What to do if you suspect hail damage to your roof
Avoid letting hidden hail damage affect the value and safety of your home.
The truth about hail damage is that it really can happen anywhere there is a threat for severe thunderstorms, and it’s getting more and more common than you think.
Hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These costs are rising in the U.S. because homes are getting bigger, from about 1,700 square feet in the early 1980s to 2,500 square feet in 2015, said Ian Giammanco, a research meteorologist for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
In addition to larger home (and roof) sizes, homes are being built closer together, causing more homes to be damaged by fewer storms.
2018 is expected to be the 11th year in a row in which the damage from severe storms exceeds $10 billion in the United States, and 70% of that cost comes from hail, said Giammanco.
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What Is Hail?
Hail forms when strong currents of air called updrafts carry water droplets to a height where they freeze. These ice particles become heavy enough to fall before they’re picked back up by the updrafts. The more cycles the ice particles go through, the larger the ice particle becomes until it can no longer be supported by the updraft and eventually falls as hail.
What is damaging hail?
At WeatherCheck, we consider 1.25in hail–roughly the size of a half-dollar–to be the start of damaging hail. Most hailstones don’t have smooth edges and this further impacts the level of damage they cause. Of course, the level of severity really depends on other factors as well.
What’s the roofing material?
Different roofing materials hold up to hail differently. We’ll get to the pros and cons of each type a little later. Asphalt is the most common, but cedar shake, metal, and ceramic tile shingles are also popular.
What’s the age of the roof?
As shingles age, they become less resilient to hail damage. Older roofs may also have slight damage from the previous years that hail can further aggravate. Typically roofs last between 20-35 years but this really depends on the material.
What does the tree cover look like?
Sometimes tree cover can help alleviate some of the impact from hail. Then again, the wind from the storm could have been severe enough to cause some branches to fall onto your roof…
What was the severity of the storm?
What was the size of the hailstones? What was the duration of the storm? How strong were the winds? Stronger winds with smaller, typically non-damaging hail sizes, can start to cause damage. Or a hail storm that lasts for half an hour can do more damage than one that lasts for only 5 minutes.
As you can see there are quite a few elements that factor into the final question: “Did this hail storm damage my roof?”
How To Tell If Your Roof Has Hail Damage
The easiest way to tell if you have roof damage is to use our hail damage lookup tool. Just type in the address in question and you’ll see all the hail events that affected that property within the past year.
Insurance companies will typically accept claims up to a year after an event, but of course, this depends on the insurer.
Our algorithms are able to take all the elements in question (see the previous section) and virtually reproduce the hailstorm and its impact on your property. We don’t have to install any sensors on the buildings themselves.
That’s why we’re able to cover the full continental United States and offer free damage monitoring going forward. Simply sign up with your name, email, address, and phone number, and we’ll only notify you if damage occurs.
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What to look for outside
If having WeatherCheck isn’t enough, these are the signs you can use to help you determine the extent of hail damage.
If you see any roofing shingles on the ground then it’s a definite sign you sustained damage.
Some other obvious signs are broken tree limbs, dents on cars left outside (though they typically can be damaged by smaller hail sizes that don’t affect shingles) or seeing roofing contractor yard signs in your neighborhood. If they’re working on homes, then it could be possible that yours needs work as well.
A more subtle sign would be dents, cracks, or holes in the following:
What to look for on your roof
If you found a number of the above, it would be a good idea to go ahead and check the roof for any damage you can visually see. Hail damage to the shingles themselves is difficult to see if you don’t know what to look for.
This was mentioned in the previous section, but if look for dents in the gutters and leaf guards. If the hailstones were large enough, they could have caused shingle granules to break off and land in the gutters.
Dented roof accessories
Take a look at the metal roof vents, flashing, and chimney covers. If these are dented it’s a good indicator you have damage. If you see cracks in softer roofing materials like PVC or roof patch compounds then you also have damage.
Chipped or cracked satellite dishes and skylights
If you have one, make sure your satellite dish is in one piece and doesn’t have any chipped paint. Check the skylights for any cracks or dents as well.
Missing, loose, and curling shingles
The largest indicator of damage is missing and/or loose shingles. If shingles are flapping in the wind, they’re considered loose.
