Hail storms, high winds, and the damage they cause are major concerns for homeowners in Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas. The State of Colorado and more specifically, Colorado Springs and the front range are located in the center of what is known as Hail Alley, a large area that stretches from Wyoming, South to Texas. The topography and atmospheric conditions in this region make it ideal for hail.
The National Weather Service (NWS), reports that during a major hailstorm, hailstones can reach up to 120 mph before they hit the ground. Depending on the size of the hail, this velocity can cause some pretty serious damage. According to Aon Insurance Company, hail damage-related insured loss averaged between $8 billion to $14 billion between 2000 and 2019.
If you’ve just been through a hail storm there are some important steps you should take once the storm has passed. Here are some basic things to look at for signs of hail damage:
If you find any significant damage on your inspection you should contact a roofing contractor. Roofers should provide a free inspection of your roof, this is a good idea as they can check for any damage or potential leaks, broken skylights, damaged vents, and missing vent covers, etc.
You should also call your homeowner’s insurance agent since they will most likely take a while to get to an insurance adjuster to your property. The roofer’s inspection will find any immediate damage but you will ultimately need the insurance company to approve any claims. In big storm events, it’s better to be at the front of the line as it can take months to process all of the claims.
If your inspection failed to turn up any damages, this doesn’t mean you escaped the storm without damage. When it comes to hail, the roof is the most vulnerable part of the house. Depending on the size of the hailstones and the roofing material, the roof could still have received damage potentially causing roof leaks.
We generally expect hail damage on a normal composite roof when hailstones are larger than 1” in diameter or golf ball size hail. The age and condition of the shingles can leave them susceptible to much damage even from smaller hailstones. Older asphalt shingles can become thin and brittle, so it’s certainly possible that quarter size hail or hail smaller than 1” could also cause minor damage. If you know your roof is older or already in bad shape, you should probably have a professional roofer do a hail damage roof inspection in a timely manner the first thing after any hail storm.
It’s important to mention that you should not pay for a roof inspection. A professional roofing contractor will provide this inspection as a free service because in most cases, you will end up using the roofer that performed the inspection to do any replacement or repair work they discover. They should also be able to provide you with a free estimate for any necessary roof repair.
Another important thing to mention is that you should not pay for any emergency repairs upfront. This means any emergency hail damage repairs like broken skylights, windows, or a temporary patch on a leaky roof. The insurance company will reimburse the roofing company for these types of repairs. If a roofer or general contractor can’t cover these costs upfront, you should avoid working with them. It’s always a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau before signing anything with a roofer.
Hail is caused by thunderstorm updrafts that carry raindrops upward into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere. These raindrops freeze and then grow into hailstones by colliding with other liquid water drops that freeze onto the hailstone’s surface.
Once the weight of the hailstone grows to a point that the updraft winds can no longer support it, the hailstone falls to earth. Depending on the winds associated with the storm, hail can fall at an angle or even nearly sideways! This wind-driven hail can puncture siding on homes, break windows in some rare but increasing examples, hail can cause severe injury and/or death to people and animals.
Doing a visual inspection of the roof can be difficult, especially for the untrained eye. The color and composition, and surface of the shingles will determine what you are looking for. On a traditional composition roof, you will be looking for damaged areas that display:
If you called a roofing contractor for an inspection after a hail storm, they should have given you a good sense of whether or not you need repairs to or replacement of your roof.
Moving forward with repair or replacement of your roof depends on the insurance companies’ inspection and assessment. Most insurance companies want to see 6 to 8 hits on the roof within a 10ft x 10ft square foot area for hail loss claims in order to move forward with replacement.
Insurance deductibles and policy types are something you need to look at before moving forward with any work. It’s important to look through your insurance policy to determine if your policy is an ACV (Actual Cash Value) or RCV (Replacement Cost Value) policy.
ACV is the actual replacement cost minus depreciation for any wear and tear. The actual cash value is equal to the replacement cost minus any depreciation (ACV = replacement cost – depreciation). This means if you need to replace your roof, the difference between the cost of your new roof and the depreciation will be an out of pocket expense, your insurance provider won’t cover.
While choosing the ACV option for your policy will save you a little money on your monthly premiums, it can really cost you in the long run. The depreciation on a roof can be thousands of dollars, having to come out of pocket for this expense at the time of roof replacement can wipe out any savings you thought you were realizing.
The other type of policy you can obtain is RCV or Replacement Cost Value policy. A Replacement Cost Value policy pays what would be required to replace the roof without accounting for depreciation. This is a superior option to the ACV model because it doesn’t require you to come up with additional money to replace your roof.
The type of material your roof is made of has the biggest influence on the amount of damage your roof might suffer during a hailstorm. Roofing materials like concrete, metal, or clay tile are the most resistant to damage from hail. This type of roof can be cost-prohibitive for most homeowners. The composite or asphalt shingle roof is the most common roofing material in the United States and locally here in El Paso County.
In areas that are prone to hail storms and wind, the class 4 asphalt shingle will provide the highest level of resistance to hail. The class 4 shingle is tested with a 2” steel ball that is dropped onto the shingle from a height of 20’ onto the same spot of the shingle two times.
To be certified as class 4 a shingle must show no signs of damage including cracks, punctures, tears, or splits. The inspection of the shingle is done under 5x magnification to verify the condition.
While many insurance providers will offer a discount for hail resistant roofing materials those discounts are in the neighborhood of 5% to 40%. Class 4 shingles cost 10% to 20% more than other shingles so the discount isn’t really enough to merit upgrading the roof for the sake of the discount. Upgrading older roofs to class 4 shingles is one of the best practices property owners can implement. This might be the best way to avoid having to make a roof insurance claim in the future.
While the class 4 shingle, concrete tile, and metal roofing all provide higher levels of protection against hail and wind damage, none of these are hail proof, only hail resistant, especially in a severe storm. On August 6th of 2018 a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the Stratmoor area of Colorado Springs and an intense hail storm moved over the area near the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Fort Carson Army Base located in the southwest part of Colorado Springs around 2 pm. This storm dropped large hail ranging from 2.75” up to 4” in the area and caused some extreme hail damage. This hail cracked tile roofs, broke skylights, windows, and even caused loss of life to some animals at the zoo. No roofing product could have withstood the force of this type of hail storm.
In many areas like El Paso County Colorado, hail is inevitable, and while you can’t completely eliminate the risk associated with these storms you can protect yourself from damage and cost.
If you have the option to upgrade your roofing material to tile or a class 4 shingle, by all means, do it. Secondly, go with an RCV or Replacement Cost Value policy for your homeowners insurance, especially if you live in an area that is prone to hail storms.
Finally, if you live in the area and experience Colorado Springs hail damage, you should inspect your property as soon as the storm passes. You want to detect any cracks or leaks before water starts to infiltrate your house potentially causing even more problems. Hail damage claims can be a hassle to file, and the process can take some time, so if you do have a claim, it’s best to contact your homeowners insurance company or agent right away.
If you live in the Colorado Springs area, it’s difficult to avoid hail, but you can be prepared and covered. Make sure you have the appropriate level of homeowners coverage and know what to do after a major hailstorm.