Hail Damage: Ding, Dent, or Scratch? Or Something More?

While the states that make up “hail alley”—the Front Range of Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming—get their fair share of hail,1 nearly every region of the U.S. is vulnerable to costly hail damage. In 2023, the U.S. experienced five hail disaster events, each incurring losses that exceeded $1 billion.2 

“It can be so devastating so quickly,” said Del Rae McCullough, ministry insurance specialist with American Church Group of Kansas. “It makes me nervous and anxious to know my customers may be in the midst of a hail event. It’s just nothing that we can control.”

When hail strikes, immediately contact your insurance company to survey the damage, from the roof to the ground. What may seem like minor damage at first can develop into major problems later. The damage report you receive may include the terms “cosmetic damage” and “structural damage.” What’s the difference and what does it mean to the overall integrity of your ministry buildings?  

Cosmetic vs. Structural Damage

Living in hail-prone Kansas, McCullough takes the time to educate her customers on the difference between cosmetic and structural damage. Wind or hail damage that only affects the appearance of exterior surfaces is considered cosmetic damage. The main function of the roof, doors, and windows—which is to protect the inside of the building—is unaffected with this type of exterior damage. Check with your insurance company to see if cosmetic damage is covered by your policy. Brotherhood Mutual includes repairs for cosmetic damage for covered property that easily can be seen from the ground. 

Dings in a metal roof or siding may not look pretty, but they don’t impact the overall functionality of the roof,” explained McCullough. Structural damage is different. It impacts the building’s exterior systems to hold back water. Structural damage also can impact a roof’s ability to stay attached to its structure or shorten the roof’s longevity. Some problems, like damage to an air-conditioning unit, may not be known until you use it months later. During the initial inspection, an independent adjuster or roofing contractor thoroughly assesses the property and notes the damage. 

When hail hits, print our Hail Damage Checklist. This handy checklist helps create a record of damage you’ve observed prior to filing a claim or a visit from an adjuster or contractor.

Small hail vs. large hail—which causes more damage? The answer isn't so obvious. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety® (IBHS), large quantities of small hail can lead to notable granule loss on asphalt shingles that would accelerate the decline of a roof’s service life.3 It's one reason Brotherhood Mutual recommends inspecting your roof following any hail event. 

Lessening the Effects of Hail Damage

Some of McCullough’s customers ask if there’s anything they can do to lessen the chance for damage. “I’m receiving a lot more inquiries about putting on better roofs that can withstand hail,” she said. Mostly, the conversation centers around more hail-resistant roofing materials, but there are other considerations: 

  1. Explore impact-resistant materials. Ministries have several options like commercial metal roofs, including standing seam roof panels, and impact-resistant shingles. A roof covering is classified by its impact resistance rating: Class 1, 2, 3, or 4, with 4 offering the highest impact resistance. 

  2. Look into other roofing options. The FORTIFIED RoofTM method offers a solution that enhances your building’s defense against severe weather.

  3. Protect your HVAC systems. Roof-mounted heating and air-conditioning units are especially vulnerable to hail. Damage to the coils, fins, towers, and vents alone can cost thousands. Sometimes, the damage and downtime associated with a single hailstorm can cost a ministry much more than protecting the equipment in the first place. Hail guards and wire mesh,4 which can be factory-configured or installed after the fact, provide a protective layer without impacting the system’s efficiency.

  4. Consider impact-resistant glass for windows/skylights. This type of window is glazed to be more resistant to shattering. You may live in an area where these already are required by building codes. 

  5. Move vehicles. Pay close attention to weather forecasts, watches, and warnings. When possible, move ministry-owned vehicles to a covered structure, like a parking garage. If moving vehicles is not possible, invest in heavy blankets to cover vehicles.

  6. Prevent injury. Hail can precede heavy rain, lightning, or a tornado, so don’t wait if threatening weather is close by. Bring people and animals inside and stay clear of windows and skylights. Seeking shelter under a tree is an unsafe option and should only be used as a last resort. If you’re in a vehicle, try to find a covered structure as soon as possible. Do not get out of the vehicle until it is safe to do so.

Ask for references

McCullough recommends that ministries talk to their insurance agent for references for reputable roof companies. "Also, ask the company you're considering for references, preferably from other ministries. Finally, talk to peer ministries in your area to see which companies they've used to repair hail damage."

“Hail is odd,” said McCullough. “We can have a hailstorm strike a major city here in Kansas, but only a few places actually will have hail.” Because there is no clear distinction between storms that do and do not produce hail, and hail size and intensity can be unpredictable,5 McCullough explains it’s best to just get out of its way.

“It happens. We’re here to serve you when it does.” 

More Resources

1 “Severe Weather 101: Hail Basics.” The National Severe Storms Laboratory, https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/hail. Accessed 14 March 2024.
2 "Annual 2023 National Climate Report." National Centers for Environmental Information, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, January 2024. www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/national/202313. 
3 "Impact Testing of High Concentrations of Small Hail." Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety®, July 2021. https://ibhs.org/hail/impact-testing-of-high-concentrations-of-small-hail.
4 “Reducing Hail Damage.” Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety®. https://ibhs.org/hail/hail-resources. Accessed 20 February 2020.
5 “Severe Weather 101: Hail Forecasting.” The National Severe Storms Laboratory, https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/hail/forecasting. Accessed 14 March 2024.

Updated March 2024

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.