Texas Moves to Limit the Role of Roofing Contractors

As I was driving through Dallas this week I noticed more and more roofing companies advertising help with hail damage claims. Anyone who has been involved in property claims in Texas knows that roofing contractors are a common sight. In fact, Texas seems to have more roofing contractors involved in claims than any other state.

While there is absolutely a role for contractors in the claim process, this role does not involve negotiating a settlement, arguing coverage, or otherwise adjusting a claim. That part of the claim process is, and should be, left to licensed adjusters and attorneys. Adjusting a claim without a license is illegal, regardless of whether you represent a policyholder or insurance company.

Due to the prevalence of hail storms and the sheer number of claims being submitted in the Midwest states, the line between roofing contractor and adjuster has seemingly been blurred on both sides of the fence. Carriers often hire preferred vendors to investigate and settle roofing claims and many roofing contractors are directly negotiating claims on behalf of policyholders that have retained them to repair the home or business.

The Texas department of insurance, the Texas Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, and various other industry groups, have been working to prevent the unlicensed adjustment of claims for some time. In furtherance of those efforts, Governor Perry recently signed H.B. No. 1183 into law amending the insurance code in the following ways:

  1. An adjuster working for an insurance carrier is prohibited from adjusting a loss relating to roof damage if that person is also a roofing contractor, provides roofing services or products, or is a controlling person in a roofing-related business;
  2. A roofing contractor may not act as an adjuster (for an insurance carrier or a policyholder) or advertise to adjust claims for any property that the roofing contractor is providing, or may provide, roofing services, regardless of whether that contractor is a licensed adjuster or not;

Insurance companies, contractors, adjusters, and policyholders should be aware of this new law because violations can be dealt with severely depending on the circumstances. It is always better to be safe than sorry so if you have any questions about this law or its application feel free to contact us at any time to discuss your specific situation.

Hailstorm Damage to Commercial and Residential Roofing Systems

(Note: This guest blog is by Andrew Smith, a certified roof inspector with Roof Leak Detection Company, Inc.1)

Hailstorms are one of the most unpredictable natural disasters that occur throughout the country, primarily, but not limited to, the Midwest and Central states. These storms tend to be semi-seasonal, spontaneous, and typically without warning. When a hailstorm strikes, we seek shelter and enjoy at the spectacle being played out before our eyes. The sound of the impacts pound like a beating drum against the roof flinch at the sound of each thud, and after the storm we go outside check out the damage. We see damaged trees, a carpet of hailstones blanket the yard, and numerous small dents on the hood of your car. So you think to yourself: “Why call the insurance company? They would just come out, take a quick look at my car and tell me that the hail wasn’t big enough to cause real damage. It’s nothing that a wash and wax couldn’t fix. Maybe my rates would increase and they might even drop my coverage.” You don’t take any pictures, go back inside and forget all about it.

A few days, weeks, or maybe even some months pass and you notice a small stain on your ceiling. You don’t put two and two together that it may have been that hailstorm, way back when. Again you think to yourself: “Why call the insurance company. They would just come out, take a quick look at it and tell me that the hail wasn’t big enough to cause real damage. I’ll just call Joe Handyman and he’ll fix it.” So eventually that stain has grown larger, the drywall cracks, and during every storm you need to put a bucket under it to catch the steady stream of water. Soon the drywall collapses, some of you possessions get ruined, and the foul odor of mold and mildew fills the house. You’ve spent a couple thousand dollars to Joe Handyman and it still leaks. Now you really tell yourself: “What do I do now? Wait a minute; it’s time to call the insurance company! They will help fix it and maybe they will help me recover my expenses!”

Now a few weeks later they send out an adjuster, he take a few pictures, maybe he climbs the roof, sees a couple missing shingles, and then he asks you some serious questions like: “Mr. Doe, do remember when this started to happen? Why did you wait so long to call us to file a claim? Did you take any pictures? It may have been a hailstorm, but by the looks of it, those questionable hailstone impacts are far too small to have caused any real damage. And Mr. Doe, the roof appears to be old and way past its useful service life. We’ll get back to you.” He leaves a half an hour later and a month passes and the leak and damages get worse. Patiently you wait until finally they send you a letter stating: “Mr. Doe, we have doubts as to veracity of your claim. According to our visual inspection, it may have been hailstone impact damage, but the damage appears to be far too old, and there is some observable deterioration of the roofing materials. Based upon our visual inspection we conclude the roof leak is due to extensive natural weathering of roofing materials, neglect, and the damage to your property might be due to the F-word: FRAUD.” Now you wonder why I didn’t call a public adjuster, lawyer or an independent roof inspection company first. Maybe things could have been worked out differently, but: “What do I do now?”

