It’s easy to GOOF when working on your home... but you don't have to!

Use our decades of experience to cut through the noise and information overload when you have to re-roof, rebuild or recover. 

Roof Right

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A new roof is one of the only investments you can make to your home that's worth more than you put into it. According to HomeAdvisor, a new roof returns up to 109% of its installation cost in property value. 

Most people think that simply putting new shingles on their roof is the right way to re-roof. Well, there’s more to a roof than just shingles.

Your roof is your home's first line of defense against Mother Nature. Ironically, it's also your homes weakest link.

There’s a better way to roof that will stand up to the damage caused by hurricanes, hail and severe storms. It’s affordable, it lasts longer and it can lower your insurance and can increase the value of your home, up to 7% more. It’s FORTIFIED Home.

You only re-roof every 15-20 years. When its time, do it right.

Q: 1) What do I need to know when considering a new roof?

Read Answer

A:
  1. Do you have damage?
    1. If you do not have damage - you have time to consider your options. Your concerns could be from the age of your roof, inadequate or incorrect installation or perhaps your insurance company told you it was time for a new roof. Either way, learn more about how you can re-roof your home to reduce risk and save money on insurance by putting on a stronger, better roof. A small increase in price up front can save you on your annual insurance bill, and if you have a claim, it can save you then too.
    2. If you do have damage- follow our advice for filing a claim, working with an adjuster, negotiating your claim and avoiding fraud.  
  2. Are you filing a claim?
    1. Filing a claim can be confusing depending on the policies and process of your insurer. Typically, your home insurance policy will have a section about filing a claim. Start there first. Next, contact your agent, call your company or go online. These days many companies let you start the claims process online.
  3. Are you selling your house?
    1. If you’re selling your home and are looking to increase its curb appeal and property value, a new roof will factor in. Most home shoppers cannot overlook an old, worn out roof. It's a significant expense for the seller, but it’s one of the few housing investments that return more than you put into it, up to 109% according to HomeAdvisor.
    2. A FORTIFIED roof can add even more value for buyers and owners alike:
      1. Property value increase – A study from the University of Alabama has shown that a certified FORTIFIED home is worth 7% more than comparable homes. That typically covers the costs of any upgrades from a “normal” roof you'd pay out.
      2. Safety – Many people worry about the safety of their families in storms. A FORTIFIED home will better protect them and their possessions. FORTIFIED keeps the rain out, and when a storm does come, there is much, much less risk that the home will be severely damaged and that family can move back in quickly afterward. That's not the case with a typical home, usually, if a home’s roof is damaged and water gets in, it can be weeks or months before its livable again, and likely they've lost many of their belongings too. Where will they stay, how will they pay for it? With FORTIFIED, that's not much of a worry.
      3. Insurance savings – The FORTIFIED certificate, or Designation, stays with your address and is transferable. That means you can pass any insurance savings to the next owner. A selling point, lower insurance costs.
  4. What type of roof do you want?
    1. Metal, shingles, rubber, concrete? All these types of roof coverings are options for you when you re-roof. The most common are shingles. Metal roofing is widespread in coastal areas, and it lasts a long time. Read an article where we compare many of these options for you.

Q: 2) Why do I need a better roof?

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A:
  • A better roof can save you money on insurance, paying you back over its life and increase your property value. It better protects you from high winds, storms, hail and most importantly, it keeps the water out when the worst storms come. It better withstands the impacts that Mother Nature dishes out!
  • Roofs have many parts that make up a system, not just shingles, wood and tar paper. They can be pretty complicated. If one piece fails, like shingles flying off in high winds, with a standard roof it’s too easy for water to get inside your home and destroy all of your irreplaceable, precious stuff. That's a big bill and insurance may not cover all of it. At the very least, you’re out your deductible. In 19 coastal states, that falls under your Wind Insurance deductible…5%, 3% maybe even 10% of your home’s value for each claim!
  • We know deciding to get a new roof is a big, expensive and long commitment. Take the time to learn more before investing in your new roof. You will be stuck with your decision for 15 or 20 years at least.

 

Q: 3) What makes a FORTIFIED roof different from a normal roof?

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A:

FORTIFIED Home is a nationally recognized building standard based on over 20 years of research and testing by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). You know the crash test dummies for cars used by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety? Same idea, but IBHS "crash tests" houses and buildings in their Research Center to learn how to build them better and stronger, making them more disaster-resistant. Check out this video to see FORTIFIED Home vs. traditional, inland construction!


FORTIFIED goes beyond most current building codes (it is code-plus) and strengthens your home against storm damage. It's unique, common sense approach to construction requires documenting and verifying all aspects of work. It's the documentation and verification that's key to protecting you and your possessions. Watch this video and learn about the FORTIFIED program in three minutes.

You probably heard that the certificate is good for five years in that video, right? That's because a FORTIFIED designation is renewable! Unlike a “new roof discount” that goes away in five years, with a FORTIFIED roof you'll have your home re-inspected by a FORTIFIED Evaluator after five years to make sure your roof has at least five years of life left.  They also make sure your home hasn't been damaged or if you've added on, that it's been done to the FORTIFIED standard. This inspection process ultimately means that your insurance discount will not depreciate over time, depending on the policies where you live and your insurer.

Q: 4) How do I choose a good contractor?

Read Answer

A:

We have more information in our fraud section but here is the short list:

  1. Get at least three bids from qualified contractors - don’t give a price range or let them know what you’ve received from your insurance claim.
    1. Make sure they have (and get copies of or take pictures of):
    2. A Contractors License (General or Roof) or Home Builders License, depending on the amount of the work
    3. General Liability insurance
    4. Workman’s Comp Insurance for their staff
    5. A Bond to fix any bad work they refuse to fix, just in case.
    6. At least 3 references you can call.
    7. Examples of recently completed projects.
  2. Get everything you want to be done in written bids on company letterhead. Do not leave anything out and also, ask that they plan for additional costs such as replacing rotted wood or other typical items they think they could find. You may not end up paying for these but having them in the contract protects you from “surprise” costs.
  3. Ideally work with local, reputable companies and contractors.
    1. Once you select a contractor, get your contract in writing, again with everything you want and agreed about on company letterhead. Don't forget those possible additional costs.     
    2. It's okay for contractors to request a certain percentage of the costs up front as long as you have researched them and are under contract. 10-25% is common. Some states have limits on the amount contractors can request. Contact your local Consumer Protection Agency for more information.     

