Roof Hail Damage 101

With Spring right around the corner, this is a good time to review what homeowners need to know about roof hail damage.  Some parts of the country get hit harder, but hailstorms can occur just about anywhere and when they do, it’s important to check your roof for hail damage. 

Not all hail will cause damage to an asphalt shingle roof.  It depends on a variety of factors such as the size of the hail, the quality of the shingles, and the age of the roof.  Wind speed and direction and roof slope can also affect whether or not your roof will suffer damage from a hail storm. 

Pea sized hail and smaller generally will not cause any damage to an asphalt shingle roof, but when the hail is the size of a marble (about ¾ inch in diameter) or bigger, it can cause roof damage, especially to older roofs and you should have the roof inspected by reputable roofer.   Hail larger than an inch in diameter can cause significant damage almost any asphalt shingle roof.

Older roofs are more susceptible to hail damage than new roofs because years of sun exposure has usually caused the shingles to dry out a little and become more fragile.  Higher quality shingles such as laminated shingles are more resistant to hail damage than standard three tab shingles and steeply sloped roofs will usually suffer less damage than roofs with a shallow slope.

If you know or even suspect that your roof has been hit by a hailstorm with hail capable of causing roof damage, have the roof inspected by a reputable roofing contractor even if the roof is not currently leaking.  If your roof inspector identifies hail damage, call your homeowners insurance carrier before getting any work done.  Most hail damage is covered under your homeowners insurance policy.

It’s Worth Waiting For a Good Roofing Contractor

When your asphalt shingle roof has suffered hail damage, your natural inclination is to get the roof replaced as quickly as possible.  Homeowners insurance companies reinforce the sense of urgency because they want to close your file and get it off their desk, but don’t let your instincts and the insurance company pressure you into using a sub-par roofing contractor just to get the job done quickly.

The problem is that after any hail storm every local roofing contractor is suddenly swamped with work, especially the best and most experienced roofers.  So called “storm chasers” take advantage of this and send out-of-state roofing crews to the area to pick up the slack.  Many of these storm chasers are good roofers, but in the mix are some shoddy roofers as wells as some downright crooks.

If you go with one of these roofers you might get lucky but even if you do, good luck finding them if you need warranty work down the road.  You are better off with a reputable local roofing contractor with a permanent office in your area.

Unless you have unusually severe hail damage, it’s OK to wait a few weeks or even months to get a good local roofer.  Hail damage usually does not cause the roof to start leaking immediately.  Most hail damage to an asphalt shingle roof comes from dislodging a significant amount of the protective ceramic granules which drastically shortens the life of the roof.  Due to the lack of protective granules, sun exposure will cause the roof to dry out and fail, but it will take a few months for that to happen.

So don’t feel like you have to settle for a questionable roofing contractor.  In most cases you can afford to wait a few months to get a reputable local roofer to replace your hail damaged roof.

Hail Size for Roof Damage

If a hailstorm has impacted your area, you are probably rightfully concerned about hail damage to your roof.  The only way to know for sure whether or not your roof has suffered hail damage is to have it inspected by a reputable local roofing contractor.  Many contractors offer free roof inspections as a service to the community.

Hail comes in all different sizes.  Whether or not it will damage an asphalt shingle roof depends on many different factors such a size of the hail, roof pitch and orientation, wind speed, and condition of the roof.  As far as hail size goes, in most cases hail that is smaller than one inch in diameter will not cause significant damage to a healthy asphalt shingle roof.  There are exceptions of course.  For example, an old or brittle roof might be damaged by smaller hail. If the hail was driven by high winds it might cause damage to roofs.

Hail over an inch in diameter up to golf ball sized hail can cause damage to asphalt shingle roofs in the form of dislodged ceramic granules.  These granules protect the roof from the harmful effects of long term exposure to the sun and when a substantial quantity are knocked loose by hail, the roof will dry out and become brittle.  It will soon crack and begin leaking.

Hail larger than the size of a golf ball can cause severe damage to an asphalt shingle roof.  In addition to dislodging ceramic granules, hail this size can cause splitting, pitting, bruising, fraying and other damage to the shingles.  Roofs with this type of serious damage will often start leaking immediately.

Look Closely For Hail Damage

When hail storms strike an area they can cause a lot of damage to cars, trees, siding and roofs.  Asphalt shingle roofs are particularly vulnerable to hail damage because they do not have as much impact resistance as other roofing products such as metal roofing, tile, and slate.  The most vulnerable roofs are older roofs covered with three tab shingles.

Most of these roofs only have a 15 to 20 year lifespan under ideal conditions and after ten or fifteen years of exposure to the sun they lose some impact resistance and can easily be damaged by even modest sized hail.  The sun’s UV rays slowly dry out the shingle and make it brittle.