As a residential or a commercial property owner you typically do not understand the true damaging nature of a hail storm until days, weeks, or even months later. Eventually the collateral damages to your property begin a long-term spiral of multiple systems failure. What we must not forget is the immediately after the hailstorm the key to protecting your assets is documenting the damage on the date of loss. Without documentation and an inspection of your roofing system immediately after the hailstorm, the insurance claim process will become inherently difficult. As a property owner you have should have an evaluation of your roofing system performed by an independent inspection company in a timely manner. You should contact a firm with trained specialists (and not beholden to Insurance carriers or the Insured) who understand the science of hailstone impact damage, are trained to determine how hailstorms impacts the long term performance and useful service life of your of your roofing system, and utilize all scientific tools and methodologies necessary in order to determine the means and mode of roof system failure so they can accurately formulate an objective conclusion.

To truly understand the nature of hailstorm damage inspection process one must start from the beginning. Shortly after a hailstorm and before hail melts, leaving you without tangible and quantifiable evidence of the culprit, take multiple pictures. Take pictures of every facet and angle of your property including anything that may assist in filing and facilitating the process in recovering your material loss. Take as many digital pictures as you can including, but not limited to, the walls, the roof, air-conditioning units, windows, and especially multiple measurements of multiple hailstones before they melt! One may get the impression that just because of the relative size of the hailstone, type of roofing system, and its age, that damage could not have been caused. Hailstones can be round or jagged chunks, the size of a pea or as large as softball. They will appear to be as dense as snow flake or as hard as a rock. But do not let appearances and physical evidence fool you, there is much more to them than meets the eye!

When inspecting potential hailstone impact damages to your roofing system and roof top appurtenances, typically most obvious visual clues are spatter marks and dents, but at times there may be no real visual evidence. Hailstone impacts to roofing materials can vary from system to system, either commercial or residential. Whether its modified bitumen, BUR, TPO, tile, shake, or shingle roofing system, hailstone impacts will come in many shapes and sizes. Visual evidence is only one part of the inspection process and employed by itself will always limit the ability of the inspector to formulate an accurate and objective conclusion. As an inspector (one might call me a Roof Leak Detective) trained in forensic roof system analysis, the extent of hailstone impact damage is often elusive and concealed. So I must put on my detective hat and dig deep into my tool box to solve the crime.

As a certified roof inspector I begin the inspection by a visual inspection of the entire roofing system. As with anything, things are not necessarily what they appear to be. Despite of all of my training and experience, a visual inspection will inherently limit my ability to determine the extent of hailstorm impact damages to a roofing system. So we must broaden the scope of my forensic roof system evaluation. This evaluation will now require the application and utilization of real science which includes using weather data, test equipment, and established methodology, and certified training. The cumulative application of science will expand the process of the qualification and qualification of the hailstone damage to determine the means and mode of roof system failure so they can accurately formulate an objective conclusion.

Weather data and published scientific research of hailstone impact damages to roofing systems and materials are readily available to the public and are invaluable. There have been extensive research projects that have attempted to determine the thresholds of roofing materials to withstand the hailstones ability to functionally impair and limit their expected service life. Testing laboratories have created elaborate means to document the effects of hailstones on a variety of materials to determine the impact thresholds, from ice ball launchers (IBL) and drop testing with metal balls. The testing is performed in a sterile laboratory environment utilizing stones and balls in variety of sizes, weight, and densities to simulate “real” hailstones. In conjunction with these two test methods a procedure called roof membrane desaturation is often utilized. Roof membrane desaturation is a process which removes the asphaltic materials from the membrane to extract the internal reinforcements. Once removed, the internal reinforcements are microscopically analyzed for fractures and stress damages indicative of hailstone impacts.

It is our opinion that although impact and drop testing in a laboratory setting is sound scientific process, is it is difficult to simulate the extent of the hailstone damage in the field. The testing may not account for the natural conditions and erratic variables that occur during a natural hailstorm. These variables are more often than not unpredictable which include but are not limited to: multiple hailstone sizes, shapes, and density; direct or oblique impacts; windborne debris dispersion; and variable wind speed and directionality. Based upon these variables it is ultimately necessary as a roof inspector to perform an objective roof system evaluation utilizing all scientific tools and established methodologies available to determine the means and mode of roof system failure so that they can accurately formulate an objective conclusion.

