When a Tree Falls on Your House

Windstorms and rainstorms can be very active in Vancouver and around the Lower Mainland. While trees can be a real nuisance to the gutters, they might do even more damage to your roofing system. If the unthinkable happens, and a tree crashes through the roof of your home for whatever reason – stormy weather, root system damage, or illness – what should you do?

Evacuate First

All you know at this point is that a tree has attacked the roof. Fallen trees can cause serious structural damage involving not just the roof, but also the siding, soffit, and fascia. The first order of business is to ensure that everyone is safe. Evacuate the house.

Call 911

Inside the house, do you smell rotten eggs? While gas lines are typically buried, the falling tree might have impacted them in some way. Shut off the gas meter. Chances are that if it is a large tree, it has taken power lines with it. Whether or not you can see any downed lines shut off the power at the breaker box.

Contact the Insurance Company

Before you call, locate the policy number and check the amount of the deductible. Also have a general idea what the policy covers so that you can ask specific questions about the coverage should you need to. Depending on the policy, there is typically a limit on the amount the homeowner receives for repair costs. Know what to expect.

They will tell you how to file your claim and advise you what documentation will be required to move forward. In addition to documents and photographs/videos, the insurance company might want to send a claims adjuster to investigate on site.

To ensure the claim remains valid, the insurance company might specify that you need to hire certified professionals.

Make a Plan and a Budget

Have a plan that will help you and your family navigate the time frame the home repairs will take. Once your insurance claim has been confirmed, it is possible that your policy won’t cover all of the expenses. Making a budget allows you to identify what the insurance company will pay and what you’ll be responsible for.

Asses the Damage

While the fallen tree puts the focus on the smashed roof, carefully assess all the damage that occurred because of the accident.  In addition to the roofing system, also remember to find and document the damage done to siding, plumbing, windows, doors, heating and air conditioning systems, furniture, the front or back yard, and outbuildings such as the garage or a shed. Don’t forget to report any damage done to a neighbour’s property.

To support your insurance claim take as many pertinent pictures and/or videos of the damage.

Call an Arborist

Even if the home insurance policy doesn’t require you to hire professionals don’t attempt to remove the limbs by yourself. An arborist will be able to see just how much damage has been done both to the tree and to the roof. A tree specialist will be able to tell you if the entire tree will need to be removed (requires a permit in Vancouver and some parts of the Lower Mainland) or if part of it can be saved.

Call a Roofer

A roofer will give you estimate of how much it will cost to fix. Depending on the extent of the damage and how long it will take to fix, you and your family might have to stay somewhere else until the repairs have been completed. An experienced roofing contractor will also be able to identify other problem areas and repair the resulting structural damage.