Is Your Home Protected From Hail Damage?

One of the most vulnerable spots on your home is the roof. And one hazard most homeowners can expect to face at some point is hail.
Compared to earthquakes and hurricanes, hail might seem like a minor concern. True, hailstorms don’t cause the loss of life, but they can shatter windows, leave pockmarks in siding and, most important, destroy or damage roof coverings. Here are some tips to help you protect your investment.

How do you know if a roof covering is impact-resistant?
One way is to look for Underwriters Laboratories’ measuring stick: the UL 2218 standard. The UL test involves dropping steel balls of varying sizes from heights designed to simulate the force of free-falling hailstones. Four impact-level designations will help you compare products: roof coverings that show the most resistance earn a Class 4 rating; the least, a Class 1 rating.

You put a lot of time, work and money into your home. Naturally, you want to use the best products available. In terms of roof coverings, this means a UL 2218 rating of Class 4. A Class 4 rating tells you that a sample of the product did not crack when hit twice in the same spot by a 2-inch steel ball, which, in a storm, would translate into quite a hailstone. A Class 1 rating signifies resistance to a 1 1/4-inch steel ball; Class 2, a 1 1/2-inch steel ball; and Class 3 a 1 3/4-inch ball.

The UL 2218 standard is the best method to test impact resistance, but it isn’t perfect and works better for some coverings than for others. UL 2218 measures whether a product cracks under impact. Some roof coverings, in particular some made of metal, may resist cracking but can be dented and dimple. So while they test well, they may perform poorly in practice. Keep this in mind when using the UL standard as a gauge of quality. And to cover all the bases, also check for wind-resistance features and a fire-resistance rating. Consult a design professional, your insurance company or roofing installer about steps you can take— fastening vulnerable rows of asphalt shingles with adhesive, for example, or tying down tile with a screw and wire instead of nails— to help your roof covering stand up better against high wind.

Fire ratings range from Class A materials that are effective against severe fire exposure to Class C materials that are only effective against light exposure. Products that are untested or have failed a test are listed as “nonrated.”

Although asphalt shingles are the most common, roof coverings come in a variety of colors and styles. Which is best for your home.

There are many different types of residential roof coverings to choose from.

What type best suits your taste and the level of hail risk where you live?

Asphalt shingles are found on most homes in the United States and can be reinforced with either organic or fiberglass materials.

Fiberglass shingles last up to 20 years and have a Class A fire rating.

Modified asphalt shingles include SBS (a rubber-type compound) or APP (a plasticizer) and are likely to perform well in hailstorms. Without them, fiberglass composition shingles stand up moderately well to hail.

Metal, primarily thought of as a commercial roofing material, has become an attractive alternative for some homeowners. Not only do they last up to 40 years, metal roofs are also relatively lightweight and may have a Class A or B fire rating. But beware of their performance in hailstorms. Unlike other shingles that can ease back into shape, metal can dimple permanently.

Slate tends to be long-lasting (up to 100 years) but also more expensive than other materials. And you would need someone with skill and experience to apply it, which can add to the cost. Another point to consider: slate is very heavy. Some roof structures are unable to support this type of roof covering. Be sure to check with a registered design professional before spending all of that money.
Synthetic roof coverings (e.g., fiber cement or molded plastic) simulate various types of traditional roof coverings, such as slate and wood shingles and shakes. Their performance varies by product.

Tile is popular in some areas, but its performance in hailstorms varies by type. Concrete tiles are more durable and can last more than 20 years, while clay tiles are brittle and can be easily chipped or broken. And another thing: like slate, tile is heavy. If you are replacing another type of roof with tile, you will need to verify that the structure can support the weight. Also, heavy products can take longer to install, so labor costs may be significantly more.
Wood shingles and shakes are made from cedar, southern pine or other woods. Though some like their appearance, wood shingles and shakes perform only moderately well against hail. Two other things to consider: 1) some local codes limit their use; and 2) unless they’re treated with a fire retardant, they may not have a fire rating.

Before making your roofing selection, take your time and check out the variety of products. Look at full-size samples of the roof covering you’re considering. You can also get information by looking at manufacturers’ brochures or visiting a house that is roofed with a particular product. Most roofing materials will come with some type of warranty, but they have limited value. Even the most comprehensive warranties will not cover all damages under every circumstance. Be sure to read the fine print.

Roofing products have changed significantly over time. The variety of choices in materials, appearances and prices allows you to get the look you want without compromising quality. Above all, look for materials that will protect your home for many years.
Information compiled in cooperation with the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Of course you’ll want to carefully evaluate any contractor you consider so you can be confident the job will be done right.

Here are some things to consider:
  • Look for an established, licensed or bonded roofing contractor. Ask for references and call them up.
  • Ask to see certificates of insurance. Make sure that both liability and workers compensation insurance coverages are carried and are in force while roofing work is being done.
  • Insist on a detailed, written estimate that clearly states the quantity of materials needed; labor charges; work specifications, including approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures.
  • Carefully review and understand any warranty and watch for conditions that would void it.
  • Be skeptical about lowest bids or those considerably lower than others written for the same job. Many contractors seem attractive because of low bids; however, they may be uninsured and may perform substandard work. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau to check for complaints filed against the contractor.
[Adapted from material supplied by the National Roofing Contractors Association.]

Won’t the experts pick the best roof covering for me?
No. Building codes do not require that roofs be impact resistant, so don’t rely on codes or regulations to protect you. And if you are having a home built, don’t assume that the architect or designer will do your planning for you. For the most part, they call for a generic type, such as wood shakes, asphalt composition shingles, or clay or concrete tiles. If you are putting on a new roof covering or replacing an existing one, it’s up to you to make sure your new roof covering will resist impacts, especially if you live in a hail-prone area.

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