As a certified roof consulting, testing, and engineering firm, it is the goal of Roof Leak Detection to perform all of our forensic roof system evaluation based upon science. Applying our scientific testing which include roof moisture surveys, core sample gravimetric analysis, roof membrane sample desaturation, and uplift testing with our defined inspection methodology assists in providing all our clients with the best tools available. A detailed visual evaluation is just one more invaluable tool in the inspection process to assist in the hailstorm damage analysis, and provide a snap-shot of the condition of the roofing system before and after any storm event. In conclusion, an evaluation of your roofing system should be performed in a timely manner. Without documentation, the insurance claim process will become inherently difficult and potentially protracted. When in doubt contact a public adjuster, lawyer and/or an independent roof consulting firm that will guide you through the process and to insure you are getting the most objective and independent evaluation by trained professionals.

1 [Roof Leak Detection Company is not a roofing contractor and does not sell any roofing material]

If a Roof Doesn't Leak, is it Damaged?

(*Note: This guest blog is by Steven M. Thomas, President of Roof Leak Detection Company, Inc., a Certified Testing Laboratory located in South Florida which specializes in testing and consulting services for commercial and industrial properties).

On numerous occasions I’ve had the unfortunate burden of informing building owners that their roofing system is no longer repairable and must be replaced. This revelation, that the roof must be replaced, becomes a big surprise when the tenants of the building report that the roof is not even leaking. “How can that be?” is usually the first question that is asked. Why must it be replaced!?

Depending upon the roof composition and supporting deck type, there can be multiple reasons why a bad roof does not leak. While there are numerous potential reasons, the most common are:

  1. Concrete decks tend to not let water migrate into the interior of the building.
  2. Sub-surface insulation boards can absorb large quantities of water and never leak into the interior.
  3. Light weight concrete is very absorbent and can greatly reduce noticeable leakage into the interior. This is one the reasons why light weight concrete is so widely used on big retail centers.

For Example: The following is based on a recent insurance claim I worked on. A thirteen building complex in Boca Raton, Florida, did not know that their roofs were damaged. No one reported any leaks after Hurricane Frances had impacted the property in September of 2004. However, a wise property manager and Board President sent their maintenance personnel to do a cursory inspection of the roof to see if any damage was visible. The property had carport awnings and trees blown down, however the maintenance personnel reported that other than the drains being clogged on every roof, none of the roofs appeared to have been uplifted. The maintenance personnel did report that over a foot of water was present on each roof but one. The roof that had no ponding water was the only building in the complex that had a walk-out stairwell to the roof; this stairwell acted as an overflow for the roof and is the only reason why ponding water was not found on that particular roof.

The Association filed an insurance claim for the damage. They asked the insurance adjuster to look at the roofs, because every community around the complex was getting new roofs. The insurance adjuster did report that he observed several scrapes and gouges to the roof membrane on each of the buildings, however it was his position that the roof damage he observed was not over the deductible.

The Manager and Board President, not believing the insurance company adjuster, then hired a public adjuster to assist them in the claims process. The Association also hired a roofing consultant to evaluate the condition of the roofs. The roofing consultant hired by the Association performed Nuclear Moisture Surveys on each building and found that 12 of the 13 roofs were saturated with moisture. The insurance company did not believe the results of the Association’s consultant and decided to hire their own company to perform another Moisture Survey on three of the thirteen buildings in an effort to refute the Association consultant’s conclusions.

The company hired by the insurance company performed an Infrared Moisture Survey. The buildings had been re-roofed just two years prior to the storm event. The roofing systems at the complex are smooth surfaced silver reflective coated with six inches of light weight concrete. The Infrared Survey is not recommended for usage on this type of roofing assembly by ASTM or anybody with knowledge about infrared testing for roofs. The results were inconclusive according to the insurance carrier’s Infrared Moisture testing company. However, the company adjuster, believing he had fulfilled his duties to report that he found no damages over the deductible, denied the claim.

The Association was then forced to hire an attorney. The attorney subsequently hired my firm. After reviewing all of the previous tests performed on the roof, Roof Leak Detection personnel performed our own testing. The testing included a Roof Moisture Survey (Nuclear Method), Gravimetric Core Analysis on each roof, Wind Uplift and Fastener Uplift testing.

