Risk Alerts

Don't get burned by a roofing contractor

When one thinks of fires at houses of worship, causes such as lightning, electrical malfunction and arson come to mind. However, a cause that is on the rise is negligence of roofing contractors repairing or replacing roofs. Over the past few years, numerous religious organizations insured by Church Mutual have reported this type of fire, and damages have ranged from $13,500 to more than $3.5 million.

When roofing contractors repair or replace a metal roof, stone coated steel roof or a rubberized roof – common for worship centers, schools and gymnasiums – they use highly flammable cleaning solvents, combustible adhesives, tar torches and arc welders in their operations. This is specialized work and includes many risks. A qualified contractor will have the expertise to do the job right and carry the proper insurance to protect the customer if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, there are many contractors with questionable ability who elect to carry minimal or no liability insurance.

What does this mean to you? If the roofing contractor causes damages to your property and does not have adequate insurance, your commercial multi-peril policy will provide protection, but you will most likely have out-of-pocket costs. If your policy has a deductible, which almost all policies do, you will be responsible for that amount. In addition, the incident will be included in your loss history.

A Church Mutual customer recently had an incident that illustrates this. A contractor was using a hot tar torch and started the wooden roof deck and trusses on fire. It spread quickly and resulted in $1.9 million in damages. The contractor carried no liability insurance. The worship center's multi-peril policy covered the loss, but the congregation had to pay the $5,000 deductible and hold services elsewhere for several weeks while repairs were being made.

Demand qualified, capable and reputable contractors

In many congregations, a major project such as replacing a roof is a two-stage process – raising the funds to pay for the project and selecting the contractor. So how do you know which contractor is right for you?

  • The one with the lowest price?
  • The one who can be there next week?
  • The one who offers the longest warranty?

Ultimately, you will have to make that decision, but here are some tips that should help:

  • Get quotes from a number of roofing contractors.
  • Ask for references and previous customers from each contractor.
  • Check all references and customers.
  • Require a certificate of insurance from the contractor.
    • Check the policy period, making sure your project falls within it.
    • Verify the contractor carries general liability and umbrella liability policies.
    • Make sure the limits are adequate. A $1 million liability policy and a $1 million umbrella policy is recommended.
  • Ask if the contractor is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association. The NRCA provides technical and research programs and continuing education for roofing contractors. The NRCA website also provides consumers with an online member directory for selecting a roofing professional and information about roof system maintenance.

Inspect your roof at least once a year

The condition of the roof of any building is key in protecting the structure from weather damage as well as from unwanted guests such as rodents, birds and other pests.

It is recommended to perform an inspection of your roof system at least once a year to help diagnose potential problems early.

You should look for:

  • Shingles that are buckling, curling or blistering. This indicates the end of the shingles' life expectancy.
  • Bubbles or cracking in a rubberized roof which is an indication the system is starting to fail.
  • Loose material or wear around the chimneys, pipes and other penetrations.
  • Excessive amounts of shingle granules in your gutters. Granules give shingles added weight and protect them from ultraviolet rays.
  • Clogged gutters and downspouts.


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Church Mutual Insurance Company
P.O. Box 357 | 3000 Schuster Lane | Merrill, WI 54452-0357
Telephone (800) 554-2642 or (715) 536-5577

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