Q: 5) You may say, “I have lived here forever and never had any damage, why should I get a FORTIFIED roof?”

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A:

Not all homes are damaged during storms. As roofs age, they begin to lose their ability to resist the wear and tear Mother Nature dishes out. Your roof may survive one storm only to sustain significant roof damage several years later due to the effects of weathering and exposure. FORTIFIED homes have been proven to survive with less damage, giving you a better chance of returning to your home after a storm and being able to sleep in your bed.
 

Q: 6) What steps do I take to get a FORTIFIED Roof?

Read Answer

A:

Here are the eight steps we recommend. The first - hire a FORTIFIED Evaluator. After that, much of this will be done for you.

  1. Contact a FORTIFIED Evaluator - Do this first!
    1. They’ll evaluate your home and create a Current Conditions Report.
  2. Review Your Current Conditions Report - This tells you what needs to be done to get your FORTIFIED roof. It also serves as a scope of work for contractor bids.
  3. Get Three Contractor Bids -
    1. Get proof that roofers and contractors are licensed, bonded and insured (general liability and workman's comp).
    2. Make sure contractor bids include all of the requirements for the “FORTIFIED Home™ Bronze Designation” from your Current Conditions Report. If they don't, or worse, won't do it: get another quote.
    3. Roofers and contractors can be very specialized. Make sure they can perform all the work needed to get your roof to the FORTIFIED Bronze level.
  4. Choose Your Contractor - While any contractor can do the work, (as long as they strictly follow the guidelines), FORTIFIED Wise Professionals™ are certified and have gone through specialized training to understand the program.
  5. Use the Right Products - Using the right products is key to FORTIFIED. Installation is the other key.
  6. Take Action - Let your Evaluator know you’ve decided to get a “FORTIFIED Home Bronze Designation” for your roof.
    1. The Evaluator must be involved in the process from start to finish.
    2. Connect your Evaluator and contractor by phone, email, text or in person.  
    3. Your Evaluator will come out during the work and after the project is complete. The number of visits will depend on the work needed.
  7. Document Your Project- Your Evaluator will document and take pictures of the work, the products, and the installation. They then submit a detailed report to IBHS engineers who review and award FORTIFIED Home Designations.
  8. Save Money - Once you receive your FORTIFIED Home Designation (a certificate), shop for your insurance and save money on your insurance! We recommend getting three-five quotes; you may be surprised at the savings available.
    1. Once you decide on an insurer, give them your FORTIFIED Designation certificate to start saving. Your savings will vary based on where you live and your insurer.

Q: 7) Can I put a new roof over my old roof?

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A:

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Some building codes allow for this, but IT IS NOT recommended. Putting a new roof over an old shingle roof is never a good idea. It can make the roof vulnerable to leaks and severely restrict your insurance coverage options. The best practice is ALWAYS to remove the old roof covering to allow for an inspection of the roof decking for rotted wood or a weak roof deck that needs additional nailing. 

Q: 8) I hear a new roof qualifies for insurance credits, is that the same as the FORTIFIED roof discount?

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A:

While some insurance companies may provide a small credit for a new roof, it is typically much lower and can’t be renewed like the FORTIFIED Home discount (meaning it goes away after five years or so).

Keep in mind too; a FORTIFIED roof is designed to protect the interior of your home and your possessions from water damage. A “normal” or code compliant roof is not.

As always, your discounts will vary based on the level of FORTIFIED you achieve and where you live.

Avoid Fraud

Are you fraud proof? No one is. After a disaster, you want to get your claim paid, fix the damage and move on. STOP!!! Don’t GOOF; you have an opportunity!

Time is precious, and you’ll have a life after your world gets put back together and you move on from this whole mess. Take a little time to consider your options before you goof.

Did you know:

  • You can negotiate your claim payment with your insurance adjuster
  • Insurance may pay for your spoiled food in your fridge, among other things
  • After a flood, insurance may not pay to replace items with nonporous, hard surfaces that can be cleaned and reused such as porcelain, glass and metal items like doorknobs, and faucets?
  • Could you be covered to build back to the newest building code or a higher standard?

We’ll cover this and more in our Goof Proof Fraud Questions below. Use them as a guide when you begin building and contact us if you have any questions.

Q: 1) My house is damaged, what are the first steps I should take?

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A:
  1. First, make sure it’s safe to enter your home.
  2. Contact your Insurance Agent and file a claim (Question 2).
  3. Take Pictures - Get out your phone or camera and take pictures of everything before you start cleaning up. Yes, before you clean anything!
    1. You will need more pictures than you think you need. Different angles, wide shots and close up.
    2. Pictures of labels.
    3. The serial and model numbers of electronics.
    4. Down your hallways, into bedrooms, looking out of rooms, outside, inside.
    5. You cannot take too many pictures. Seriously. These will help you negotiate your claim with your insurance adjuster.
  4. Save evidence of loss - If you were flooded, save swatches of furniture fabric. Yes, this could be important for your claim.
  5. You don't have to throw away or demolish solid, nonporous surfaced items such as porcelain, glass, some plastics (plastic utensils are not recommended to be kept) and metal items like doorknobs, faucets, utensils, or sinks. Items with a nonporous surface can be cleaned, disinfected and reused. Many insurance companies won't pay to replace these items because they can be cleaned and reused. Check with your insurer. 
    1. Angie's List has an excellent article on what can and cannot be saved
    2. The HUD Field Guide for Cleaning and Flooded Home has additional tips on what to keep or throw away, as well as the proper way to clean and disinfect items that can be reused on page 7. 
    3. The HUD Guide, Rebuild Healthy Homes provides a wealth of information and speaks about items that can be salvaged on page 44.
    4. Consumer Reports has an excellent article on salvaging valuables and other tips.
    5. This FEMA Fact Sheet, After the Flood: Advice for Salvaging Damaged Family Treasures, has links to many useful resources. 
  6. Find or create a Home Inventory - If you have a home inventory, secure it or make it digital by taking pictures of it. If you have old receipts of purchases, take photos of those too.
    1. Digital pictures don’t fade, receipts do. Plan to do this with any receipts you get for future purchases too.
    2. Save everything to a flash drive or a cloud drive like Google, AmazoniCloud, or Dropbox or email it to yourself.

