Hurricane Damage to Slate Roofing and Dealing with Associated Insurance Claims in Texas
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, Galveston and Houston, Texas along with many of the surrounding areas will be thrust into the mode of rebuilding and reroofing. Hurricanes are distinctly brutal on any roofing material. While slate is one of the most durable roofing products, it will sustain damage. Hurricane damage to slate roofing is typically caused by two main factors; wind damage and flying debris. Hail is also a factor in areas where it occurs, but it is not always present with a hurricane.
When hurricane force wind is the main culprit, the age of the slate can determine the extent of the damage. New slate is very resistant to damage from high winds. However, insurance companies usually do not discriminate against older roofs that are much more susceptible. So it is unlikely an adjuster will try to “depreciate” a slate roof in processing a claim. If this does occur, it is important to establish that slate roofs have a 100+ year service life so the depreciation should be minimal. New or old, if the damage is caused by high winds most of it will be in the form of completely missing slates concentrated on the most exposed surfaces of the roof. If the Hurricane’s wind were blowing from the east, the eastern exposure will likely be the sole area damaged. As opposed to flying debris and hail, the slate will typically be broken at the exposure line. This breakage is cause by wind uplift right along the line where the slate is overlapped by the course above. If the damage to individual slates is scattered over a wide area and represents a small percentage of the roof, complete replacement is probably not required. However, it is important for the roofing contractor to closely inspect the unaffected areas for cracking. Just because a piece of slate looks intact from the ground does not mean it is undamaged. When inspecting the roof for hurricane damage due to wind uplift, pay close attention to the slates surrounding the broken pieces. Also inspect the leading edges of the roof along the drip edge and in valleys. If the hip and ridge cap are missing from one particular area, closely inspect the remaining cap to be sure cracks are not evident around the nail holes.
Slate roofing is more susceptible to damage due to flying debris caused by hurricanes. Falling limbs, building materials detached from other structures and anything else that becomes airborne in high winds will undoubtedly cause damage if it strikes a slate roof. Similarly to wind damage, it can be minor damage scattered about the roof. However the broken slates will look different in that corners will be broken, broken pieces will be grouped together, and the slate will typically not be broken right along the exposure line. Again, if the damage is only to small area, total replacement may not be required. As related to the repair cost, if an area is more than about 20% damaged it is likely to be more cost effective to replace the entire section of the roof. When getting repair estimates for insurance claims, be sure to ask for a price both ways: repair or replace. If the cost is close, it is better to fully replace the damaged section. As in wind damage, the affected areas will usually be worst on the side from which the hurricane blew.
Hail is a different animal, especially combined with hurricane force winds, and the effect on a slate roof can be devastating. While the damage will appear worse on the high wind side, the entire roof will likely sustain serious trauma. The damage usually appears to look like gun shot holes in the slate and is directly proportional to the speed of the wind and the size of the hail. Newer slate roofs are less likely to be totally destroyed, but roofs older than 50 years will not likely survive a severe hail storm. Of course the originally quality of the slate is also a factor with better slates being more durable. Even if you only see a few actual holes in the slate itself, the damage can be widespread in the form of hairline fractures. Even if you see no holes, inspect the flashing, metal valleys and gutters. If you see numerous dings, the roof is probably damaged. The roof may not leak or appear in bad shape, but it is important to have it inspected closely before closing out any insurance claims. The damage may be too subtle to see at first, and then show itself months or even a few years later in the form of slates breaking for apparently no reason. A good source of information on identifying hail damage can be seen in an on line article at http://www.traditionalroofing.com/TR6_hail.html .
In dealing with insurance claims on slate roofing, especially related to hurricane damage, be sure to have more than one qualified slate installer inspect the roof. Do not let a roofer or an insurance adjuster convince you that slate is more susceptible to damage than standard fiberglass shingles in an effort to save money. The fact is that slate is much more durable. However, some roofers know nothing about slate and will try to sway the homeowner away because they want the job, but don’t even know how to price a slate roof. Plus, you want your house to be worth the same or more after the repairs. Replacing the slate with a lesser material will, without doubt, affect the overall value of the home.
In particular, Houston has a high concentration of new slate roofs in prominent areas. In the last 15 years and due to the increased availability of lower cost imported roof slate, there has been a virtual boom in slate roofing in Houston, Dallas and many of the high end areas along the coast. As a result there are a number of qualified roofers to install slate. However many of them may not be familiar with damage from Hurricanes seen in Texas this year. Hurricanes in Texas, especially Houston and Galveston, are not new, but the high concentration of slate roofing is more recent. A good resource to separate the “qualified slate installer” from the “not so qualified shingle roofer” is through the slate manufacturers and suppliers like Black Diamond Slate. If a roofer can not provide at least three references for actual slate roofing, not imitation slate or tile, then keep looking. The most important factor in getting the roof fixed correctly and being treated fairly by the insurance company is to be informed and deal only with reputable and experienced suppliers and installers.