The sound is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. There’s a sudden crash followed by cracking plywood and creaking metal gutters bending out of shape. If you can believe it, a tree has just fallen on your house.

If you see it coming through your roof, you’re probably trying to get out of the house first. That’s a smart move. The structure probably isn’t safe anymore.

After you recover from the initial shock, the reality of the situation sets in. Then comes the flood of questions — “What do we do now?”

In this situation, it’s not uncommon to be at a loss for words. No one plans to have any part of their home damaged like this.

That said, there is a lot to consider with insurance claims and repairs in the aftermath of a fallen tree. Let’s walk through what you should do step by step in the event a tree falls on your roof.

Family Evacuating

Step 1: evacuate your home

A tree falling on your roof will often damage more than just your shingles. Much like a house fire, it can also compromise the integrity of the whole structure. Walls may collapse, windows may shatter, and the ceiling could cave in.

Since it is no longer safe to stay in your home, it’s best to relocate your family to a safe location. This could be a hotel or the home of a friend or family member. While you might want to gather your belongings before you leave, it may not be safe to do so depending on the severity of the damage.

Pre-packed emergency bags are great in situations like this. Preparing a small bag of essential items for each person in your household can help you evacuate your home quickly if you ever have to leave due to an emergency.

Before you leave, it’s best to lock your doors so that thieves or vandals don’t take advantage of your empty home.

Step 2: call 9-1-1

Once you are in a safe location, call 9-1-1 or emergency services for help. You will probably need to have the fire department, police department, and possibly medical professionals on hand to manage the situation.

First responders will assess the danger of the fallen tree and take proper action. They will make sure no one is trapped inside the house and assist anyone who needs medical attention.

With a fallen tree, there is sometimes a risk of fire, downed power lines, or other utility issues. Local emergency services will want to be aware of the situation and control any further damage. They may also need to remove hazardous debris, put up caution tape around your home, or block off roads and sidewalks.

Step 3: call your insurance company

Once the situation is being handled safely and you have time to settle down and gather yourself, it’s time to start fixing the problem. In this situation, your insurance company should help you get the money you need to repair your roof and get back into your home quickly.

Report the damage

The first question to answer is “What happened?” Your insurance company will want to know more details about the event before they start talking about coverage.

Your coverage mainly depends on what caused the damage. Luckily, most homeowners insurance policies cover tree damage to your property if the event was caused by hail, wind, rain, lightning, or the weight of ice or snow on branches. Most standard policies also cover tree damage due to vandalism, aircraft, or an unintentional accident that you (the policy owner) did not cause.

However, if your insurance company can prove that the tree fell due to negligence on your part, they typically won’t cover anything. If you have a problem tree with a rotting trunk, weak roots, or precarious branches, it’s best to have it inspected and/or removed as soon as possible. In other words, if you know about the problem and do nothing to prevent the accident, your insurance company usually holds you liable for any damages.

In addition, if your tree falls due to an earthquake or flood, this usually won’t be covered by homeowner’s insurance. You’ll need earthquake or flood insurance for that.

What if it was the neighbor’s tree?

This is a common question in many neighborhoods. If a tree on your neighbor’s property happens to fall on your house, who is responsible for the damages?

Most often, even if the fallen tree was on your neighbor’s property, your own insurance will still cover any damages to your home. Sometimes, if your neighbor failed to prevent the accident (i.e. having a rotting tree removed), you might be able to make that case with your insurance company and be reimbursed for a portion of your deductible. However, this is usually hard to prove without prior documentation and photographs of the problem before the accident.

That’s why it is always a good idea to prepare for a falling tree before it happens. If you notice that your neighbor has a rotting tree or limb that might fall onto your roof, take pictures and document the problem thoroughly. Then, send them a request via email or physical mail and maintain copies for your records. This way, you can present these to your insurance company if you need to later on.

File a claim

Once you know what your insurance covers and what your deductible will be for the incident, you can then decide to file a claim. Just make sure it is in your best interest to do so. Most of the time filing a claim will help you complete costly repairs. That said, filing too many claims on your insurance over a short period of time may raise your monthly premiums. In addition, your claim may not cover everything you need to repair your property, and you will need to consider the cost of your options.