Q: 2) Do I need to file a claim and contact my insurance agent right away?


Read Answer

A:

Yes. This is good advice for a few reasons:

  • They will be able to help you with your claim and give you advice.
  • They will schedule an adjuster to come and visit your property. 

  • You can start your claim by phone or online with many insurers.
  • You may also be eligible for additional endorsements such as Ordinance and Law to build back to the newest building code. You should ask about building back better by using specific standards, like FORTIFIED Home, or options to elevate your home to avoid the next flood.
 Your choices will vary based on your policy and your insurer.

Q: 3) Should I let my roofer or contractor work with my insurer?


Read Answer

A:

No. You should be the one to contact and communicate with your agent, adjuster or insurance company, at least at first.


  • If your agent wants to speak with your contractor, that is the only time they should talk. It’s way too easy for scam artists to work the system and you. Get an update from your insurer after their conversation.

  • Never share the amount of your insurance claim, the amount of your claim check or the amount you think you will receive.
    • Contractors do not need this information to provide a sound and accurate bid for the work that is required to make you whole again.
  • Never sign your insurance claims check over to a contractor. Stay in charge of your money. Pay them with your personal checks and get receipts. Make sure everything is in writing.
  • NOTE- If you get caught up in a scam or insurance fraud, even unintentionally (like blindly signing a contract without talking with your insurer first), you can also be held liable for fraud, face fines or worse. Insurance fraud is a crime.


Q: 4) Should I hire the first contractor that knocks on my door? 


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A:

NEVER recommended. Door knocking and solicitation are HUGE red flags for fraud.


  • You can always add them to your list of 3-4 contractors who you ask to provide you bids.
  • Legit contractors will usually have signs on their trucks, business cards, logo shirts and business license, insurance, references and will be willing to share all of this and wait while you check them out and call all these sources over the next day or so.
  • NOTE - Some insurance companies have lists of approved companies they recommend. They may even give you discounts or incentives for working with these contractors.
  • Do not let anyone push you into signing anything.
  • Get three bids for any work first! You can always walk away and call or submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau if needed. (www.BBB.org).

Q: 5) Do I really need three bids for the work?


Read Answer

A:

Always. Shop around, get at least three written quotes (on company letterhead).


  • Getting multiple quotes helps to make sure you work with legitimate contractors. 
    • Get copies of, or take pictures of, proof of business insurance (general liability, workman's comp), local/state business and contractor licensing and bonding (if carried or required). Ask for three references.

  • FOLLOW-UP with your state's insurance department, your state's contractor's licensure board, city or municipality, local building code departments and call references.
  • Contractors you request quotes from should come out to your house to complete a detailed assessment of your home before quoting you. Accept nothing less.


Q: 6) Do I need a contract before work on my house begins?


Read Answer

A:

YES!!! Don’t do anything until you have a contract 


  • Make sure everything you have requested is listed on your contract, on company letterhead. If it's not included, DO NOT SIGN IT. Not including requested work in a quote or contract is a standard fraud technique to get more money out of you. You can be held liable for fraud if you're filing an insurance claim for any work not listed in the contract. If it's not in writing, videotaped or in photos, it didn't happen.

  • Make sure your contract includes a clause for additional, legitimate work that may be found during the project. Without this clause, you could be scammed. Fraudulent contractors use "surprise" costs to line their pockets.
  • REVIEW YOUR CONTRACT - If something you requested is NOT included in your final contract, and you ask for it later, it will cost you much more! Yes, even if you already agreed to it verbally and shook hands. Don't sign anything until it's right. If the contractor won't update your estimate, fire them and get a new one.

  • FINAL PAYMENT- Always withhold your final payment, and don’t sign off on the work until you are satisfied and your home is cleared of all construction debris.

  • TIP - Use the down payment as a negotiation point. If you like their work but are uncomfortable paying what they ask for up-front, don't be afraid to walk away.


Q: 7) Do I pay my contractor the full cost, upfront?


Read Answer

A:

Never. A down payment is OK AFTER YOU SIGN A CONTRACT. Anywhere from 10% to 1/2 of the cost of the job is reasonable.


  • Reputable contractors have a line of credit with their suppliers and can afford to wait until the job is done, and done right, to take the full payment. Some states have laws that set limits on the amount of a down payment contractors can request. Find out by contacting your states consumer protection agency.

  • Don't believe claims that you'll get a "free" roof or won't have to pay your deductible. Those are false and fraudulent, and you will need to pay your insurance deductible if you're filing an insurance claim.


Q: 8) Do I need a permit?


Read Answer

A:

Maybe, and you need to find out.

  • If your area enforces Building Codes, there is a good chance you’ll need a permit for a new roof or repairs.

    • ***If your home is determined to damage 50% or higher, it will have to be brought up to the current building code.

  • Make sure your contractor pulls the permit, that it has your address on it and that you get a copy (take a picture if needed). If you have questions, contact your local Building Department or Planning and Zoning Board.




Q: 9) Is it okay if my contractor only works on the weekend?


Read Answer

A:

Not usually. Weekend work is a HUGE RED FLAG. Building Code offices are closed on weekends, and no one is looking over scammers shoulders. This is a possible sign of unpermitted, shoddy and fraudulent work.  


  • Now, if you've talked with your insurer, have done your research, picked a qualified, licensed, bonded, reputable and insured contractor, have a signed contract and a building permit (with your address on it), then sure, weekend work is okay.

Build Better

This video, FORTIFIED Building, provides an overview of how to Build Better and the features of FORTIFIED construction. Featuring: Alex Cary, licensed Home Builder and former Executive Director of Smart Home America; Darius Grimes, certified FORTIFIED Evaluator, and; Tracie Sempier with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.

Building better protects every other investment you make in your home. We’ve known how to build to avoid damage from disasters for a while but don’t because many people think it's too expensive, or only for large, custom homes. The truth is, it’s for everyone, it's affordable, and it's a good investment in the future.

