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 every region of the U.S. is vulnerable to costly hail damage. Only Alaska and Hawaii did not report a large hail event in both 20182 and 2019.3  

“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.4 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. 

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 and fins alone can cost thousands. Hail guards,5 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.

“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 hail can be difficult for meteorologists to forecast,6 and unpredictable in size and intensity, McCullough explains it’s best to just get out of its way. “It happens. We’re here to serve you when it does.” 

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. 

1 “Severe Weather 101: Hail Basics.” The National Severe Storms Laboratory. https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/hail, Accessed 9 March 2020.
2 “Annual Severe Weather Report Summary 2018.” NOAA National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. https://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/online/monthly/2018_annual_summary.html, Last modified 28 January 2019.
3 “Annual Severe Weather Report 2019.” NOAA National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. https://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/online/monthly/2019_annual_summary.html, Last modified 13 January 2020.
4 O’Connor, Amy. “Will Wind/Hail Cosmetic Damage Exclusion Endorsements Become the Norm?” Insurance Journal, 7 March 2013. https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2013/03/07/283640.htm
5 “Reducing Hail Damage.” Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety®. https://ibhs.org/hail/hail-resources. Accessed 20 February 2020.
6 “Severe Weather 101: Hail Forecasting.” The National Severe Storms Laboratory, https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/hail/forecasting.