Our objective was to find out the condition of the roof before we opined on how the roof came to be in the condition we found it at the time of our evaluation. Insurance companies would be better served by their experts if the experts would take the same approach prior to making an opinion about the condition of a roof. I have performed hundreds of roof evaluations for insurance companies and not once did I ever give an opinion as to the condition without performing some type of roof testing. In my opinion a roof condition report without performing accepted scientific testing is unprofessional and cheats both the insured and insurance company. Would you let a Doctor tell you, you need to replace your knee without performing an X-Ray or MRI? Of course not! Then why would you believe an analysis of your roof without any testing being performed?

Our Roof Moisture Survey determined that the roofs on 12 of the 13 buildings were indeed saturated, as the Association’s consultant had found three years earlier (wet insulation does not dry out). We performed wind uplift testing to measure the performance of the roof in its present condition and found that the saturation of the light weight concrete severely diminished the roofing systems uplift capabilities. We conducted fastener uplift test into the light weight concrete to measure the uplift resistance of a like kind fastener and found that the light weight concrete could no longer provide the minimum resistance values for the like kind fastener. We performed Gravimetric Core Analysis on each roof to determine exact moisture contents. Through all of the testing performed, we were able to determine the condition of the roof and whether the underlying insulation would be useful in any future re-roofing applications. We proved without a doubt that the light weight concrete was damaged beyond repair and must be completely removed prior to a new roofing system being installed. We were also able to pinpoint the causation for how the moisture entered the roof during Hurricane Frances. It was not that difficult to figure out! Had the insurance carrier expert been there to truly evaluate the roofs’ conditions rather than taking on the roll of damage deniers, the good people of this community would not have waited so long for this case to settle.

The insurance adjuster and their experts hung their hat on the belief that if a roof is not leaking then it can’t be damaged. The insurance company adjuster and experts overlooked obvious signs of moisture infiltration into the roofing system and did not believe the first set of Roof Moisture Surveys that were performed by a certified testing company. In fact, the insurance company experts attempted to refute the first set of Moisture Surveys by cutting one core on one building to determine that all of the first Moisture Surveys were incorrect. The sad part is that the carrier believed them.

Even when my firm provided another Certified Moisture Survey they were skeptical. The first testing company and my firm are certified testing companies; however the carrier’s expert insisted on having another company perform another Nuclear Moisture Survey, the company they hired was not a certified testing company; however they came up with the same results as we did. The insurance company eventually paid a claim of over $5,000,000.00. The carrier reportedly paid over $250,000.00 in expert fees. What a waste! Had their experts been diligent, and followed accepted procedures for evaluating roofs, the case would have been settled much sooner.

If your property has been in the path of a hurricane, tornado or severe straight-line wind event, have your roof inspected by qualified independent personnel. Insist on scientific testing to back up any opinions from either the insurance carrier or your own engineering or roof consulting firm, DO NOT ACCEPT VISUAL OBSVERVATION REPORTS. Failure to accurately evaluate damage could lead to further damage to the property. More importantly though: never assume that because a roof does not leak, it was not damaged.

Steven M. Thomas
Roof Leak Detection Company, Inc.

How To Protect Your Roofing Investment

(Note: This guest blog is by Steve Thomas, president of Roof Leak Detection Company, Inc., a Certified Testing Laboratory located in South Florida which specializes in testing and consulting services for commercial and industrial properties).

The past few years have taught building owners, property managers, and condominium managers an uneasy lesson about roofs. Most have discovered that if their roofs fail, they may still face a fight with their insurance company to recoup their losses. This dilemma can be avoided in many instances if one simple rule is followed: Document the condition of your roofing system.

What steps should a condominium association take in documenting the condition of its roofing system? It is my recommendation that, at a minimum, if your building has a sloped roof, you should have photographic documentation of your roof from all angles. At the very least, this will prove that your roof was intact prior to any storm or other damage. It is further recommended that a professional (roof consultant, engineer or architect) evaluate the condition of your roofing system assembly. This will allow you to make any recommended or necessary repairs prior to hurricane season. These repairs should be documented, and you should retain a file of all roof inspections and repairs.

Flat roofs are a different story. For a flat roof, at a minimum, you should have a roof moisture survey performed by a licensed, certified roof testing company. This moisture survey will provide you with scientific data showing the condition of your roof. Speaking from my own experience, in every instance where my company performed a moisture survey (prior to the storm event) on a roof that then failed, the insurance company accepted the report and the long litigation process was not necessary. Why is this? The answer is two-fold.

First, a licensed, certified roof testing company is not a roof contracting company or material manufacturer. The opinion of a roofing testing company is considered unbiased and therefore lends more credibility to the report.