Just a few extra steps when designing, building or retrofitting your home can protect your possessions during and after a storm, increase your property value and save you money on insurance and utilities. Benefits your wallet will see for years to come. 

 

Q: 1) I’m building a new home, where do I start.

Read Answer

A:

Oh, this question is easy. Contact a FORTIFIED Evaluator.

  • For most people that's it. Get the Evaluator involved at the beginning of your project. Put them in touch with your Home Builder and engineer. That way you know there will be no hiccups along the way.
    • Extra Note - If at all possible get them involved before blueprints are finalized, only because some products may need to be swapped out for those that meet specific standards.
    • Even this is too much information for some homeowners. Contact an Evaluator, and they can handle these details.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Q: 2) Why do I need to build better?

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A:

Building better first protects every other investment you make into your home. Without a strong home, you’re vulnerable. Storm shutters, new granite countertops, and energy efficient, smart everything. All of it is useless when your roof or home is damaged, water gets in, and your house fills up like a bucket.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Q: 3) What is FORTIFIED Home™?

Read Answer

A:

FORTIFIED Home™ is a nationally recognized building standard based on over 20 years of research and testing by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). You know the crash test dummies for cars used by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety? Same idea, but IBHS "crash tests" houses and buildings to learn how to build them better and stronger, making them more disaster-resistant. Check out this video to see how FORTIFIED performs vs. standard inland construction. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Q: 4) What makes a FORTIFIED home different from a normal home?

Read Answer

A:

The FORTIFIED Home program goes beyond current building codes (it is code-plus) and strengthens your home against storm damage. It's unique, common sense approach to construction requires documenting and verifying all aspects of work. It's the documentation and verification that's key to protecting you and also to providing homeowners breaks on insurance. Watch this video and learn about the FORTIFIED program in three minutes.

You probably heard that the certificate is good for five years in that video, right? That's because a FORTIFIED designation is renewable! You'll need to have your home re-inspected by a FORTIFIED Evaluator after five years. That's to make sure your roof has at least five years of life left and that your home hasn't been damaged or if you've added on, that it's been done to the FORTIFIED standard.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Q: 5) What steps do I take to get a FORTIFIED Home?

Read Answer

A:

Here are the steps we recommend. The first - hire a FORTIFIED Evaluator. After that, much of this is done for you.

  1. Contact a FORTIFIED Evaluator - Do this first!
    1. If you are re-roofing or rebuilding - The Evaluator will create a Current Conditions Report. This report tells you what needs to be done to get your FORTIFIED roof. It also serves as a scope of work for contractor bids.
  2. Get Three Contractor Bids -
    1. Get proof that roofers and contractors are licensed, bonded and insured (general liability and workman's comp).
    2. Make sure contractor bids include all of the requirements for the “FORTIFIED Home™ Designation you choose. If they don't, or worse, won't do it: get another quote.
  3. Choose Your Contractor - While any contractor can do the work, (as long as they strictly follow the guidelines), FORTIFIED Wise Professionals™ are certified and have gone through specialized training to understand the program.
  4. Use the Right Products - Using the right products is key to FORTIFIED. Installation is the other key.
  5. Take Action - Let your Evaluator know you’ve decided to get a “FORTIFIED Home Bronze Designation” for your roof.
    1. The Evaluator must be involved in the process from start to finish.
    2. Connect your Evaluator and contractor by phone, email, text or in person.  
    3. Your Evaluator will come out during the work and after the project is complete. The number of visits will depend on the work needed.
  6. Document Your Project- Your Evaluator will document and take pictures of the work, the products, and the installation. They then submit a detailed report to IBHS engineers who review and award FORTIFIED Home Designations.
  7. Save Money - Once you receive your FORTIFIED Home Designation (a certificate), shop for your insurance and save money on your insurance! We recommend getting three-five quotes; you may be surprised at the savings available.
    1. Once you decide on an insurer, give them your FORTIFIED Designation certificate to start saving. Your savings will vary based on where you live and your insurer.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Flood Proof

Water goes where it wants, like your In-Laws. However, unlike your In-Laws, you can shield yourself from flood water impact as long as you have the right information. Flooding is the most common, and costly, disaster. It is also the deadliest of all natural hazards. It happens in every state, and over 25% of all flood claims come from homes that are not in a flood zone. If you’re not in a flood zone, insurance is affordable!

Whether you’re in or out of a flood zone, there are ways to reduce your risk of being flooded and considerably lower your insurance rates. Use our resources, tips and expert answers below to find the solution that works for you. If you get stuck, contact us.

Q: 1) What important terms, keywords and concepts should I know related to floods and flood insurance?

Read Answer

A:
  • 100-year and 500-year floodplain
    • We’ll be the first to admit; these are outdated ways to refer to the risk an area faces when it comes to flooding. Just because you are in a 100 or 500-year floodplain, doesn't mean it only floods every 100 or 500 years. It could flood every year, every 25 years or every 237 years. That said, it’s essential you know what these mean:  
    • In a 100-year floodplain (aka, Special Flood Hazard Area), there is a 1% chance of flooding in any given year. This is an area of highest risk of flooding designated by FEMA.
    • In a 500-year floodplain, there is a .2% chance of flooding in any given year. This area has less risk than the SFHA, but this doesn't mean you won’t flood. In fact, in some parts of the country, nearly 40% of flood claims come from this area.
  • Base Flood Elevation (BFE)
    • The BFE is the elevation to which floodwater is anticipated to rise during a regular flooding event. The BFE is the regulatory requirement for the elevation or floodproofing of structures.
  • Elevation Certificate
    • This certificate provides you a level of protection since it proves your Base Flood Elevation and helps you attain flood insurance. Make sure to get a copy of your Certificate and keep it for your records, as you’ll need to provide it to your insurance agent.
  • Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)
    • Special is not good in this case. Do what you can to reduce your risk and lower your insurance rates.
    • The first thing is to find or get your elevation certificate.
      • This certificate will let you know how high the lowest floor of your house is compared to the floodplain. 
      • Next, get flood insurance. Since you have a higher risk of flooding, you’ll want to be covered when something happens.
    • If you plan to talk with your local floodplain manager, ask him or her about options to mitigate your risk.
  • Freeboard
    • Freeboard is the difference in height between the lowest floor of your house and the BFE. Some communities mandate either 1’, 2’, or 3’ of freeboard in local code. This measure is put in place to helps your home stay dry during a flooding event. The more freeboard you have, the more your flood insurance premium will be reduced!

