Oh no! You woke up this morning to find a tree branch sticking through your living room window. Or even worse – a fire started in the kitchen and the heat cracked and warped several windows. It’s a homeowners worst nightmare. But don’t panic just yet. You have insurance, so filing a claim should cover the cost of replacing those damaged windows….right?
Well, that depends. Homeowners insurance can definitely cover the replacement cost of broken windows, but not in every situation. Your policy has some pretty specific rules about what types of damage it will reimburse. So before you go smashing more windows in hopes of scoring some fancy new upgrades, let’s review what you need to know about getting homeowners insurance to pay for new window replacements.
When Homeowners Insurance Will Pay for New Windows
Homeowners insurance will typically cover the cost of new window replacements if the damage was caused by certain disasters or accidents. Let’s review some of the most common covered scenarios:
Damage From Natural Disasters and Major Weather Events
Got wind damage from a hurricane? Hail smashed your panes during a storm? In many cases, your homeowners insurance should help pay for new windows to fix that weather-inflicted damage. That’s because the damage was sudden, accidental, and out of your control.
Now something like long-term wear and tear from years of rain and wind exposure would not be covered. But major weather events like storms, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes with wind speeds over 55 mph are fair game. Just beware that you may need to pay a higher deductible for hurricane or wind damage claims in particular – often around 2% of your home’s insured value.
Fire damage is another common reason for window replacement that your homeowners insurance should cover. Fires can spread quickly, cracking, melting or charring window panes and frames before you even have a chance to react.
But be prepared to answer some questions about the fire’s origin when you submit your claim. Damage from fires started due to negligence or arson would not be covered. Properly disposing of cigarettes, avoiding overloaded electrical outlets, and keeping those Christmas tree lights in check will make your claim process smoother.
Similar to natural disasters, sudden water damage from floods, storms or plumbing leaks can warp and ruin windows. As long as the damage wasn’t from long-term leaks or moisture issues that you neglected, your claim has a good chance of being approved.
Vandalism and Theft
This falls into that unpleasant “accidental damage” category. But if some neighborhood hooligans decided to smash your windows with rocks or break in to steal your prized jewelry, your homeowners insurance will cover the window repairs. Just file a police report along with your claim.
Friends playing a friendly game of catch in your yard that smashes a basement window? Workers repairing your roof that accidentally crack a pane? Clumsy delivery guy that destroys your beautiful stained glass front door window? As long as you or your personal guests didn’t directly cause the damage, your insurance should help pay for the repairs.
When Homeowners Insurance Won’t Pay
As much as you want gorgeous new upgraded windows, your homeowners insurance won’t fund replacements just because your windows are outdated or you feel like a change. There are a few scenarios where you’ll have to pay out of pocket:
Wear and Tear over Time
If your 25-year old windows have become drafty, the seals are cracked, there’s cloudiness between the panes, or they just don’t function well anymore, your homeowners insurance sees that as regular wear and tear over the years. They would say you got good use out of those windows already. Upgrades are now on your dime.
Lack of Maintenance
Similarly, if window damage happened because you never cleaned or caulked them properly, the rotted wood frames, peeling paint, swollen sills, and leaked moisture is on you. Preventative maintenance could have kept them intact much longer. Let this be a lesson to take care of what you have!
Settling Foundation Issues
Foundations naturally settle, shift, erode, and expand/contract over time. And that movement can throw window frames out of whack, causing cracks and leaks. Since the core issue is aging foundation problems, not the windows themselves, insurance won’t cover replacements. You’ll need foundation repairs first before worrying about the windows.
Below Your Deductible
Even if your window damage is from a covered peril like a storm, your claim could still be denied if the estimated repair cost falls below your deductible. Let’s say you have a $1000 standard deductible, and new windows would run you $800. You’d have to pay that full amount out of pocket because it falls below your deductible limit. Know what deductible level you have so you know what damage amount is worth claiming.
Rental Properties and Unoccupied Homes
Standard homeowners or renters insurance policies only cover primary residences lived in by the policyholder. So damage to windows in a vacant home you’re trying to sell or an investment rental property would not qualify. You’d need a specialized policy to cover those scenarios.
Filing an Effective Claim
Alright, a tree branch came crashing through your upstairs windows during a terrible storm. This seems like a pretty straightforward claim – wind damage from a weather event. Your homeowners insurance should cover the window replacements, right?