If you see cracks or hail hits on shingles then you definitely have damage. Hail hits can displace granules (see the Gutter section) causing your roof to lose its integrity. Any damage to the shingle itself will cause it to age faster and cause you problems down the line.
What to look for inside
If you’re beginning to see damaging signs within your home, this means that the hail damage is quite old and you could be looking at extensive repairs. Since hail damage affects the integrity of the shingles, your roof becomes more susceptible to leaking.
The severity of the damage depends on the time of year (e.g. a rainier season causes more damage) but as with anything, the longer this leaking occurs the more extensive the water damage will be.
Recurring water leaks
If you notice water within your home specifically during or after rain events this could indicate old hail damage.
Check all walls and ceilings for water stains and discoloration, typically you’re looking at a yellow, brown or copper color. Be on the lookout for anything that might look like bubbling paint, since this means that water is trapped between the paint and drywall itself. Don’t forget to check closets and garages as well.
Mold and mildew
Mold or mildew can also point to water damage since water is needed for it to grow. Mold can grow as quickly as 24 to 48 hours after water damage has occurred so it’s a great indicator of damage. Check drywall, wood, and insulation for any growths.
So You Have Damage, This Is What To Do:
Once you’ve identified signs of hail damage, or you used WeatherCheck and know there was a damaging hail event, you’re going to want to act fast.
Like we mentioned earlier, the sooner hail damage is fixed, the fewer (and less expensive) problems you’ll have down the line. Don’t run the risk of turning roof damage into water damage.
Typically, at this point a homeowner would reach out to a reputable roofing contractor to confirm that they have hail damage, but that was before WeatherCheck. If you used our hail damage lookup tool then you already know the date and severity of the hail damage so we recommend going ahead and filing a claim with your insurance provider.
Have a Roofing Contractor Inspect your Roof
Of course if you want to have your roof inspected by a roofing contractor before filing a claim, this is what you should know.
Find a reputable contractor
When looking for a roofer, you want someone that’s established, licensed, or bonded. A quick Google search “reputable roofing contractors near me” should help you if your neighbors or friends don’t have any recommendations.
Keep in mind that not all jurisdictions require licensing, but your best bet is to go with someone that is. Use caution and ask questions before accepting a bid substantially lower than other bids for the same repair work. After all, you don’t want to go through this process again so soon.
We recommend that you find a contractor that is factory certified be either GAF and/or CertainTeed, the two largest shingle and roofing material manufacturers in the USA. Googling for “GAF Master Elite™ roofing contractor near me” or “CertainTeed Premier roofing contractor near me” should help you find what you need.
Most contractors will offer to do the inspection for free, since for them it could lead to further business. Be sure to schedule the contractor to come by while your home. They’ll walk your roof to see what damage they can spot.
During the inspection, ask for a written estimate of the following:
- Quantity of materials needed- Labor charges
- Work specifications
- Approximate starting and completion dates
- Payment procedures
- Building permits secured (if applicable)
- Warranty details – review conditions that would void it
Do not sign anything
Upon inspection, do not sign anything. Again, do not sign anything after this free inspection. Some contractors will disguise contingency contracts as “Roof Inspection Reports” that, among other things, entrap the homeowner into a contract that says they must give the job to the roofer if the insurance claim is approved.
If you sign such an inspection report you’ve lost the opportunity to solicit competitive proposals. By authorizing the insurance company to pay the roofer directly, a dishonest roofer may take the insurance check and disappear.
File a claim
Be sure you have the date and size of the hail event on hand when you file. Also photos and/or videos of the damage will better support your claim.
Of course there are times when you shouldn’t file a claim, such as when the scope of loss is less than your deductible, but in terms of roof damage typically the costs are significant enough to file. If you had a roofing contractor inspect your home before filing, the written estimate they provide should help you in this decision.
Once your claim has been filed, a claims adjuster will contact you to make an appointment to inspect the roof. Go ahead and send the photos and videos that you have before the appointment.
You should arrange for the roofing contractor who previously inspected your roof to meet with the insurance adjuster to go on the roof and discuss his findings.
The claims adjuster will write a report on his findings, prepare an estimate to make spot repairs or replace the roof (assuming damage was found), then forward the report to your claim examiner. The claim examiner will review the report and make a decision on your claim.