Q: 2) How do I find out if my home is at risk of flooding?

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A:
  • The easiest way is to go to FEMA’s Map Services page - https://msc.fema.gov/portal - and then enter your address. In the middle of the page click on the “VIEW WEB PAGE” Icon. The colors in the legend depict the location of your property in the flood zone.
  • Another simple way is to search on google. Often your county or local jurisdiction will host flood maps on its web-page, as a service to residents. So, google: “name of county” flood maps.
  • If none of this works, then contact your local floodplain manager. Part of their job is to provide you with this type of information.

Q: 3) What can I do to protect myself?

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A:
  • Start with insurance – If you are outside a 100-year floodplain, insurance is affordable. As low as $425 a year.
  • If you want to lower your insurance, even more, get an Elevation Certificate. This tells you and your insurance company exactly where and how high your home is relative to the flood maps and Base Flood Elevation.
  • Mitigate. One way to reduce your rate is to reduce your risk because premiums are based on risk. For example, you can fill in a basement or install flood vents in the crawl space beneath the lowest level of your building. When remodeling or rebuilding, you can consider elevating your entire structure. 
    • Something as simple as raising heating and cooling systems, water heaters, the electrical panel, and other mechanical items so that they are less likely to be damaged or destroyed by flood may offer some premium savings. Learn more on our Flood Insurance page

Q: 4) What is the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

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A:

The National Flood Insurance Program aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures. Download this FEMA FACT Sheet for information about the National Flood Insurance Program and Flood Insurance.

Q: 5) What is the Community Rating System (CRS)

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A:

CRS is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes communities for implementing floodplain management practices that exceed the NFIP minimum requirements. In exchange for a community’s proactive efforts to reduce flood risk, policyholders can receive reduced flood insurance premiums. For more information, visit www.FloodSmart.gov/CRS.

Q: 6) How do I get flood insurance?

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A:
  • Ask your insurance agent that holds your homeowner policy about flood insurance. Flood insurance is separate from Homeowners Insurance. Even if you have homeowner’s insurance, you are not covered for flood damage unless you have a separate Flood Policy as well.
  • If your insurance agent advises that you do not need flood insurance, you should seriously consider getting a new agent. Shopping your coverage every couple of years is a sound decision regardless. Communicate with your insurance agent and know your policy.
  • Learn more about flood insurance on our Flood Insurance page

Q: 7) How can I lower my flood insurance premium?

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A:

Luckily, there are some ways to lower your flood insurance. Here is a list:

  • Mitigate. One way to reduce your rate is to reduce your risk because premiums are based on risk. For example, you can fill in a basement or install flood vents in the crawl space beneath the lowest level of your building. When remodeling or rebuilding, you can consider elevating your entire structure. 
    • Something as simple as raising heating and cooling systems, water heaters, the electrical panel, and other mechanical items so that they are less likely to be damaged or destroyed by a flood may offer some premium savings.
  • Encourage community action. You can encourage your community to participate in the Community Rating Service (CRS).
  • Apply for a Letter of Map Change (LOMC). Flood maps are developed on a scale that is useful for community officials, lenders, and insurance professionals, but not every rise in terrain can be depicted at this level. If you think your building is imprecisely mapped as being in the floodplain, FEMA provides a process to allow property owners to request a more precise flood zone designation, which can officially change your BFE.
  • Consider a higher deductible. Just as with automobile or homeowners insurance, increasing your deductible will lower your premium. A new $10,000 deductible, available to homeowners as of April 1, 2015, will result in up to a 40 percent discount from the base premium. However, using the maximum deductible might not be appropriate in every financial circumstance and might not be allowed by lenders to meet mandatory purchase requirements. This increase also means that you need to have your deductible saved in the bank. 

Q: 8) If I live in a SFHA and have a slab-on-grade house, is there any hope?

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A:

Kind of. Flood insurance rates are on the rise, and it is difficult to elevate these types of homes to reduce the risk. Buy flood insurance, and if you get flood damage, then you can use Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) money to mitigate. If you want more options to reduce costs, we suggest talking with your local floodplain manager.

Dealing with a Disaster?

Disasters can be large or small. They’re stressful, they’re personal, and then, you have to deal with it. Here are resources that will help you not Goof. You have enough to worry about now.

Find the questions you relate to and see our recommended steps, links, and tips to build back better and recover for real. You don’t have to go through this again

 

Q: 1) Where do I start?

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A:

First, make sure your home or property is safe to enter.

  1. Take Pictures - Get out your phone or camera and take pictures of everything before you start cleaning and repairing. Yes, BEFORE!
    1. You will need more pictures than you think you need. Different angles, wide shots and close up. Pictures of labels. The serial and model numbers of electronics. Down your hallways, into bedrooms, looking out of rooms, outside, inside. You cannot take too many pictures. Seriously. These will help you negotiate your claim with your insurance adjuster.
  2. Home Inventory - If you have a home inventory, secure it. If you have old receipts of purchases, take pictures of the receipts. Digital images don’t fade, receipts do. Plan to do this with any receipts you get for future purchases.
    1. Save everything to a flash drive or a cloud drive like GoogleAmazoniCloud, or Dropbox or email it to yourself.
  3. Start a claim - See “ how do I file an insurance claim” in the next question.
  4. Make temporary repairs - Focus on keeping the rain and water out, and shoring up the structure if it’s safe.  Save any receipts.
  5. Clean up - There can be many health hazards associated with cleaning up after a disaster. Use the advice of our friends and partners at SBP and the Red Cross on how to clean up safely and reduce your risk.
    1. You don't have to throw away or demolish solid, nonporous surfaced items such as porcelain, glass, some plastics (plastic utensils are not recommended to be kept), some family treasures and metal items like doorknobs, faucets, utensils, or sinks. Items with a nonporous surface can be cleaned, disinfected and reused. Many insurance companies won't pay to replace these items because they can be cleaned and reused. Check with your insurer. 

