Of all the things one might replace on an existing home, a roof would be last on the list of costly updates that make you want to bask in its wondrous pattern, or admire its fine color. Really, a new roof is nice, but, at that cost, I could pay for three vacations.
Still, something has crept into the roofing industry since 2009 that is increasingly making homeowners take a second look at the old roof. It’s the Fortified roof that saves homeowners money and grief.
A little background: After Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, coastal homeowners were choking on bloated insurance rates, so various industry and government folk set out to see what could be done about it.
Building standards were the focus, and out of that came the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), a nonprofit that tests construction methods against natural disasters – winds up to 130 mph, wildfires, hail and so on.
It established three levels for Fortified homes: Bronze, which bolsters the roofing system; Silver, which goes further to brace gables and columns, and Gold, which secures the structure from foundation to chimney.
Buyers of new homes constructed to the Gold Fortified standard find that their insurance premiums are shockingly, delightfully dirt cheap. Like $800 for a 2,500-square-foot home.
But a homeowner must have the certificate indicating the level of fortification in order to receive the discount, says insurance agent Glen Gorowsky.
This piece of paper is the equivalent of a college degree for a home and, like that education, it is not obtained without money, study, research and examination.
“Don’t close without that certificate because you’ll need it to prove to your insurer that the roof is fortified,” Gorowsky cautions new home buyers.
When it comes to retrofitting existing homes, the process is a bit more involved and it depends upon the age and construction of the home.
I asked these folks about the process: (1) Alex Cary, fortified coastal programs manager for IBHS; (2) Lad Drago, a State Farm agent; and (3) a roofer with 39 years of experience who requested his name not be used for my report.
First you need to have the home evaluated, Cary said. A list of inspectors is on SmartHomeAmerica.org. The cost of this evaluation is $75 to $300.
Then you’ll need to contact a roofer who is able to follow through with the smart home process, including photographing the work and other important documentation.
The roofer says that going for the Bronze standard may add $1,500 in materials and labor to a roofing job.
So homeowners should examine the additional cost vs. the insurance savings.
And homeowners should know that this fortification certificate is good for only five years. The cost to renew it is $500.
One big positive about having a Fortified roof is coming home after a hurricane to a sound roof, both Drago and Cary point out.
Additionally, a Fortified roof that withstands a major wind storm saves you the deductible and other out-of-pocket costs.