There are three different methods of roof moisture surveys that can be performed. It is very important to have the proper type for your roofing system conducted. Not all moisture survey methods are the same, and many types of moisture surveys are not applicable to many roofs.

1. Infrared Method: Infrared cameras have come a long way in the past 12 years. Many of the cameras have a high resolution that can distinguish wet areas of insulation. It is my opinion that infrared cameras, although useful, are not the best way to measure moisture infiltration into many types of roofing systems. Infrared measures surface heat differential; wet insulation will hold heat longer than dry insulation thus allowing the infrared image to locate the trapped moisture. The biggest drawback to the infrared method is that many of the roofing systems do not have the type of composition to render the infrared image effective.

The following are examples of the types of roofing systems that should not be analyzed using an infrared camera.

a. All roofing system with light weight concrete. The moisture in light weight concrete will migrate to the bottom of the roof and thus become undetectable by the infrared camera. There is no surface temperature differential, so the infrared method is not effective in finding trapped moisture on any of these types of roofing systems.
b. Reflective coated roofing systems. A reflective coating or white surfaced roof does not sufficiently heat up during the day. This will inhibit the wet insulation from heating up so it can be recognized by the infrared image.
c. Building with multi elevations or roof top equipment that may shade areas of the roof for extended periods of time. These shaded spots do not sufficiently heat up the insulation so it can be identified by the thermal image.
d. Any building with two roofing systems. The infrared only sees surface heat differential.

2. Nuclear Method: The Troxler Nuclear Moisture Meter is used to detect moisture as deep as 8" into the roofing system in roughly a 10 foot x 10 foot square (the grid can be smaller). It will peer through all layers of insulation and can be used on all types of roofing systems. On projects where one roof has been installed over another or on multi layered systems, a nuclear moisture survey is the only moisture detection method that will accurately locate moisture located in the bottom layers of insulation installed to the deck.

3. Electrical Capacitance Method: This method is best used on single ply roofs (not E.P.D.M. Rubber though) with no insulation over a wood deck. The electrical capacitance meter in our opinion does not have the depth capability to make an accurate survey of trapped moisture. Furthermore, aluminum-coated built up and modified roofing should not be tested using this method.

The second reason for performing a moisture survey prior to a storm event is that the moisture survey can also be used as a guide for making any necessary repairs to the roof. Performing a moisture survey will also show the insurance company that you are performing regular inspections. This is important because the condition of a roof can change from year to year. By performing this evaluation, it should be clear to the insurance company that you are maintaining your roofing system as required by all roofing material manufacturers.

A question my company gets quite often is, “Why not have our roofing company do the evaluation?” My answer is quite simple. Would you put a band-aid on a broken leg? Of course not! Repairing a flat roof without first performing a moisture survey is foolish and could cost 20 times the amount of the moisture survey. The moisture survey will pinpoint the exact trouble areas so that an accurate repair can be made, costing you thousands less.

Another dilemma for all building owners is their belief that because their roofing system is relatively new annual inspections are not necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth!

There are three phases of evaluation after a hurricane. The initial damage assessment, the recommendation process, and the one we see most -- “my roof blew off and the roofing contractor put a new roof on my building” phase. The last phase lasts the longest and here is why. After a hurricane, many contractors are often understaffed and are forced to hire unskilled labor. Material is scarce and there are many damaged roofing systems. This leads to disaster. My company’s personal experience is that we are finding, on average, two roofs a week that were improperly installed, did not have proper local county inspections, and were done by unlicensed contractors.

If you have had a roof system installed in the past two years, I highly recommended that the roof be evaluated. Even a bad roof can last two years. The skilled roofer will pay close attention to flashing details. An unskilled one will splash roofing cement on it and that can last two years. Don’t think it is just small unknown contractors. I have seen many of the larger established contractors have the same problem because of the immense amount of roofing work.

A proactive approach to the most important component of your building (the roof protects all the contents inside) can save countless dollars and monumental headaches. Insurance companies are always looking for a way OUT of paying a claim. Do the best you can to deny them this opportunity. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish. The cost for this type of documentation is miniscule compared to the cost of high deductibles, a new roof, attorney fees, or any associated storm-related cost. I can attest to the fact that if every building owner took the approach of documenting the condition of his roof there would certainly be less confusion for all parties involved should another catastrophe occur.

Steven M. Thomas CRI-RC
Roof Leak Detection Co., Inc.