      1. Angie's List has an excellent article on what can and cannot be saved.

      2. The HUD Field Guide for Cleaning and Flooded Home has additional tips on what to keep or throw away, as well as the proper way to clean and disinfect items that can be reused on page 7. 

      3. The HUD Guide, Rebuild Healthy Homes provides a wealth of information and speaks about items that can be salvaged on page 44.

      4. Consumer Reports has an excellent article on salvaging valuables and other tips.

      5. This FEMA Fact Sheet, After the Flood: Advice for Salvaging Damaged Family Treasures, has links to many useful resources. 

    2. SBP has many resources to help victims navigate the disaster assistance and clean up processes
    3. The Red Cross has a useful resource guide on cleaning up after a disaster.
       
  6. Heads UP -  Dealing with Storm Chasers (contractor solicitations)-
    1. Don't believe the claims from any contractors that you'll get a "free" anything or that you won't have to pay your deductible. Those are false and fraudulent statements. When's the last time an insurance company let you out of your deductible? We know that you want to get back in your home and back to normal as quickly as possible, but patience and diligence are the two things that will prevent you from being a victim twice.
 

Q: 2) How do I file a homewoners or flood insurance claim?

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A:
  1. Follow your policies guidelines - Most insurance policies have a section that details how to file a claim, follow what it says to make it easy for yourself. It should detail where to find and submit forms and the ways you can file them. These days you can call your agent, a 1-800 number or file online or through an app.
  2. File your claim immediately. Filing a claim quickly is a good idea for several reasons
    1. Your insurer will be able to help you with your claim and give you advice.
    2. They will schedule an adjuster to come and visit your property. 

    3. You can start your claim by phone or online with many insurers.
    4. You may also be eligible for additional incentives such as Ordinance and Law to build back to the newest building code.
    5. You should also ask about building back better by using certain standards, like FORTIFIED Home, or options to elevate your home to avoid the next flood.
 Your choices will vary based on your policy and your insurer.
  3. Take Pictures - Get out your phone or camera and take pictures of the damage before you start cleaning up. Yes, before you clean anything!
    1. You will need more pictures than you think. Different angles, wide shots and close up.
    2. Pictures of labels.
    3. The serial and model numbers of electronics.
    4. Down your hallways, into bedrooms, looking out of rooms, outside, inside.
    5. You cannot take too many pictures. Seriously. These will help you negotiate your claim with your insurance adjuster.
  4. Find or create a home inventory - The more detailed your list, the more accurate your insurance claim payout will be when you work with your adjuster
    1. If you have a home inventory, secure it or make it digital by taking pictures of it. Paper and pen can fade, saving your inventory to your email or the cloud keeps it accessible and legible.
    2. If you don’t have a home inventory, create one now. You will need it for the adjuster.
    3. It can be as simple as taking a video of each room and narrating what is in it. Be sure to zoom in on each big-ticket items serial number, brand, etc. Then later, make a list from your video.
    4. You can create a list based on the photos you took of the damage. If you have pictures from before the loss, include those too.
    5. If possible, match your pictures and list of items with their original purchase receipts. If you don't have the original receipts, find and document the price of a comparable item now.
  5. Save your receipts - From receipts from every expense from the day of the damage until your home is back to normal. If you have old receipts of purchases, take pictures of those too.
    1. Digital pictures don’t fade, receipts do. Plan to do this with any receipts you get for future purchases too.
    2. Save everything to a flash drive or a cloud drive like GoogleAmazoniCloud, or Dropbox or email it to yourself.
  6. Work with your adjuster - Have a copy of your home inventory and the damaged items ready to share.
  7. You can negotiate your claim - Once you receive your initial claim proposal, you can negotiate with the adjuster.
    1. Use your home inventory and damage checklist as proof of what you lost and ensure the replacement costs are correct.
    2. If you have Ordinance and Law coverage in your homeowners policy, make sure that was taken into account.
    3. Use any bids for repair work to justify the increased costs needed to fix the damage. Bringing your home up to code will add additional costs to the job. By doing so, you can argue that any improvements to the way your house is built now will reduce the risk of loss later.
  8. NOTE - Even if your insurance covers all of your disaster-related repair or rebuilding costs, homeowners may still be eligible for the mitigation portion of an SBA loan. This amount can be up to 20% of SBA calculated damages to your property and is a great opportunity to take advantage of a low-interest rate loan (as low as 1.75%) to invest in strengthening your home, including upgrading to the FORTIFIED Home standard.  
 

Q: 3) How do I avoid fraud and choose a good contractor?

Read Answer

A:

That's a significant question. We have a whole Avoid Fraud Section with more information but here is the short list:

  • Get at least three bids from qualified contractors - don’t give a price range or let them know what you’ve received from your insurance claim.
    • Make sure they have (and get copies of or take pictures of):
    • A Contractors License (General or Roof) or Home Builders License, depending on the amount of the work
    • General Liability insurance
    • Workman’s Comp Insurance for their staff
    • A Bond to fix any lousy work they refuse to fix, just in case.
    • At least three references you can call.
    • Examples of recently completed projects.
  • Get everything you want to be done in written bids on company letterhead. Do not leave anything out and also, ask that they plan for additional costs such as replacing rotted wood or other typical items they think they could find. You may not end up paying for these but having them in the contract protects you from “surprise” costs.
  • Ideally work with local, reputable companies and contractors.
    • Once you select a contractor, get your contract in writing, again with everything you want and agreed about on company letterhead. Don't forget those possible additional costs.     
    • It's okay for contractors to request a certain percentage of the costs up front as long as you have researched them and are under contract. 10-25% is common. Some states have limits on the amount contractors can request. Contact your local Consumer Affairs organization for information.
 

Q: 4) Did you have roof damage or complete damage?

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A:
  • If you are re-roofing, visit our Roof It Right section.
  • If you're rebuilding a partially damaged home you need to find out from your adjuster how much it was destroyed; this should be a percentage, 30%, 55%, etc. That percentage will dictate how much your claim is and what parts of your insurance policy apply.
    • If the damage is 50% or more, check your homeowners insurance to see if you had Ordinance and Law coverage. 
      • This coverage will help you pay to rebuild your home to the current building code. If possible, try to rebuild to the FORTIFIED standards, that way you do not have to deal with this kind of damage again.
  • If you are starting over and your home is a total loss go to our Build Better section.  We also recommend utilizing energy efficient building methods to lower your cost of ownership further (in this case, utilities).
 

