Protect yourself: Storm Chaser Gimmicks

Out-of-state roofing contractors descend upon areas victimized by hail damage like hyenas after a kill.  Often they’ll rent a tiny office where they can get their mail and you wouldn’t know they were from another state until the first time the roof they put on for you needs service.

There are ways to recognize this and protect yourself.

But before that happens, you have to understand what techniques they used to scare you and some of the techniques they’ll use to sell you.

SCARE:  “You have hail damage and your roof may be leaking even if you don’t even know it.”

REALITY: Even a hail-damaged roof may not leak for years.  Just because the granules on top are knocked off, and the fiberglass matting on the bottom which gives your roof strength may be fractured, the asphalt in the middle doesn’t get destroyed by impact unless it is already old and brittle.  When they knock on your door, they tell you that you have hail damage even before your insurance agent or a qualified roofer has gone up to look at it.

FALSE SOLVE:  They claim that they can get you a “free roof” because they will pay for your deductible.  This is illegal.  Plain and simple, it is insurance fraud.  Insurance requires you to pay your deductible.  If one of these storm chasers convinces you that they will pay your deductible, they are just inflating the price or using inferior materials but billing your insurance for top-of-the-line materials.

RESEARCH:  Look at the reviews online and read them.

  • Are there any hints as to where they worked when they got a review?
  • Do they have any reviews from the area or even the state you live in?
  • If they claim to have been in business a long time, do they have reviews from when they started?
  • Are there any reviews from people who had their roofs installed a season earlier?

INVESTIGATE AND COMPARE:  Your insurance adjuster should have sent you a materials list called Xactimate.  Compare that list to what your storm chaser contractor delivered to your driveway prior to installation.

  • Were you promised chimney flashing?  Is there pre-finished coiled metal and caulk on your driveway or just spray paint?  HINT: There’s never a legitimate reason for a roofer to have spray paint on a job.
  • Check your flashings and your pipes.  First, go into your basement.  Is your main pipe that goes into your floor a 4″ to 6″ cast iron pipe or is it PVC?  If it is cast iron, is there something that looks like a lead sleeve that can go over the pipe opening on your roof?  If not, the flexible black plastic ring-style flashing will cook, split and break down prematurely.  If your pipes are white PVC, which the rubber ring style flashing works for, will not heat up and is therefore the appropriate type of flashing.
  • Evaluate your ice and water membrane.  There are two things to look for here.  First, storm chasers are notorious for claiming they are using high-temperature ice and water membrane.  Look at what’s on the materials pile.  Look at your Xactimate.  Is what is on your pile, the same as what your insurer was paying for?  Is it the same as what your contractor was planning to put on your roof?   Second, how much ice and water membrane is really being used?  The appropriate amount in the northern zone is 6 feet (2 three-foot courses that overlap) plus enough to cover the valleys.  There’s an easy way to measure this.  Measure the footage on the gutters, double that number, and then add in the footage for the valleys.  Each roll covers 60-66 feet.  Do you have enough or is your contractor only planning to put on 3 feet along the eves?

Following the herd vs Your best interest

Storm chasers will make a big deal out of how they are doing so many roofs in your neighborhood and they might point to a sea of yard signs.  But are those signs symbols of where the herd is going?  As humans, we like to be part of a group dynamic and it’s tempting to do what many of your neighbors have done, but if the herd is being driven over the cliff, does it matter whose shoulders you’re bumping into?

We hope this short column has helped.  The reality is that most soon-to-be victims haven’t even read this far, but you have a choice at this point — find an established local contractor who has earned their reputation, or buy into a sales pitch.

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