The main thing to consider is the roof repair. Depending on your policy, filing a claim with your homeowner’s insurance will cover most roof repair jobs to some degree. However, if the damage is not extensive, it might only cover a portion of a full roof replacement.

Your policy will probably also cover the tree removal if it is still leaning on your house. However, if the tree is lying in the yard or any other area that is not insured by your homeowner’s policy (including your car), tree removal may be an out-of-pocket expense or left up to another insurance policy (i.e. automotive).

In some cases,  you could also be covered for your shed, handicapped accessible ramps and railing, and even plant damage if your greenery adds property value.

Step 4: call a trusted roofing company

When a tree falls on your roof, the damage is almost never small. Unlike hail damage that is sometimes difficult to see, tree damage will almost certainly compromise a large part of your roof. Once you handle your insurance coverage, you will want to contact a trusted roofing company to inspect the situation and complete repairs.

What kind of damage can a tree cause?

In the worst cases, a fallen tree might destroy your entire roof. This often comes with other structural damage, such as cracked siding, broken windows, skylights and even foundation issues. Your roofing contractor may be able to help with some of these repairs, but you might need to contact another professional to help as well.

Other times, a fallen tree or branch may puncture holes in your roof. These holes usually go past the shingles through the plywood underneath, and sometimes break into the living space below. In addition to the obvious leaks, a tree may also damage your gutters and downspouts.

Even if you are lucky enough to avoid holes in your roof, you will almost certainly have some minor damage that still needs attention. Even small dents, bends, or cracks in your shingles can open the door for rain, wind, and hail to quickly deteriorate your roof, shortening its lifespan.

In fact, anything short of a small stick that impacts your roof may knock granules (embedded minerals) off of your shingles. While this is not always an urgent problem, you’ll want to replace those shingles sooner than later. Granules protect your roofing material from sunlight. Without them, UV rays will heat up and damage your roof much faster than normal.

In most cases, your roofing company will likely need to replace your shingles, whole sections of plywood, and even a few structural beams. In many cases, you may need to go ahead and replace your entire roof, especially if it is older than 14 years. Before the repairs begin, it’s a good idea to have your roof inspected to learn the best course of action.

The ideal roof repair scenario

Any time you are working on your roof, you want the job to be done correctly by a professional. After all, it is meant to protect you and your home from bad weather.

A tree falling on your house is also stressful, and you may be tempted to choose the first cheap roofing contractor you can find. However, that isn’t always the best choice. A poor quality repair job isn’t a good long-term investment for your property, and you may even have to have to repair it again soon after if it isn’t done well.

You might not know exactly what to look for when it comes to roofing, but we do. Here are four things you should expect from any quality roofing job.

#1. Quality work

When you hire a roofing company to fix tree damage, you want them to do the job right. The structural integrity of your roof should be top priority, along with precision and long-lasting stability.

#2. Proper materials

You want your new roof to be constructed of the best materials for your location and budget. Your roofing contractor should advise you on both the protective and aesthetic value of each type of material available to you. In the case of repairs, you also want your new shingles to match the appearance of the other material that is already on your roof. Once it’s fixed, it should look like the accident never even happened.

#3. Increased value

A new roof is also an asset to your home. With a new roof, there is potential to increase appraisal value if the job is done well and with better materials. If you are going to replace your roof, it should be left better than it was before.

#4. Efficiency

Being away from your home during repairs will be hard. For this reason, the ideal roofing job will be completed as soon as possible while still producing high quality work. That way, you can get back into your home quickly and get back to living your life.

Final thoughts

A tree falling on your roof can be terrifying and stressful, not to mention unexpected. You won’t often be prepared to handle the situation until you’re in the middle of it.

That’s why it’s important to be armed with the proper knowledge and take measures before it happens. Then you can approach the insurance and repair process with confidence. To do this, you’ll want a friendly and trustworthy roofing company by your side to see it through to completion.

At Baltic Roofing, we know how important your roof is to the quality of your home. We’ll make sure your roof repair project is done quickly and with the highest quality materials we can provide. We’ll even take the pressure off of your insurance headache and work with them directly to complete the repairs so you can get back to having a solid roof over your head. Contact us today to see how our roof repair or replacement services can leave your home in better shape than it ever was.

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