Yes, as long as you file the claim properly with all the right documentation. Here are some tips for making sure your window replacement claim is a success:
Document the Damage
This step is essential – take LOTS of photos from all angles showing the broken windows, the tree branch, and all resulting damage. Zoom in on the cracked glass, warped frames, broken locks or latches, and any interior water damage. Document everything thoroughly. Measure window sizes too so replacement quotes fit.
Get Repair Estimates
You’ll need to either get estimates from glass repair shops yourself, or the insurance adjuster will assess the damage and recommend local contractors. Get 2-3 estimates if going the DIY route. This gives reasonable proof for how much the replacements should cost – under $1000 or over $5000? The insurance company will base reimbursement numbers on these estimates.
File the Claim Paperwork
Okay, estimates in hand, photos uploaded, now it’s Go Time. Call your insurance company right away to report the damage. Explain how and when it happened, Emphasize this was sudden weather damage, NOT neglect on your part. Then submit the official claim forms and documentation. Send those photos, repair estimates, police reports if applicable, and copies of your policy.
Getting paperwork organized upfront streamlines approval. Having an amazing assistant like Pepper Potts helps too!
Communicate with Your Insurance Company
Handling communication promptly and professionally helps prove you’re a responsible homeowner committed to getting issues fixed the right way. Return calls from claims adjusters quickly. Be available if they need to inspect the property themselves or request any other documentation. Politely follow up if the claim seems stalled. Throwing a Tony Stark-level tantrum never sped things up.
Can I Use the Same Strategies to Get Homeowners Insurance to Pay for Window Replacements?
Getting Your Windows Replaced
Woo hoo! After submitting proper documentation and communicating promptly, you receive notice that your entire window replacement claim was approved! The insurance company will provide a check for $3,000 based on your repair estimates and deductible. Now it’s time for the fun part – picking out some gorgeous new windows!
Choosing a Contractor
You can pick any licensed local contractor you want to do the installation, you just want to make sure whoever you choose is qualified, experienced, and has excellent reviews. Friends in the area who have gotten recent window replacements are great resources for personal recommendations. Just give the insurance company a heads up who you’re going with and what products.
Replacement Window Options
Whether custom-building new windows entirely or just swapping out the damaged panes, you have loads of options on materials and features these days:
Materials: Wood remains popular since it can be stained, painted, and customized easily. Vinyl is affordable, low-maintenance, and energy efficient. Fiberglass and composite materials offer durability.
Features: Look for double-paned or triple-paned glass for better insulation, low-E coatings to reduce UV light/glare, mixed inert gases between panes to increase efficiency, and warm edge spacer systems to prevent moisture and conductivity. Upgraded frames, embedded blinds, and smart home tech can also be cool upgrades!
Work with your contractor to find the optimal balance of efficiency, durability, noise reduction, and aesthetics your home needs. Remember to keep within your claim reimbursement allowance too!
Managing the Insurance Payout
Speaking of your claim allowance – how does collecting that insurance check actually work when repairs are complete? You have a couple options:
Upfront Payment: Some insurance companies will cut you a check for the approved amount upfront once the claim is approved. You pay the contractor directly once the work is done and provide the insurance company invoices showing the project is complete. Any overages are your responsibility.
Reimbursement: Other policies reimburse you for costs only after the work is finished. In this case the contractor bills you directly once windows are installed. You pay them in full, send those invoices to insurance, then receive a check reimbursing you the approved amount.
Clarify how your specific policy handles payments so you and the contractor know what to expect payment-wise. Managing insurance money can already feel like navigating a job with the Ocean’s Eleven crew. Don’t let financial surprises make it more complicated!
Dealing with property damage is never fun. But understanding exactly when your homeowners insurance will cover new window replacements – and what steps to take – makes the claims process feel much more manageable.
To review, your insurance will typically pay for any sudden window damage caused by major weather events, fires, vandalism, theft, and accidental damage from guests as long as proper documentation is submitted. Gradual deterioration from aging, lack of maintenance, foundation issues or costs below your deductible will not be covered however.
Spending time really analyzing what happened, gathering photographic evidence of damage, getting multiple repair estimates, filing paperwork promptly, and communicating professionally with insurance reps also eases the journey towards getting those new dream windows!
Now hopefully a smashed window situation never happens to you. But at least now you can feel totally confident handling it with the savvy expertise of Sherlock Holmes if one does!