Ultimate Guide to Creating and Understanding an Insurance Estimate
Simplifying Your Insurance Claim
Storm damage from hailstorms or windstorms creates a need for many Colorado homeowners for a new roof or roof repair. For a homeowner with proper homeowners insurance coverage, the good news is their insurance policy likely covers these events. No matter if an insurance claim or not, most homeowners are inexperienced as to the details of a roof repair or replacement estimate.
The insurance estimate process can be complicated, so we’ve broken down the process below to provide insight into how an estimate is created and make sure you, as a homeowner, understand the process and what is included in the estimate.
This blog post will focus on the tools and process steps used to create a detailed roof replacement or repair estimate, plus any additional damage documented on the outside or inside of a home during an inspection.
The following are tools used by roofing contractors for roof and property inspections, including software to create customer estimates.
- Estimating software – Xactimate has become the industry standard estimating software for construction projects and has also become widely used by insurance companies in the past decade. Insurance company adjusters use it to calculate building damage, repair, and rebuilding costs. Contractors use Xactimate to generate loss estimates and claim settlement offers. Because it is used by nearly all the major property insurance carriers in the United States, some contractors believe that Xactimate is biased against the insureds in favor of the insurance company.
- Aerial measurement reporting – Eagleview is a company that provides aerial imagery and measurement reporting. Eagleview roof measurement reports are available within several hours once requested and provide highly accurate details of roof measurements for roof surface area, pitch, length of ridges, hips, valleys, rakes, eaves, flashing, and step flashing. Beyond roofing, Eagleview offers exterior wall measurement for siding or painting projects, including 3D wall area diagrams, window and door cutout measurements, and elevation diagrams. Further, Eagleview offers gutter measurements, including eave measurements, downspout counts, and miter corner counts.
- Action video camera – GoPro is a small video camera that takes excellent quality video in a rugged and compact frame. GoPro has become synonymous with compact action cameras; so much that competitor brands are referred to as GoPros. It is an excellent tool for a roofing contractor to record video while wearing the device on his/her head (or chest), enabling the contractor to record while on a roof hands-free. While a mobile phone in video mode can work as an acceptable alternative, the value of GoPro is hands-free when mounted properly.
- Mobile phone – Great for photo documentation (where all photos are date and time-stamped) and can zoom in or out as necessary to show detailed damage to a roof shingle, hail impact mark, or rusted roof vent. It’s also a great tool (using the Notes section or email) to document any pertinent information about a property, such as the shingle material, color, count of roof vents, damage per elevation, address, and customer name.
- Laser distance meter – Laser distance meters like Leica meters measure distances and heights such as from the ground to a soffit. When interior work is needed, laser distance meters allow us to calculate a room’s wall surface area by taking distance and height measurements.
- Thermal imaging or Infrared (IR) cameras – Thermal imaging cameras like Flir have long been used for inspecting flat and low-slope roofs to check for moisture entrapment. Numerous locations on a flat roof can be the source of a defect. Water leaks might be the result of poor installation, neglected maintenance, or even hail damage. Prolonged water leaking under the surface of the roof will likely cause additional interior and structural damage. Detecting water damage with the naked eye can be quite difficult. Water trails may not lead to the leak source, which results in inspecting the entire roof. Thermal imaging cameras have proven very effective in detecting temperature differences between dry places and moist areas.
- Roof shingle gauge – A shingle gauge is an essential tool in our toolkit when we need to measure the thickness of an asphalt shingle, most frequently on a 3-tab shingles to determine shingle thickness. For insurance claims, insurance companies are only required to replace for the exact same material as what existed before a storm, restoring you, the insured, to pre-storm conditions. The exception is when a city or municipality requires a better-quality shingle to meet the current code. Provided a homeowner has code coverage on his/her homeowners policy, any code required upgrades are covered.
- Chalk – Roofing contractors and adjusters use chalk to aid in photo-documentation of a roof’s condition at the time of the inspection. They will each inspect a roof to determine the number of hail hits in a defined area, typically a 10’x10′ area measuring 100 square feet, called a “square.” A contractor will complete this evaluation per elevation (i.e., Front, Right, Rear, Left) and seek to determine whether there are enough hail hits per square to recommend the homeowner file an insurance claim. An insurance adjuster will action the same to determine whether the roof will be approved for replacement or repair. The actual number of hail hits required for an insurance adjuster to approve full roof replacement varies based on the insurance carrier and shingle type.
