How to Build (and insure) a Better Roof

The roof on your house or business is typically one of those things in everyday life that we don’t really think about too much……until there is a problem. Like the air we breathe or that first cup of coffee in the morning, we just need it to be there and do its job. Minnesota is one of those places, though, that seems to generate new potential problems for roofs on a regular basis, ranging from hail and wind to ice dams and heavy snow loads. How our roofs handle these potential problems depends largely on the type of roof and the materials used, and there are many to choose from.

There is no perfect roofing solution, if there was, everyone would have it. Some materials and roof shapes are better at certain things, like handling snow and ice, and some are certainly more aesthetically pleasing than others, like cedar shake shingles, but there really is no one roof choice that will handle everything that gets thrown at it AND look great in the process.

So when it comes time to choose your new roof material, there are some things to be aware of in making your roofing choice from an insurance standpoint, so that you are not surprised later when the premium changes or a claim happens and your coverage is not what you thought it was.

Homes were once very simple in that they were all built with an incline…..high in the center and sloping down to the edge of the roof. Materials were almost always asphalt shingles, with a few cedar shingles or clay shingles on very nice houses. That has changed over the past 20 years for a variety of reasons. Asphalt shingles are still very susceptible to hail or flying debris so while they are inexpensive, they also get damaged a lot more. Most businesses have moved away from shingles for this reason and just have a flat roof with tar poured on it and ground up gravel sprinkled on top. There is nothing to break when hail hits it and upkeep is inexpensive because nothing gets replaced, just more tar and gravel is added.

There are some options, though, that have become more popular in the past 15 years for durability, aesthetics, and cost……but each has their pros and cons when it comes to insurance.

Over the past 10 years there have been some very heavy duty asphalt shingles introduced that offer additional protection, and typically insurance companies reward homeowners who use them with discounts. Look for hail warranted, dimensional, or 300lb+ shingles that are designed to take a beating without incurring any lasting damage. This means, however, that when your neighbors all get new roofs, you probably won’t because your heavy duty shingles did their job.

Metal roofing has become popular outside of the metro area for its ability to deftly handle snow and ice load by creating a surface too slippery for anything to stick to. It’s also very durable, however many insurance companies will limit what they will pay to replace…….surface dents or scratches are not going to cause you to get a new roof, while any holes punched in the metal or bent panels will absolutely cause the roof to be replaced. Appearance is the limiting factor with metal roofs, which is why this particular roofing material hasn’t made its way into the metro area yet……it looks like a metal roof.

Cedar shake shingles or clay shingles are great looking and create a very soft and eco-friendly aesthetic, but they are very expensive products to purchase and install, and they are not able to withstand a lot of flying object abuse…..which happens frequently here in Minnesota about half the year. As a result most insurance companies won’t cover them, or they won’t cover them to replacement cost. There are two companies in particular that will take these, one requires higher deductibles for wind and hail damage, the other just charges more to compensate for additional costs associated with these roof materials.

There are quite a few choices out there and every home, business, and owner are looking for slightly different things, but regardless of what you are looking for, you should absolutely have a conversation before you buy with your insurance agent to find out what the implications are both from a coverage standpoint as well as from a premium cost standpoint.


This post was written by Aaron Nicklay, Agent with Farmer’s Insurance. For more information on this topic and more and how Aaron can help protect your business, email him at or call (952) 229-5155.

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