f a leaky roof is the typical nuisance for every homeowner, then hail is the irritating fly buzzing incessantly around their heads – it’s seasonal, it’s bothersome for everyone, and at times, it simply cannot be avoided. Depending on where you live, roof damage from hail is a possibility many homeowners must face.
Dense, incalculable, and at times, violent, hail can be a nightmare for anyone who relies on a functional roof. Hailstones can fall hard and fast and range from the size of a pea to that of a grapefruit. The aftermath of inclement weather as ruinous as hail can range from minor inconveniences (inability to drive) to deadly consequences (inability to safely leave the house). For example, the state of Colorado broke its own record for the largest hailstone when a whopping a 4.85-inch hailstone – nearly as large as a softball – fell in Bethune in 2019. (The previous record-holding hailstone measured at 4.5 inches.)
In 2017, the Denver metro area sustained a staggering $2.3 billion in damages from a hail event that fell that May (a number that swelled to $2.4 billion by 2020). In the same year, one study estimated that more than 10.7 million properties were damaged from hail events. For the average Coloradoan, he can expect around half of his homeowner’s insurance premiums to fall within claims for hail damage.
To add insult to [potential] injury, even the slightest impairments of roof damage from hail can result in a roof leak – not exactly music to a homeowner’s ears. It’s no wonder storm-related damage remains a common and consistent irritant to residents of hail-haunted states, particularly in the West and Midwest. The trinary of Texas, Nebraska, and Colorado are together known as “Hail Alley”. Other states often plagued by hail are South Dakota, New Mexico, Wyoming, and yes, even the “north central” region of the Midwest like Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and so forth.
That said, while you cannot stop hail from falling, there are countermeasures you can take to prevent sizable damage to your roof before a storm arrives. If hail becomes a concern, here are a few preventions to bear in mind if you’re subject to a storm, and what to do you have roof damage from hail.
Each hailstone can significantly range in size, and a hail swath (path in which it falls) can vary from half a mile to ten miles wide. In other words, while most insurance policies do offer coverage for hail damage to roof, there are some factors to keep in mind when filing a claim. Can you prove the severity of the storm and subsequent damage? Did your car sustain a few unsightly scrapes from a minor hailstorm, or has a violent storm left smashed windows and leaks in your roof? (Later in this article, we’ll get more specific with what to do when filing a claim with your insurance company.)
Note the season. Dauntingly, according to the Weather Channel, hail can occur any time of year. If you do live in a hail-heavy region, hail season will depend on your location. Colorado’s hail season, for example, is mid-April to mid-September, whereas Texas’ hail season falls during springtime. It is worth researching your own area to plan as well as you can.
Hail season for Indiana is often fall and spring, but it can occur in the summer too. Hail tends to come with tornadoes or severe thunderstorms which also can cause roof damage. So, roof damage from hail can happen about half of the year. For the Indiana spring hail is mostly occurs from late March through mid-June. And in the fall, we see hail mostly in September and October.
Perform regular maintenance. Have your roof inspected regularly. Address minor issues before they exacerbate. Keep surrounding foliage trimmed. Clear gutters and drainpipes of debris and foreign objects. Remember, if a hailstorm has already arrived, it is too late to protect your property, so take all these precautions in advance. (Do not attempt to go outside during a hailstorm to prevent property damage.)
Use hail-resistant materials. Be proactive, be preemptive. Find out what the best investments are to reinforce your roof against severe storms. The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association describes which materials you might consider when installing or repairing your roof. These are materials that earn a high standard ranking by Underwriters Laboratory. This is the insurance industry’s quality grade that determines reliability, including hail-resistance. Rankings range from Class 1 (lowest quality) to Class 4 (highest quality). Learn what materials rank higher according to this standard. Talk to your roofing contractor about how best to construct a hail-resistant roof.
If a hailstorm does hit, knowing what to do can prevent further damage later. Here are some steps to keep subsequent property damage to a minimum.
Act quickly. Swift repairs will prevent problems from worsening if you have roof damage from hail. Inspect it as soon as possible after, not during, a hailstorm. As soon as you spot damage, you must report it to your insurer. Take pictures of any damage and keep records. Fortunately, most policies do cover hail damage on roofs. If instructed to do so in your policy, save receipts to submit for later reimbursement.
Know the signs. When your home, chances are likely you’ll know when a hailstorm has hit, but perhaps you were out of town. Following a storm – be it a severe thunderstorm, hailstorm, or snowstorm – right away, inspect your roof. Check for crater-like indentations in your roof: picture something resembling craters in the moon, or pits in an anthill. Be sure to also examine indoors for damage and know how to spot signs of a leaky roof.
Bottom line: hail damage on roofs is unavoidable, but preventative measures go a long way to protect your home. Invest in routine roof inspections and know how to quickly identify if a roof is leaking. Understand the risks that come with living in certain areas, particularly the trinary “Hail Alley” states. Create a disaster plan and have an emergency kit stocked and ready. With a bit of early investment in damage prevention, knowledge of your insurance policy, and a honed eye for signs of roof damage from hail, homeowners can equip themselves to address hail damage efficiently and effectively.