A hail storm is an exciting event - after all, how often do you get to see the ground covered with ice in the middle of the summer? But while you're taking photos to send to your local weather station, your roof could be taking a beating. Although it might not occur to you that a simple hail storm could wreak havoc on your tough, sturdy roofing material, hail is one of the most destructive influences your home faces on a regular basis. Preparation long before a storm and inspection immediately after one are the two keys to controlling hail damage to your roof.
It looks like packing popcorn bouncing in the front yard, but each hailstone is a rock-hard chunk of ice falling at high speed through the air. If you've ever been caught in a hail storm, you know what it feels like for it to pelt you. And the bigger the stones are, the more damage they do. Hail the size of golf balls really is like someone assaulting your roof with large rocks! This kind of attack weakens both the shingles and the structure underneath. If the hail is unusually large, it can even cause damage that demands immediate attention.
There are a few factors other than the ice chunks themselves that affect exactly how much damage your roof suffers during a storm. A major one is the pitch, or slope severity, of your roof. A relatively flat roof is generally in trouble, because the hail hits it at a straight-on angle as it falls straight down. The impact has a more pronounced effect on whatever it hits. Another factor is wind speed during the storm. If the wind is blowing the hail to the side, you might escape major damage on the roof, but get damage to your siding and windows instead. Finally, if your shingles are old, dried out, and brittle, a hail stone will be more likely to crack them and knock the protective granules off them.
Your roof is important. You don't see it every day, but it's always working hard to keep moisture and debris from ruining the structure just underneath the shingles. The most important thing you can do is to prepare for hail by making sure your shingles are not vulnerable when the storm hits. Replace your roof when necessary, and use high quality materials that will withstand hail impact. Installation methods are key as well. Even the best shingles can't help you if they don't overlap correctly, leaving spots vulnerable to damage.
After a storm strikes, don't assume that the roof is all right! Either climb up and look for damage yourself, or have a professional do it. If you hope to have any damage covered by insurance, it is critical to get an inspection immediately after the storm. The longer you wait, the more likely the insurance company will be to claim that the damage probably didn't happen because of hail.