Q: 5) Did you have flood damage?

Read Answer

A:

Understand that if you flooded and you can get back to your property soon after the event has ended, you are responsible for “mucking and gutting.” Many flood policies (if you have one) do not cover mold remediation.

Q: 6) What if I don’t have homeowners or flood insurance?

Read Answer

A:
  • Apply for disaster assistance (see our Resource Section for more information on disaster assistance)
  • If you can afford to, use your Disaster Assistance grant, or a significant portion of it, as a down payment on your SBA loan to rebuild. Then use the SBA loan to build back to a higher standard.
  • Remember, typically, the grants provided by FEMA will not be enough to cover the costs of rebuilding and living expenses while you are displaced. You should plan for both types of expenses, building expenses and the cost to live elsewhere while you build back.
  • Our friends at SBP have set up many excellent resources to help victims navigate the disaster assistance process
 

Resources

Dive in and find more of the information you need with our recommended tips, resources, and links. If you are re-roofing or building back, you can contact a FORTIFIED Evaluator or Professional to guide you through the details too. It's your choice. Contact us if you have questions.

 
 

Q: 1) I need more information about homeowners and flood insurance?

Read Answer

A:
  • Homeowners Insurance - First, damage from flooding is not covered. If you have flood damage but no flood insurance see our Dealing with a Disaster Section for more information.
    • In 19 states, a wind insurance policy is separate from your homeowners policy and will have a different deductible and covers specific damages.
    • Learn more about what is and is not covered and what policies cover what damages on SmartHomeAmerica.org
  • Flood Insurance- Learn more about the coverage provided by flood insurance on SmartHomeAmerica.org.
 
 

Q: 2) I need more information on filing a claim and working with my adjuster

Read Answer

A:
 
 

Q: 3) I need more information on flooding and flood insurance

Read Answer

A:
  • Start at FloodSmart.gov to quickly find out if you're at risk, get tips, resources, where to buy and what to ask your insurance agent.
  • Get current information, data, facts, and figures about flood insurance from the Insurance Information Institute www.iii.org
  • FEMA Flood insurance frequently asked questions  
  • Learn how flood mitigation investment returns positive benefits at floodeconomics.com
  • Learn about the Pew Charitable Trusts Flood Prepared Communities project and find additional resources that may be helpful for you.  
  • SmartVent.com - They've spent many years studying the science of flood mitigation, and the effects flood waters can have on a poorly protected home. In fact, the SMART VENT Team is certified to instruct and provide learning credits to Architects, Builders, Certified Floodplain Managers, Code Officials, Engineers, Insurance Agents, Realtors, and Surveyors in many states.
  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) site explains, in depth, FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program, which aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures.
    • Download this FEMA FACT Sheet for information about the National Flood Insurance Program and Flood Insurance.
  • Floods.org lets you find your local or State Floodplain Manager and helpful resources.The Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) is the world's leading voice for sound floodplain management, science and policy.
  • Learn how mitigation can help you save. You're not helpless, and there are options. Flood vents, break-away walls and elevating your home can reduce your insurance costs and your risks.
  • Encourage your community to get involved in the Community Rating System (CRS). It recognizes floodplain management and outreach activities performed by communities that exceed the NFIP minimum standards. CRS acknowledges these efforts by reducing the cost of flood insurance premiums by 5 to 45 percent for flood insurance policies in communities that participate in the CRS. Contact your local Floodplain Manager of Elected Officials to see if your city is involved or the feasibility of getting started.
 
 

Q: 4) How do I save money on insurance?

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A:
  • SmartHomeAmerica.org breaks down FORTIFIED, insurance and ways you can save money and protect your home in easy to understand terms. 
  • Shop Your Insurance! Get quotes from five different insurers. The savings available can be drastically different depending on the insurer you choose.
  • Get the best insurance you can for your budget, and remember, the cheapest insurance is usually not the best. Consider what is covered, if you’ll be paid to build back to the latest building code (Ordinance and Law), what your deductible is and do you have this in the bank? If you can afford the out of pocket costs, you will have with ACV coverage compared to RCV coverage. RCV pays to replace items fully, ACV will pay you a depreciated value based on the age of the item.
 
 

Q: 5) I need more help dealing with a disaster

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A:
  • Our partners at SBP have the resources you need. Visit their website. Hopefully, they will have what you need. If not, contact us.
  • Is disaster assistance for me?
  • Tips for using Disaster Assistance
    • Apply if you were affected, whether you have insurance or not.
    • If you don't have flood insurance – If you can afford to, use your Disaster assistance grant, or a significant portion of it, as a down payment on your SBA loan. Then use the SBA loan to rebuild.
    • We recommend building back to a higher standard, or code-plus standards, using FORTIFIED. Building codes are the minimum standard you have to build back to, a little bit of extra investment now, when rebuilding, can help avoid future damage and having to deal with this mess again.
    • Typically, the grants provided by FEMA will not be enough to cover the costs of rebuilding and living expenses while you are displaced. You should plan for both types of expenses; building expenses and the cost to live elsewhere while you build back.
 
 

Q: 6) I need more resources for re-roofing

Read Answer

A:

Download these brochures or contact us.

 
 

Q: 7) I need more resources for new construction

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A:
 
 

Q: 8) I want more information about FORTIFIED construction

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A:
 
 

Q: 9) Is there funding to help me build better?

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A:

There can be, visit these organizations to learn more about them and what they can offer. And don't forget your local credit union or bank.

  • FEMA Disaster Assistance - www.disasterassistance.gov 
  • Mitigation grant programs
    • Strengthen Alabama Homes  - Provides homeowners in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, AL up to $10,000 to upgrade their homes to the FORTIFIED standard.
    • South Carolinas Safe Home program provides grants to homeowners to mitigate and upgrade their homes to resist high wind damage.
  • MyStrongHome - MyStrongHome can fortify your home at no upfront cost to you. Learn more
  • USDA, Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants - Provides loans to very-low-income homeowners to repair, improve or modernize their homes or grants to elderly very-low-income homeowners to remove health and safety hazards   
  • HUD 203(k) Loans - enables homebuyers and homeowners to finance both the purchase (or refinancing) of a house and the cost of its rehabilitation through a single mortgage or finance the improvement of their existing home.
  • Search for local and state tax credits, rebates and savings for energy efficient upgrades to your home on the Department of Energy website.
 
