Property insurance coverage law involves more than a thorough understanding of insurance policies and insurance law. To be valuable to the policyholder, the insurance coverage practitioner must understand property construction and repair methodologies as applied to the issue at hand. One reason that I am teaching a seminar, “The Science of Roof Damage Claims” with Tim Marshall at the First Party Claims Conference is to make myself better at the recurrent disputes of roof claims.

While researching and writing materials for my upcoming presentation, I came across a fascinating web site that may be useful to adjusters, policyholders, and other attorneys with building issues. The site, InspectAPedia, is developed by Daniel Friedman. Friedman’s resume indicates that his present occupation as follows:

Journalist, since 1953 (cub reporter, Richmond News Leader), specializing in environmental & construction inspection, diagnosis, & repair, & forensic investigations. His technical and other writing have appeared in various publications since 1953, including the The ASHI Technical Journal (where he served as publisher and editor), and contributions to Progressive Builder and New Shelter, the Journal of Light Construction, New England Builder, Fine Homebuilding, Smart Homeowner, the Old House Journal, and in various newspapers including the New York Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, Richmond News Leader, the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Mensa Journal, as well as in various U.S. EPA, CPSC, and other Government publications. He is the editor and lead author of the building and environmental problem diagnosis and repair online encyclopedia

Forensic Microscopy, since 1985, specializing in particle identification for diagnostic purposes, including buildings, indoor environment, and works of art. Works with art & building conservationists on contaminant identification & paint failure analysis, performing particle, mold, debris, & stain identification by microscopy and microchemistry for museums (Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico) and galleries and with U.S. National & State Park Services & historic societies to assist in art works & building conservation.

Environmental, Indoor Air Quality & mold field investigations and laboratory services, since 1985, specializing in particle identification, IAQ and mold, pollen, allergen, and other indoor air particle investigations. Microscopy Lab Analysis for sick Buildings or in the course of art conservation, including on-site and mail-in sample lab services;

Construction Evaluation & Diagnosis since 1978 as American Home Service Company: residential and commercial real estate Building inspections, home inspections Construction problem diagnosis, research, & solutions; also, construction arbitration, Building defect investigation, expert witness, photo, video, and written documentation of Building conditions and defects. Special consulting & research in electrical systems and hazards, water supply, onsite waste disposal (septic systems), materials failures, structural failures, paint, roofing, and siding failures, water and moisture-related damage, Building-related illness, bioaerosols, site & environmental hazards and concerns.

One of the primary aspects of property adjusting is the thorough investigation of a structure for damage. Adjusters are often under significant time pressure and do not adequately look at the important parts of a building structure following a loss. I thought Friedman’s description of the detail required to properly conduct a thorough inspection was a critical lesson.

Friedman’s article, “Asphalt Roof Shingle Wind Damage Causes & Evaluation,” has an excellent discussion on aspects of roof damage and its causes following a windstorm event. For instance, he indicated in part:

Roof Installation Workmanship: Fasteners/Nailing Problems, Wind Damage appeared to have led wind blow-off of these Atlas shingles, though an investigation of whether or not the shingles had self-sealed was also needed.

Weather: Wind damage can happen to any asphalt shingle roof in severe weather conditions. However if shingles are not properly nailed, shingles are far more likely to blow off of the roof in even a modest windstorm.

Proper roof shingle nailing: Roofing product manufacturers are careful to specify where shingle nails should be placed in each shingle and the number of nails required. These specifications may vary by shingle type and building location, with more nails specified for high-wind areas such as asphalt shingle roofs applied in coastal areas.

Components of roof shingle wind damage resistance: Asphalt shingle wind resistance combines several factors including the effectiveness of the glue strips on the shingle backs which adhere the shingle courses against wind-uplift, roof pitch, roof orientation with respect to prevailing winds, and importantly, proper shingle nailing patterns.

Not only must nails be properly placed and spaced, improper nailing itself, such as driving a nail through the shingle, leaving a nail sticking up to cut a shingle above, or using a roofing stapler improperly leaving cocked staples or shingle-cutting staples will all encourage shingles to fly away with the wind.

If a new roof has the bad luck to encounter a severe wind storm shortly after asphalt shingles have been installed, it is possible that the shingles will blow off of the roof because their self-sealing tabs have simply not had time (or warm enough weather or enough sun) to adhere.” (emphasis added)

While reading his article, I kept imagining how the insurance company may try to use a more thorough investigation to find causes leading to the loss other than just windstorm and then raise the anti-concurrent clause exclusion as a means to escape liability. But, that is another topic.

He also had an example of a TWIA (Texas Windstorm Insurance Association) inspection involving damage following windstorm in his article, “Mechanical Damage to Asphalt Shingles – cuts, punctures, tears, granule loss.” His case analysis did not appear favorable to finding windstorm related damage but instead indicated the following in part:

1. Primarily, questionable or perhaps even poor workmanship, use of staples, mis-located, staples askew, high raised-corner staples, mis-stapled on top of shingles, foot traffic, mechanical damage, possibly excessive bending in cold weather at the hip/ridge appear to be the problems on this roof. We also saw some minor mis-nailing or inadequate nailing leading to a single blow off at the roof hip.

2. Secondarily: a few of the cuts and damage could be defective product – see CRACKS in FIBERGLASS SHINGLES. At least one cut was made by a tool or implement.

3. Weather does not appear to be a root cause of this roof damage, though once a shingle has been worn by walking or mechanical damage the exposure of the shingle substrate accelerates wear and granule loss.

4. We would not characterize the prime problem of this roof as "granule loss" which was the original owner’s concern. GRANULE LOSS from SHINGLES provides more details.

For readers with structural loss questions, I suggest that Friedman’s site can provide some valuable general information.