Hail is a form of solid precipitation consisting of ball-shaped chunks of ice, individually called a hailstone. Hailstones are formed when raindrops are carried upward by thunderstorm updrafts into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere and freeze.
Smaller hailstones can be blown away from the updraft by horizontal winds, while larger hail typically falls closer to the updraft.
Hailstones generally become destructive when they are about the size of a quarter or larger. Once they reach that size, they can cause extensive damage to homes, vehicles, and other residential structures. Hail causes billions of dollars of property damages to cars, homes, and crops annually. The annual damage from hail in 2019 and 2020 averaged $8 billion and $14 billion respectively.
Wind-driven hail can tear up roofs and siding of houses, break doors and windows, blow into houses, and cause severe injury and/or death to people and animals.
In North America, hail is most common in the area where Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming meet, known as "Hail Alley". Hail in this region occurs between March and October during the afternoon and evening hours. Cheyenne, Wyoming is North America's most hail-prone city with an average of nine to ten hail storms per season.
However, A report by Verisk shows that while the “hail alley” region is at significant risk, hail exposure is expanding and now demands attention in all states. The National Insurance Claim Bureau (NICB) provides data of claims in the U.S from 2018 to 2020. The following map shows that Texas had the highest increase of hail claims from 2018 to 2020. The mentioned Verisk report ranked Texas first in 2020 with more than 1.5 million properties affected by one or more events, for a total of $3.3 billion in claims.
Overall national hail claims from 2018 through 2020 increased two percent from 832,377 to 849,033.
The report further states that 6.2 million properties in the U.S experienced at least one damaging hail event in 2020 and the claims that year resulted in almost $14.2 billion in losses.
Besides reiterating the need to address the risk in all states and the unpredictability of hail occurrences, the report emphasizes that sometimes hail claims are filed long after occurring because the damage to the roof, which is the most vulnerable element in the house to hail, can stay hidden from the eye.
The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA) provides information on hail in general and on hail claims in particular.
While typically, hail damage is covered by homeowner’s insurance in most States, in some coastal regions, hail coverage is not guaranteed. In hurricane or windstorm-prone areas, you may need a separate windstorm deductible, which can range between one and ten percent of the dwelling coverage. In some cases, instead of a separate deductible, the coverage is limited and the premiums are increased.
In this article from June 2021, you can find information on filing a hail claim.
Insurance is always good to have but it’s not a solution for preventing damage.
Favorable consideration would be to apply resilience strategies to your home.
Hail Resilient Strategies
The roof slope is an important factor when considering the damage from hail. A steeper slope may reduce overall hail damage if the hail falls vertical to the roof. Damage to the part of the roof not facing the wind can be very limited or avoided. Note that in hurricane and tornado-prone areas, steep roof slopes are less desired due to the “sail effect”. Therefore, you should study your risks well and consult with a professional on the resilient strategies and tradeoffs between these two risks.
Whether it’s a new home or an existing one that needs a roof replacement, consider using hail-resistive roofing products. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) have developed standard protocols and testing to make sure products, such as roof shingles, can withstand hail.
If your roof has shingles, they will drain rainwater and prevent piling snow, but not all shingles can resist hail. Impact-resistant shingles, such as Owen’s Corning’s products, should be installed in areas prone to hail and strong winds. Impact-resistant shingles can resist greater impact without cracking or breaking, and may even reduce insurance costs. Such shingles may convince insurance companies to provide discounted premiums.
When replacing a roof or installing a new one, consider installing full roof underlayment, such as these roof deck protection by GAF. The underlayment can help protect from water penetration.
Although the roof is the most vulnerable element of the house to hail, the sidings can be vulnerable as well. If the winds are strong enough, hail can fall at an angle or even nearly horizontally. Wind-driven hail can tear up sidings.
Make sure that you choose hail-resistant materials for the sidings, such as fiber cement board, that is used for James Hardie’s siding, or engineered wood, that is used for LP Corp’s Sidings.
Hail can damage windows by breaking the glass, putting in danger the occupants in the house. Hail can also damage the sashes, grills, and even frames of the windows. Therefore, extra precautions to protect your windows may be an important and wise investment.
As with roofs and sidings, when choosing product materials for skylights, windows, and doors, choose materials that withstand high debris impact. Marvin’s coastal windows, for example, meet the stringent Miami-Dade County requirements.
Another strategy that helps avoid the hazards of shattered glass is to install storm shutters. Closed storm shutters can protect and secure your windows from a hailstorm. Since hail can strike unexpectedly, make sure to install storm shutters that can remain in place all year long.
Window film is another great layer of protection for your windows. Such films make the windows harder to break, protecting them not only from hail, but also from water penetration, UV, and even theft, and will improve your energy efficiency.
Hail can occur at unexpected times and locations and can cause damage to your property which can lead to financial losses and even injuries to occupants.
Although hail damage is usually covered by homeowner’s insurance, in areas with a higher risk of hail, you should expect higher premiums or separate deductibles, and in some cases, the damage can be hidden for a long time before detected, which might be too late to file a claim.
Therefore, even if you live in an area that is not at high risk of hail, it’s a good idea to prepare your home to be protected from hail.
Luckily, there are solutions and strategies that you can implement in your home to mitigate the risk of hail damage, mostly in the design and materials of your roof, but also in other house elements such as the sidings, windows, and doors.