 

Q: 10) Is there anything else I could learn about FORTIFIED or Building Better that might be helpful?

Read Answer

A:

Oh, yes lots, if you don't mind getting into the details. Below is a list of additional questions we get asked. Please read through them, and we hope they are helpful. You can always contact us if you have any other questions.
 

  1. First, if you are asking any of these questions, please, contact us.
    1. Can my roof be FORTIFIED if it is less than ten years old?
    2. Doesn’t my local building code already require FORTIFIED?
    3. My metal roof automatically qualifies for FORTIFIED, right?
    4. A good contractor built my home, how do I get my certificate?
    5. What if I know a good a contractor, like my brother, sister, dad, or cousin?
    6. I can pull my own permit; do I need a contractor, or can I do it myself.
       
  2. What is a FORTIFIED Evaluator™?
    1. FORTIFIED Evaluators™ are like Switzerland, independent. They don't work for the builder; they don't work for the Building Code Office. They are the only trained and certified professionals who can help you earn a FORTIFIED Designation for your property. If you are not working with an Evaluator, your home or business cannot be verified to meet the program standards. Not working with an Evaluator means you be able will not be able to take advantage of all the benefits of the program including insurance discounts.
       
  3. How significant are the FORTIFIED roof discounts and are they worth it?
    1. In Alabama, a FORTIFIED roof gets you up to 35% off your wind premium. In Texas, you can save up to 33% under the TWIA discounts.
      1. This is where we say, “It depends on what insurance company you are with and where you live” because it does.
    2. Use our Insurance Incentives Map to find out more information about your area, contact your insurance agent and shop for your insurance.
       
  4. What should I expect when rebuilding after a disaster? Don't I just call my insurer and they take care of it?
    1. No. Rebuilding is not something you can casually breeze through. It will not be easy. It can be very frustrating.
    2. People may try to take advantage of you and rip you off. Not everyone, but many people. After a disaster like a hurricane, flood or tornado, there's a lot of money exchanging hands, and this brings out the worst in people, unfortunately.
    3. We want you to be prepared. If you are not ready with the knowledge, you need it could cost you so much more money and time, and you could be a victim of fraud. In the worst case, insurance payments you received could be taken, and the work you needed to be completed could be left unfinished. You will be left responsible for having it finished and tracking down the contractor you trusted and hired to get your money back.
    4. Follow our guidance, and you’re much more likely to avoid this stress.
       
  5. Do I have to use a specific contractor or can I use anyone?
    1. Any contractor can perform the FORTIFIED improvements as long as the process is strictly followed. However, the FORTIFIED Home program offers specialized training and maintains a list of FORTIFIED Wise Professionals who have taken courses and demonstrated knowledge of the requirements.    
       
  6. Can I be my own contractor?

    1. You need to know what you’re getting into and the responsibilities involved. By acting as the contractor, you may be personally assuming the liability for any injuries or damage that could happen on the job site if you do not have the right insurance and licensing. If you are using sub-contractors, this is even more important.

    2. Be mindful of the local and state Building Codes, laws and regulations. In many areas, contractors must have general liability insurance, a business license, be bonded and hold a state Home Builder or contractor's license.

       
  7. My contractor says we don't need a building permit to replace the roof, is this true?
    1. It depends. Some areas do not have building departments and do not enforce any building codes. In areas with building departments, a permit to replace your roof may be required. Check with your local building department or planning and zoning department.
       
  8. How does FORTIFIED save me money?
    1. Owning a home costs money: mortgage, insurance, utilities, taxes, and maintenance- it adds up. Throw in the expense of an insurance claim or two, and your costs just jumped. These are the costs of ownership, and they never stop. Savings on your wind insurance premiums can pay for the expenses of FORTIFIED upgrades over the life of your roof. It’s a worthwhile investment with many benefits; peace of mind, lower risk, and lower insurance rates, to name a few.
       
  9. Is a FORTIFIED roof costly?
    1. In most cases, getting a FORTIFIED roof adds only a small amount to the overall cost of re-roofing. That said because your roof is a system made of many parts, not just shingles or metal, your roof may require additional retrofits to earn a FORTIFIED Home™ Bronze Designation. The only way to know how much it will cost is to contact a FORTIFIED Evaluator and have them evaluate your property before you start your re-roofing project. Read the FORTIFIED “cheat sheet” for a quick rundown of what is required under the FORTIFIED Home Hurricane program. 
      1. Here are all the FORTIFIED Home brochures, standards and technical summaries in case you'd like to learn more. 
         
  10. I have a FORTIFIED roof, is my house invincible?
    1. Your house is FORTIFIED, not a fortress.
    2. One is strong and costs you less to own; the other is a fortress (with a moat and everything). Our goals with FORTIFIED are to make your house stronger, give you peace of mind and substantially increase the chances that you have a livable home to come back to after a storm, not to mention save you money on your insurance. Let’s be clear, GET OUT when told to evacuate.
       
  11. After my project is finished, do I need to let my insurer know?

    1. Yes.
      1. It’s probably required.
      2. You pay insurance premiums for a reason, don't you want to lower them?
        1. They will want to know that the work is done and may have some additional information or questions for you.

        2. Improvements to your home or bringing it up to the current building code may lower your premiums.
        3. NOTE- After making major repairs, or upgrading your home to FORTIFIED standards, we recommend Shopping for your Insurance Coverage (again, get at least three quotes).

        4. Try to save money and get better coverage. Look into Replacement vs. ACV coverage.
        5. Bottom line, get the best value for your budget. Learn more.

 
 

Sponsors

Thank you to our sponsors who don't believe in goofing when re-roofing, or rebuilding. Learn how they can help you build better, save on insurance and protect your home.

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Contact Us

If you have questions, email info@smarthomeamerica.org or call 1-855-742-7233.