Most hail damage is not readily apparent unless you know what to look for. Very large hail will cause obvious damage such as splitting, fraying, and pitting but hail this size is unusual.  Hail the size of golf balls and larger falls into this category.

On the other hand, pea sized hail and smaller will usually not cause significant damage to most asphalt shingle roofs unless the roof is very brittle or if the hail is driven by very high winds.

The more common type of hail damage to asphalt shingles comes from medium sizes hail.  This hail is capable of dislodging the ceramic granules that protect the shingle from sun damage.  If an asphalt shingle roof suffers significant granule loss, it will quickly dry out from UV ray exposure and will fail.  In many cases, unless the damage was caught by a roof inspection, the roof will start leaking months after the hail storm and the homeowner will be on the hook for expensive roof repairs or a roof replacement unless the homeowner can prove the hail damage to the insurance company.

The lesson to take away from all this is to have your roof inspected whenever hail has struck your area.  If the hail damage is identified early, you will have much less hassle with your insurance company and will avoid a leaky roof.

Upgrading Your Roof

If your roof has been damaged by hail or high winds, consider upgrading your roof to laminated shingles.  Three tab composition asphalt shingles have been the industry standard for decades and were installed on millions of homes built in America during the home construction boom that ended in 2007.  Unfortunately, many of these homes were roofed with low end “builders grade” three tab shingles that were fairly easily damaged by winds over 60 mph or very moderately sized hail.

If you replace your hail damaged roof with the same type of low end three tab shingles, your roof will likely be damaged by the next strong storm that affects your area and you will be looking at yet another roof replacement.  Fortunately, in recent years the roofing market has shifted toward higher quality laminated shingles.  Laminates shingles (also called architectural or dimensional shingles) are a different type of composition asphalt shingles consisting of several layers of fiberglass mat saturated in asphalt that are laminated together to form a durable, heavy duty weather resistant shingle.

Laminated shingles can withstand winds speeds of over 100 mph and are much more impact resistant than standard three tab shingles.  When properly installed by a reputable roofing contractor, a laminated asphalt shingle roof provides excellent, durable protection for your home and your family at an affordable price.

Most manufacturers provide a 40 year or limited lifetime warranty on their laminated shingles. Most roofing contractor recommend laminated shingles because they provide much better protection and durability than three tab shingles.  Talk to your roofing contractor to see if laminated shingles are right for your home.

Is Impact Resistant Roofing Worth The Added Cost?

Homeowners living in areas with frequent hailstorms know how much damage hail can do to an asphalt shingle roof.  No matter how recently the roof was installed, a serious hail storm can totally destroy an asphalt shingle roof.  In some parts of the country where hail storms occur frequently, there are homes that have had the roof replaced  two or three times in just a few years due to storm and hail damage.

There are impact resistant roofing materials that provide much better protection against hail damage than standard three tab shingles.  Slate and tile roofing has excellent impact resistance, but it is very expensive and very heavy.  Metal roofing is less expensive and lightweight so it can be installed on almost any home.  In addition, some high end laminated asphalt shingles have excellent impact resistance ratings.

The problem with metal roofing and high end laminated asphalt shingles is that even though they are more affordable than slate or tile, they are more expensive than three tab shingles.  Since the homeowner’s insurance will pay most of the cost of replacing a hail damaged roof, many homeowners are left wondering if the added cost of impact resistant roofing is worth it.

When you consider that the homeowner has to pay the deductible every time the roof is replaced, impact resistant roofing starts to sound more reasonable.  Add in the fact that insurance companies often offer substantial discounts for homes with impact resistant roofing and there may not be much of a cost difference.  Further, if a homeowner with impact resistant roofing can afford to further lower their premiums by increasing their deductible because of the reduced risk of having to replace their roof due to hail damage, the impact resistant roofing might even save them money in the long run.

Reducing Hail Damage To Your Roof

Hail can cause severe roof damage, especially to asphalt shingle roofs.  The amount and extent of the damage depends on many variables including wind speed, age of the roof, type of shingles, and the size of the hail, but in general hail larger than one inch can damage an asphalt shingle roof.  Hail can fall anywhere, but homeowners in some parts of the country can expect to experience a hail storm two or three times a year.

You can’t stop hail from falling, but you can reduce hail damage to your roof by installing impact resistant roofing.  Slate and tile roofing offers the ultimate impact resistance, but it is wildly expensive and requires highly specialized skills to install.  More importantly, slate and tile roofing is very heavy and can only be installed on homes with a roof structure designed to support the load.

