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The right coverage for roofing projects

Hey, you hear about the contractors out West who were using a roofing torch on a building when it caught on fire and burned to the ground? So the joint gets rebuilt, see, and the company is once again contracted to construct the roof… And then there’s another torching accident, annnnd the entire building gets destroyed again.

“So they burned down the same building twice,” says Scott Gilmour, associate underwriter at QBE. In both cases, the reserve for damages exceeded $5 million.

Gilmour warns roofers to carry at least $10 million in liability limits. He points out the competitive market makes additional coverage affordable for smaller businesses, which might think they’re at less risk than their larger competitors. But Gilmour sees them making just as many claims.

Fixing a leak may only take a few hours, but it means the roofers are less familiar with the site or safety equipment, while contractors building a new roof “will typically have done a sample before the work starts.”

Smaller companies may also lack the resources for strict risk protocols; their roofers are more likely to have several smaller jobs each day, meaning they want to get work done faster. Roofing torches and hot tar are the most efficient ways to construct a roof but unlike slower-acting glue-based adhesives, the process may leave “residual heat and sparks … that can result in a fire half an hour [or more] after you stopped.”

That’s why most insurers require roofers to stay on site for one to two hours after the roofing torch or tar has been packed up. On larger projects, the crew is often cleaning up for that cool-down period anyway, but smaller roofers with another job waiting might be less willing to “stick around for a full hour after their half hour is done.”

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Copyright 2015 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the May 2015 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine