Hail is big business. The cost of repairing hail damage in the United States averages about $1 billion a year.
On April 14, 2006, a single hailstorm in Indianapolis, Indiana caused $1.3 billion in damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, for every $100 of homeowner premiums collected by the insurance industry, $30 goes to paying for wind and hail damage. That’s compared to $16 for fire damage, and $11 for water damage.
Hailstorms can also be lethal. In 2002, a hailstorm in China’s Hunan province killed 25 people and injured hundreds more.
A hailstorm in Aurora, Nebraska dropped the biggest hailstone on record in North America.
Hail damage is identified by inspecting the roof and home exterior. Those performing inspections are most likely to be members of the insurance, roofing or home inspection industries.
Even though hail damage in the U.S. is widespread and costly, there is a lack of uniform criteria for identifying wind and hail damage among these industries. Although severe hail damage is easy to identify, roofs may be damaged to a lesser degree, and inspectors from different industries sometimes disagree about what is and what isn’t hail damage.
If inspectors from these industries use the same criteria for identifying damage, then there’s a good chance of reducing disagreement among the industries, as well as confusion for homeowners who are looking to these professionals for guidance.
Hail damage can be identified based on different types of roof-covering materials, so we’ll cover the characteristics of hail damage that are common to the major steep-slope, residential roof-covering materials, particularly, those materials such as asphalt shingles, wood, tile, metal and slate roofs.
First, lets talk about how hail forms.
The uneven heating of the earth’s surface creates wind as warm air rises, pulling replacement air in behind it. Rising air is called an “updraft,” and the process is called “convection.”
Although updrafts are associated with a number of different types of storms, we’re concerned with one particular type called a “supercell.” In addition to tornadoes, supercells can produce hail.
Hail is composed of balls of ice called “hailstones.”
Hailstones are formed inside storms when updrafts carry dirt and dust particles high into the cold, upper parts of storm clouds. Super-cooled water clings to the particles and then freezes, forming tiny ice balls. Once the updraft weakens, the ice balls fall until they’re lifted back into the clouds again by another updraft. As this process is repeated, the ice balls accumulate layers of ice and get bigger. Once they become too heavy to be supported by the wind, they fall from the sky as hailstones.
Hail Damage: Where and When?
Although hail can fall anywhere on earth where conditions are right, the majority of hail damage in the U.S. occurs in the Midwest, from south Texas northward to Minnesota, and from Colorado eastward to Illinois.
Another band of high hail damage potential runs east to Virginia.
The hail season generally starts in the southern U.S. in late March and continues through August. Storms typically moved from the Southwest toward the Northeast.
DEFINING HAIL DAMAGE
Although it may be relatively short, this is one of the most important articles in this series.
For insurance purposes, hail damage to roofing-covering materials is defined as either “functional” damage or “cosmetic” damage.
Being able to determine the difference between the two is crucial, and has long been a point of contention between members of the insurance industry and members of the roofing industry, primarily because of ignorance of or disagreement over basic criteria.
Functional damage is damage which:
- diminishes the ability of a roof to shed water; and/or
- reduces the roof’s expected long-term service life.
Functional damage varies with different types of roof-covering materials. Wood roofs will show functional damage differently than asphalt and tile roofs.
Damage which doesn’t meet the definition of “functional” is considered “cosmetic.”
Cosmetic issues may be discoloration or damage which doesn’t affect the lifespan of the roofing material or reduce its ability to shed water. Cosmetic damage is that which only affects the appearance of a material, or affects its functionality to only a minor degree. Some examples are…
…minor localized granule loss from hailstrikes to asphalt shingles, or…
…hail dents in metal vents, gutters and downspouts.
Cosmetic issues also vary with the type of roof-covering material installed.
Insurance companies may or may not pay for cosmetic damage.
An example of when an insurance company might pay for cosmetic damage is when the damage results in a financial loss to the policyholder, or if reimbursement is required by state or local law. Whether cosmetic damage may be compensated for also varies somewhat by the policies of various insurance companies, and how each policy is written.
A “loss” is usually interpreted to mean a loss in the home’s value. An example of this might be an expensive copper roof which is badly dented by hail. A loss may vary by location. If the copper roof is in a highly visible portion of a high-end home, damage may more likely be paid for than if it were on a portion of a second-story roof which is barely visible from the ground.