It has been a busy year or so since our last update letter. We have worked on many varied and interesting claims. I wanted to share some valuable lessons through a case study of this unusual claim.
Among other things, this case study shows:
1. How condensation can play a part in roof issues.
2. How important it is to keep an open mind about cause and origin.
3. How a forensic engineering report can support your claim coverage decisions.
I-ENG-A of Charlottesville (a division of Tice Engineering LLC) was contacted to investigate roof damage on a covered carport. An insurance adjuster noted that the carport ceiling was dripping icicles and had water damage on the roof. When I arrived on the site, it was a cold, sunny day. The temperature was below freezing. The roof was dry.
As the adjuster noted there were icicles dripping from the ceiling of the carport and I noticed that, the roof above had depressions in it. When I went into the attic, I noticed that it was warm. I expected the attic to be cold this time of year especially because it was a well-built house and seemed to have adequate insulation along the top of the ceiling. The underside of the roof was dripping with condensation. I also noted that the carport attic space was open to the main attic. I returned to the living space of the house and discussed this with the homeowner. She mentioned in passing that there was an indoor swimming pool on the end of the house. When I went in to see the swimming pool room, I felt the same unusually warm humid air that I felt in the attic. The homeowner explained to me that the swimming pool room was kept very warm in the winter in order to minimize condensation in that room. I suspected then that the warm air in the attic had to be coming up from the swimming pool room.
When I returned to the attic, I found a large opening between the pool room attic and the main attic that allowed the warm air to pass through. It became apparent that the warm air from the swimming pool room had been leaking up into the attic space, from there it moved across the main house attic and then into the carport attic. On the cold day, that I investigated the claim the underside of the roof was dripping with condensation. The condensation formed when the warm moist air contacted the cold surface of the roof. The cold roof cooled the air below its dew point temperature and the moisture came out of the air in the form of liquid water. Since the carport was un-heated, its roof was often cold enough to form condensation. Because of this, the roof damage first appeared in the carport roof.
This investigation shows how important it is to keep an open mind about the cause of roof damage (or any damage claim). If the adjuster had been determined to find damaged and leaking shingles it may have been difficult to see the real source of the problem. This investigation also shows a good example of teamwork between the adjuster and the engineer. The adjuster wisely determined that something unusual was occurring in this claim. He then contacted us to get an independent opinion and written report to support his coverage decision on the claim.