- Temperature gauge – A temperature gauge is a valuable tool to measure the temperature inside an attic, which helps determine a roof’s ventilation needs.
- Tape measure – A tape measure is a standard for nearly every contractor in any industry. While roof measurements and wall and floor surfaces can be measured with modern technology, a tape measure is always readily available for easy projects and hard to get to spaces. When inspecting roof ventilation and pipes, a tape measure is still essential to measure the size and width required when ordering replacement materials.
The following describes a typical inspection process when inspecting a residential or commercial property.
- Upon arrival at a residential or commercial property, a contractor will take several exterior photos from the street to the front of the house.
- A contractor will typically have his/her inspection routine since a roofing contractor may inspect up to eight properties in a single day following a hailstorm. Some contractors prefer to inspect a roof first and then the perimeter of a house (starting in the Front, then moving to the Right, then Rear, and then Left. These perimeter inspections will include paint, siding, screens, windows, and more. The contractor will then inspect for fencing, gutters, and any additional structures such as a detached garage or shed. If there is any known interior damage, the contractor will check that too, provided the homeowner is home during the inspection.
- A contractor will document every area of the property under a separate category. The contractor will count and document all existing roof vents, pipes, and accessories on a roof.
- Once completed, some contractors record videos of the roof and critical damage. We believe this is critical for record validation, and start each video stating the day and date.
- Contractors should also be aware of local code requirements, so they capture all vital measurements before leaving a property. Code requirements may include upgraded shingles, adding an ice barrier, additional coverage in roof valleys, and extra ventilation.
- Contractors should also document any accessibility issues that will impact roof material delivery or the roofing crew’s ability to park a trailer or dumpster next to the property.
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Creating the Estimate
As a contractor builds a new project estimate, he/she would create all the individual sections and then following the same steps in removal and replacement as completed in the inspection. Contractors should note whether an improvement or upgrade is required by code in each line item’s notes.
Beyond the items listed above section that will be included in the estimate, an estimate should consist of a permit fee if the work scope for replacing the roof or repair is higher than square feet the local code requires.
Until the permit is ordered, this line item is likely to be included as a placeholder only. The excellent news for permit fees is that insurance carriers will cover the cost.
Estimating software updated its price lists each month. Insurance adjusters will typically write their initial estimates based on the month’s price list from the storm’s date. The policyholders or insured will have a defined time to complete the scope of work, which can be up to 2 years. As requested, insurance carriers typically update an estimate’s price list to date the work is completed.
Interpreting the Estimate
While many Colorado homeowners will replace their roof once (or perhaps several times), understanding a contractor’s estimate can be overwhelming. It’s essential to find a professional contractor with whom you feel comfortable and who will patiently answer any questions and review the estimate in as much detail as you like.
Most measurements included in the estimate document are listed in square feet (SF), linear feet (LF), count of items listed as each (EA), and roof square footage.
To estimate roofing materials, divide the total square footage of the roof by 100 to determine the number of “squares” in the roof.
You will see different measurements for “Remove” and “Replace” estimate line items. A roofer will remove the exact amount of what’s on the roof. When buying materials to replace a roof, the roofer will need to purchase additional materials based on cutting shingles to fit. This extra amount required is considered a waste factor. The amount of waste as a percentage will depend on the roof design’s complexity – the number of roof facets or cuts as an example. Insurance companies and roofers will typically plan a minimum of 10% waste, but the actual percentage can be much higher.
Insurance companies have begun to claim that starter strip (the first row of asphalt shingles closest to the roof edges) and ridge cap are included in their allocated waste to save money on claims payments. This claim is incorrect – and Eagleview reporting even states as such. As a workaround, some roofing estimates will list a higher waste factor. While roofing contractors still must purchase the shingles, starter, and ridge cap as three separate products, as a homeowner, you may not see all three detailed separately in your estimate.
For both homeowners (and insurance carriers), Metro City Roofing documents all inspection results with photos, utilized industry-leading 3rd party technology (typically the same as used by insurance carriers), and accounts for local code requirements.
The benefit of using the same measurement and estimating tools as your insurance carrier is that any dispute over measurements is eliminated. Any missed items to be included as supplement requests can be settled more quickly.
As a homeowner, you can have confidence your estimate utilizes a structured process and estimate amounts are detailed.
We hope the above helps clarify the tools that contractors and insurance inspectors use, the process by which they inspect, and create a detailed estimate.
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