Metal roofing offers excellent impact resistance and it is lightweight and relatively easy to install by an experienced professional roofer.  It can be installed on almost any roof except for very low slope roofs and provides decades of excellent protection.

Asphalt shingle roofing is usually the least impact resistant roofing material, but there are some high end laminated shingles that meet the highest impact resistance standards in the industry.  As you would expect, these impact resistant shingles cost more than standard shingles, but they provide much better protection.

For more information about impact resistant roofing, talk to a reputable local roofing contractor.  They can help you decide what type of impact resistant roofing is best for your home.

Service Life of a Residential Roof

“How long will my new roof last?” This is one of those questions that almost every homeowner asks when purchasing a new roof and it is also one of the hardest questions for even the most experienced roofing contractor to answer.  The reason is that there are so many different variables that can affect the lifespan of a roof that providing a definitive answer to this question is challenging at best.

The type of roofing material greatly affects the life expectancy of the roof.  A three tab asphalt shingle roof can be expected to last roughly 15 to 20 years before replacement is necessary.  Architectural or dimensional shingles last somewhat longer; anywhere from 25 to 40 years.  Cedar shakes generally last about 40 to 50 years and metal roofing, tile, and slate can last 50 year or more.

The quality of the craftsmanship of the initial installation has a huge impact on the lifespan of the roof, especially for asphalt shingles.  No matter what type or quality of asphalt shingle used, a poorly installed roof can fail within months of installation.  The same is true to some extent for other roofing materials, but because of the nature of the business, it is less of a concern than for asphalt shingles.

Maintenance is another factor to consider.  A poorly maintained roof will not last as long as it should, especially asphalt shingle roofs.  These need more maintenance than other types of roofs and if neglected they will not reach their full potential.

Finally, wind and hail storm damage will shorten the life of an asphalt shingle roof.  Most other types of roofing materials have higher resistance to hail and wind damage are their useful life is less likely to be affected.

Myths about Hail Damage to Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Many homeowners don’t understand how hail damages an asphalt shingle roof and as a result, they fail to have a damaged roof replaced before it starts leaking and causes further expensive interior damage to ceilings, walls, and floors.  If hail has struck and area, the homeowner may believe that they have dodged a bullet because their roof is not leaking.  They mistakenly equate storm hail damage with roof leaks.

While it is possible for severe hail to cause enough damage to a roof that it immediately starts leaking, in the vast majority of cases a hail damaged roof will not start leaking right away.  Hail can cause splits or cracks in asphalt shingles that will allow water intrusion, but more commonly what happens is the hail dislodges a large number of the ceramic granules from the surface of the shingle.

These granules provide color and texture to a shingle, but more importantly they protect the shingle from harmful U.V. rays.  Without this protection, the shingle will dry out and fail.   A hail damaged roof will leak, but not for a few weeks or even months.  Don’t wait for your roof to start leaking.

If you suspect that your roof has hail damage, have it inspected by an experienced roofing contractor.  Hail damage can be difficult for a homeowner to detect, especially from the ground.  You need a knowledgeable contractor who will climb up on the roof and perform a thorough roof inspection.  Fortunately, most reputable roofing contractors offer free roof inspections.

Roofing Alternatives

The most common residential roofing materials are composition asphalt shingles.  In particular, three tab asphalt shingles can be found gracing the roof of about 70% of American homes.  The popularity of three tab shingles is due largely to the fact that they are the least expensive roofing alternative that offers a reasonable level of durability and ease of installation and repair.

Despite their popularity, three tab shingles have numerous drawbacks.  They are easily damaged by hail, wind and other severe weather.  In addition, while a properly installed three tab shingle roof can give years of good service, their ease of installation has resulted in many roofs being installed by inexperienced roofers.  These roof fail much sooner than a properly installed roof and tend to give three tab shingles and roofers in general a bad name.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to standard three tab composition asphalt shingles.  First up are laminated or architectural shingles.  These are also composition asphalt shingles, but they are much thicker and better quality than three tab shingles.  Properly installed, laminated shingles can provide 30 years or more of excellent protection for your home and the cost is only moderately higher than three tab shingles.

Metal roofing is also an excellent choice.  The initial cost is significantly higher than composition asphalt shingles, but metal roofing needs almost no maintenance and has a nearly unlimited service life.  Metal roofing can be installed on almost any home and has excellent hail, wind, and fire resistance.

Slate and tile roofs look great on the right home, but they are very heavy and much more expensive than other types of roofs.  To their credit, a slate or tile roof will probably last longer than your home while providing the ultimate protection against hail, wind and fire.

For your next residential roof replacement, talk to your roofing contractor about your roofing alternatives.