As your home’s last line of defense against storm damage, roofs have a tendency to take a beating and eventually need to be replaced. While often unavoidable, replacing your roof is one of the pricier expenses you’ll have to absorb as a homeowner. In fact, the average cost of roof construction on a single-family home was $9,954 in 2019, according to the National Association of Home Builders. 
Fortunately, homeowners insurance can help pay for roof replacement as long as the source of the damage is covered under your policy. In this guide, we go over what type of roof damage is covered by homeowners insurance, how to file a claim, situations where you might not want to file a claim, and how to maximize the payout from your insurance company.
How to file a home insurance claim for roof damage in 5 steps
Know what kind of roof damage is covered by home insurance
Inspect your roof for potential wind or hail damage
Call your insurer & begin your roof damage claim
Protect your house from further damage
Get a roof replacement estimate from a trusted contractor
1. Know what kind of roof damage is covered by home insurance
If you’re unsure about whether you’re covered or not, take a few minutes to understand your homeowners insurance and what type of roof damage it covers.
More specifically, you’ll want to find out which perils are covered by your policy’s dwelling coverage, or the part of your policy responsible for paying out roof damage. While coverage can vary depending on your company and risk, this section is fairly uniform from policy to policy.
What kind of roof damage is covered by insurance?
Falling objects (such as a tree)
What kind of roof damage might not be covered?
General wear and tear due to the roof’s age
Gradual damage from lack of roof maintenance
Potential wind or hail exclusions (common in tornado and hurricane-prone states)
Homeowners insurance covers some of the most common and costly types of roof damage, including wind and hailstorms. That means if your roof is damaged by wind or hail during a tornado, hurricane, or any other extreme weather event, your insurance company will likely reimburse you for roof repair or replacement costs. However, if your roof is over 20 years old and needs to be replaced, or it’s simply a bad roof with clear and obvious signs of neglect — including poorly maintained gutters or debris that caused the roof to deteriorate over time — then home insurance likely won’t cover the damage. Things may also get dicey if there isn’t clear cut evidence of the source of the damage (even if you know the source); or if you waited to report the damage until weeks or months after the fact.
For this reason, it’s smart to have your roof inspected by a professional at least once a year, especially if your home is in a harsher climate.
Actual cash value vs. replacement cost roof coverage
The amount you’re reimbursed for roof damage will hinge largely on whether you have actual cash value or replacement cost coverage. Here are the differences between the two:
Actual cash value: This is the actual value of a roof replacement minus depreciation. This means your insurer will consider things like your roof’s age and lifespan when calculating your payout. For example, if your roof has a 30-year lifespan and it’s 20 years old at the time of the loss, your insurer will reduce your final payout by two thirds.
Replacement cost: This is the cost of replacing your roof at today’s prices. For example, if your roof is badly damaged and it costs $10,000 to replace, your insurer will reimburse you for that amount without subtracting depreciation from the payout.
While dwelling coverage claims are settled on a replacement cost basis by default, your insurance company may give you the option of actual cash value roof coverage for a reduced annual premium. It’s also common for policies to include clauses that apply actual cash value settlements to roofs over a certain age range — like 15 or 20 years.
2. Inspect your roof for potential wind or hail damage
Once the storm has cleared and it's safe to be outdoors, check the entire entire exterior of your home — including the roof, siding, windows, and doors — as well as areas indoors that may have been impacted (like your attic or upstairs rooms). While doing this, take photos and videos of the damage and jot down any details relevant to the loss to submit as proof to your insurance company.
(Note: Your roof is probably at its least structurally sound after a storm, so avoid climbing onto it and risking injury. A couple of photos or videos of damage spots taken from a distance should do the trick.)
3. Call your insurer & file your roof damage claim
Once you’ve assessed and documented the damage, call your insurance company immediately. It’s important to get to this part as fast as possible to begin your claim, but step two (when done in a timely fashion) can help expedite the claims process and limit the amount of back-and-forth between you and your claims agent.
Make sure to have the following information on hand:
Your policy number
The cause of the damage
Details and proof of the damage
That last part is important, because even if it seems certain that your claim will be accepted, your insurance company is still going to need proof that something was damaged. That’s why it’s a good idea to not clean anything up or make any temporary repairs until after you’ve documented the damage and reported it to your insurer.
When is filing an insurance claim for roof damage not worth it?
Your homeowners insurance rate will likely go up if you make a roof damage claim. While that isn’t necessarily a reason to not file a claim, it is something to consider.
As a rule of thumb, homeowners should avoid filing small claims, or ones that you can afford to pay for with your own money. You’ll also want to consider your policy deductible, which is the amount you’re responsible for paying toward each claim.
If your deductible is $1,000 and your roof incurred $1,600 in damages, your insurance company will pay for $600 in repairs after you’ve met your deductible. At that point, it’s probably in your best interest to just pay the additional $600 in repairs yourself and avoid a potential rate increase.
4. Protect your house from further damage
Most standard home insurance policies stipulate that the policyholder must take steps to prevent further damage after a loss. That means putting tarps over your roof, covering broken windows with plywood, and covering up any other openings in your home that could lead to additional damages.
5. Get a roof replacement estimate from a trusted contractor
Your insurance company will likely send a claims adjuster to your house to verify that the damage is covered and estimate your settlement amount. While adjusters generally play fair, they represent the insurance company, not you, so they're looking out for the company's best interest during the claim settlement process.
To be on the safe side, consider getting an estimate from one or more licensed (and trusted) roofers or contractors in your area before the adjuster's visit.
How can I negotiate a roof replacement with my home insurance company?
The best way to negotiate a roof replacement amount with your insurer is to get your own estimate from a licensed contractor or roofing company in your area and provide to your claims adjuster. Having one of these on hand could make your insurance company less inclined to lowball you on your final settlement amount.
If you feel your claim settlement is undervalued and your insurer doesn’t budge during negotiations, consider hiring a public adjuster to conduct their own assessment.
Public adjusters will often charge you a percentage of your claim reimbursement amount (usually 5% to 20%) but they’re a great option if you’re filing a larger claim and want that additional peace of mind; or you just don’t have the time to deal with an insurance company yourself.
Additionally, public adjusters also have a reputation for helping maximize claim payments. According to a study from the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, claim payouts for homeowners with a public adjuster were about 19% higher than homeowners without a public adjuster. 
To find a public adjuster, search the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) website to see a list of adjusters in your area. 
What should I do if my insurer denies my roof damage claim?
Insurance companies will sometimes deny roof damage claims if they suspect the source of the damage was normal wear and tear or any other home insurance policy exclusion. If you believe your claim was wrongfully denied, consider the following:
File a claim dispute with your insurer. The first thing you’ll want to do is reach out to your insurance company and file an appeal. At that point, you can schedule a follow-up inspection with an insurance adjuster, who may be accompanied by a roof contractor or someone more specialized in roof estimates to help assess the damage.
Hire your own public adjuster. As previously mentioned, a public adjuster acts as a third-party and will provide an unbiased assessment and estimate of the damage. For example, if your insurance company claims your roof wasn’t damaged by the storm event cited in your claim, and the public adjuster assures them that it was, then you may have a winning case during the appeals process.
File a complaint with your state’s insurance department. Insurance companies are required by law to provide policyholders with a process for disputing the outcome of a claim. But some insurers have a tendency to drag their feet during the appeals process. If you filed an appeal and you never received your follow-up inspection or the appeal was simply denied, consider hiring a property insurance lawyer or filing a formal complaint with your state’s department of insurance.