and leads to deterioration. The homeowner may not know this damage exists until other symptoms appear. Therefore, when a home sustains any sort of water damage an expert must investigate the source and path of the water to ensure the home fully dries out. Some common symptoms of frame damage include bulging, swaying or leaning walls, and a roof that is sinking or shifted off the frame. Evidence of frame damage is subtle at first, so experts must fully investigate a home to determine if frame damage exists. If this damage exists, then engineers may further investigate the damage in order to determine an appropriate remedy. The engineer, along with contractors, works together to determine the cost to repair the frame damage. In severe cases, based on the estimated cost of the repair, frame damage may lead to a total loss.
Homeowners must repair frame damage immediately. Time simply allows for additional damage based on the existence of moisture causing the damage. A damaged frame is at risk of further damage in its weakened condition.
Foundation damage usually occurs over time, but often a significant rain or flood event can lead to conditions that exacerbate a foundation’s deterioration. Common symptoms of damage include visible cracks in walls, sticking doors or windows, cracks above the windows or cracks in the foundation. Foundation damage can be tricky to evaluate since most homes have normal “settling” that occurs over time. Significant foundation problems often have multiple symptoms. For these reasons, it is important for an expert to review potential foundation damage. In some severe cases, such as earthquakes or sinkholes, repairing the foundation and rebuilding a home may be difficult. Structural engineers need to evaluate extreme damage in these cases in order to advise whether a repair and rebuild is the best course of action. One fact is clear; foundation damage always gets worse over time. Damage is much easier to repair early instead of waiting for a large problem.
The roof, frame, and foundation are critical parts of a home. Damage to these important components could lead to a total loss. Therefore, homeowners must work with insurers, contractors, engineers and other experts in order to effectively analyze damage to a home and determine the cost of a comprehensive repair. This analysis will help lead to an agreement on whether to scrap or salvage following a damage claim.