How to Spot Hail Damage on Your Home
Depending on where you live and the severity of the storm, hail can be either a minor irritating event or a potentially devastating, destructive threat. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), hailstones fall to earth from 30,000 feet, reaching up to 120 mph before they hit trees, vehicles and structures. These storms cause $1 billion in damages to crops and property each year, the NWS says.
Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming usually have the most hailstorms, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. The area where these three states meet is known as “hail alley,” and it averages seven to nine hail days each year. But hail storms are not limited to this area, and in 2016 there were 5,601 major hail storms, according to the NWS’ Annual Severe Weather Report Summary. And while they may not receive the attention of other weather events like tornadoes, hail storms can cause significant damage. In 2016, hail storms caused $3.5 billion in property and crop damage, says the Insurance Information Institute (III).
How to Identify Hail Damage to Your Home
Roof shingles are designed with withstand normal weather patterns and elements. However, they can be damaged when they face substantial weather events such as high winds or significant hail impacts, according to Owens Corning. Significant hail impacts can cause bruising and the removal of the protective granulation coating on the shingle.
Wind can cause creasing of your roof’s shingles or can blow them entirely off of the roof. Wind direction, landscaping and buildings surrounding your home can affect the hail damage sustained during a storm. Different slopes of the roof and different sides of your home can often sustain different amounts of damage. Some basic tips for inspecting your home for hail damage include:
- Check your home’s exterior walls for holes, dents or chips in your paint or siding, according to Lowe’s.
- Check air conditioning coils for impacts, says Lowe’s.
- Check the windows for cracks, broken glass and damage to the window frames, says Lowe’s.
- Check your roof (you can do so from the ground using binoculars) and look for bruised or missing shingles and dents on vents, gutters or flashing, says Lowe’s.
- Check for leaks in the attic, suggests Angie’s List.
Take Action After a Hail Storm
If you do find any hail damage, you should take quick action. The III recommends you take pictures before you make any temporary repairs such as boarding up any broken windows or covering a hole in a roof with a tarp.
Regardless of the level of damage, you’ll also want to promptly report it to your insurance company, says the III, which may have recommendations on finding a contractor. Should your home sustain hail damage, keep in mind these tips when choosing a contractor:
- Be wary of contractors who solicit door-to-door. Contractors who offer their services door-to-door after a storm (sometimes referred to as “storm chasers”) may pressure people into making quick, possibly expensive decisions on repair and construction work, according to the Illinois attorney general’s office. If possible, verify the contractor’s contact information. Watch out for contractors that list only a post office box. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) says that reputable businesses have a physical address and phone number.
- Work only with licensed (if applicable), bonded and insured contractors and have them provide documentation. Ask the contractors you’re considering for copies of their professional licenses and insurance. The NAHB recommends verifying the license by checking your area’s licensing board(s). The association also suggests checking to see if the contractor has a listing with the Better Business Bureau and making sure there are no consumer complaints.
- Require references and check them out. Professional contractors should have current references they can provide from current and past clients — and you should be able to reach those references, not just an answering machine, says the NAHB. The Better Business Bureau recommends getting three to four quotes before deciding which contractor to use. Do not sign an estimate, the NAHB says. Watch out for contractors who vastly underbid competitors — this may be an indication of poor-quality work, according to the NAHB. Additionally, the III cautions against hiring contractors who push for expensive temporary repairs.
- Don’t feel pressured into signing a contract and never sign a blank contract. Before signing a contract for repairs, read it from start to finish. Is all the information filled in? Does it have a start date and an end date? The III says you should never sign a contract with areas that are left blank. And, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a contract should have an estimated start and end date. Other key things to look for, according to the FTC: the payment schedule; the contractor’s obligation to obtain all necessary permits; a detailed list of materials to be used; and an explanation of services the contractor will or won’t perform, such as post-construction cleanup.
- Avoid payment-in-full up front. Don’t pay cash for home repairs, and don’t pay for more than a percentage of the cost up front, says the FTC. Don’t complete payment or sign a completion certificate until the work is fully finished, the III says.
So, the next time you spot threatening clouds, take cover and keep this hail damage checklist at the ready.
Originally published March 2014.