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G Orr
Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

Our beautiful 1907 fairytale style bungalow with curved roof edges was re-roofed with cedar shakes in 2006, the year before we bought it. Our insurance company, without permission or notification, sent out a layperson to take photos of our home. Our agent assured me it was a routine matter, not to worry. I just received a letter saying we must replace our roof by December 1, or they will cancel our insurance. I’ve been told cedar roofs should last 18 to 50 years. I would like to make a case for proper inspection of the roof to determine its actual condition with an eye toward restoring/or repairing, rather than replacement. There have been no leaks or indications that the roof needs fixing in the main part of the house. A leak around the vent flashing in a small 1950s add on kitchen developed recently after a very large rainstorm. We had a contractor friend inspect the damage there and in the attic of the main part of the house to see if there was any more indication of trouble- all looked fine. We are small business owners impacted by the recession, and cannot afford the cost of roof replacement.

ordjen
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

Your insurance company is concerned with fire, not leaks. Wood roofs are forbidden by code in many areas of the country, especially those vulnerable to forest fires.

A. Spruce
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

Sounds like it's time to shop for a new insurer, though many of them may feel the same way. Ordjen is right, it is a fire issue, not leaks that they're worried about.

dj1
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

Just to add to the above answers:

If cedar shake was to code when you had it installed, your insurance company is reaching too far. They should grandfather your roof as is, IMHO.

You will have to shop around, and it may be difficult to find an insurer who will accept you at the going premiums, so prepare to pay more. Request a quote from every insurance company you can find. Search on line too, and do it now rather than later. When you find another insurer, switch BEFORE you get cancelled.

Mastercarpentry
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

Determine what their concerns are and if there are cost-effective ways to mitigate at least some of them. Every insurer wants a no-risk customer but some companies will insure higher risks at a higher cost. Somebody should cover you. And do it before a lapse of coverage which if your loan requires PMI can be an even bigger problem. If you can't find a way out, you may have to re-roof. In that case you may be able to appeal for time with your current company for financial reasons. If the roof wasn't code-compliant when it was installed you may have some legal redress from the seller but I doubt it as this wasn't a hidden problem but a very visible one. I have to wonder why the bank allowed a loan if there was an insurance issue; their mortgage inspector should have caught this if it's a problem in your area.

As an aside I remember, many years ago SoCal used to have some developments around LA in wildfire-prone areas where the CCR's actually required wood roofs which I thought was insane, along with any insurance company who would cover that! But somebody did, I'm sure, though I'd hate to know the premium rates.

Phil

G Orr
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

Thank you all for your feedback.

Actually, it is not a fire concern, the insurance company inspected our roof when we bought it and issued the policy. In the letter from the company, they indicated that curling roof shakes was the problem. There are some shakes that have developed a curve on the south facing portion of the roof. The rest are fine and flat.

A. Spruce
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)
G Orr wrote:

Thank you all for your feedback.

Actually, it is not a fire concern, the insurance company inspected our roof when we bought it and issued the policy. In the letter from the company, they indicated that curling roof shakes was the problem. There are some shakes that have developed a curve on the south facing portion of the roof. The rest are fine and flat.

This is a major reason that I personally have never liked shake roofs, they are extremely high maintenance. While a little curl isn't much to worry about, what is, is that wood shakes burn through with direct sun light, the sun literally burns/wears away the wood and creates holes to the asphalt paper, which is what is actually waterproofing your roof. Once the paper is exposed, the sun then goes to town burning a hole through that as well, which causes a hole and a leak. New shake roofs are great, for the first few years, after that, they require yearly maintenance to keep the burned shakes replaced and bad spots in the paper repaired as well.

Additionally, squirrels LOVE shake roofs, and not only bury nuts in them, they dig large holes into the attic space.

dj1
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

I remember tearing off shake roofs years ago, only to find out that there was no felt paper installed underneath. As strange as it sounds, the early shake was triple layered, and no paper was required.

Today, tar paper is a must.

t_manero
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

G Orr; these are thoughts not recommendations.

(1) Whatever you do, replace the insurance company BEFORE they cancel. Every insurance application asks if you've been canceled. Don't know if they then treat you differently or blacklist you.
(2) When completing internet or paper applications, describe the roof material correctly and year of installation.
There are stories of houses insured for 30 years by the same insurance company requiring new roofs -- why ? they know you have a 30-year roof that leaks or get wind blown.
(3) Try your credit union or auto insurance company -- they may be willing to cover you, though not cheaper. I previously wrote about differences in homeowner coverage -- the policies have some differences, but make sure you have replacement cost (not cash value), buy the Increase Cost of Construction coverage, and make sure you have some sort of "head room" on the insured home value - - even though it's a 1% chance of total loss, if you lowball the home value to save on premium, you'll won't be able to rebuild and you still have to pay the mortgage. Jewelry, guns, precious materials are typically covered for about $1,000 (various).
(4) If you don't resolve this, and you are cancelled & uninsured for any period of time, your mortgage ompany will put "force placed coverage" and bill you for 3x what it would cost you -- it's a trap door, like missing a credit card payment by 1 day for which the bank will charge $35 late fee and 15% interest retroactive to last month's statement date - they want you to trip up, once.

WindDancer
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

Could you clarify a few details? Is this the same insurance company from which you purchased insurance when you bought the property, or have you placed coverage with a different insurer? If the former, why has the issue become of concern now, assuming it wasn't when you purchased the house?

Certain carriers, such as Citizens and Frankenmuth, will do property inspections and require remediation.

Mastercarpentry
Re: Insurance company says replace our cedar shake roof (installed 2006)

The OP indicated they moved in sometime 2007, so by now (2013) one could expect some degradation of the shakes. Most insurers will either have someone do a visual exterior inspection or have you return a questionnaire at least every few years to asses their risks, which occurred here. No matter who the insurer is this was bound to happen eventually.

My Mom's house was built around 1950 and we've had to upgrade a number of things to please her insurer. Currently they are wanting a rewire or they will raise the premiums but they have not spoken of cancellation. Her insurer has been very good with the few claims she has made so we're not considering anyone else- better the devil you know than the one you don't if the first devil ain't too bad!

Phil

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