Hail…it’s that unpleasant, element hovering somewhere between the magic of snow and the romance of rain. While either one of those weather patterns will have you curling up by the window with some hot tea and a good book, hail will make you wonder if the window is going to shatter as softball size ice pellets straight out of the ten plagues attack your home.
Once the storm is over, you might come outside to find the unpleasant surprise of a damaged roof. Whether your roofing material is metal panels or slate shingles, hail can do serious and irreparable damage.
So what should you do once the storm is over?
Note the damage. Write down the day and time of the storm for your insurance company, so they can verify it with the weather report. Take photos of the damage, and of the hail. Make sure to size the hail by placing some sort of recognizable object next to it.
Take pictures of any damage to natural surroundings like trees and shrubs (because if the hail could damage trees, it can probably damage a house). Also make sure to take pictures of any leaks in the home.
If you have a broken window or a leaking roof, you’ll want to get a contractor out as soon as possible to deal with the emergency. Whether they put up a tarp or install some plywood across the broken pane, protecting the inside of your home from the elements (and any potential break-ins) is paramount.
Be wary of unscrupulous contractors who are chasing the storm, looking for easy work and easy clients. You may be a little bit distracted because of the damage to your home, but don’t let yourself make bad decisions while you’re frazzled.
This is why it’s good to have a network of reliable contractors you’ve already established from previous work. When things like a hail storm happen, you won’t be pressed to try and find someone honest to deal with—you’ll already have their number in your phone.
Contact the insurance company before you do any serious aesthetic work that has a permanent impact. You want to see how much they’re going to pay for, and what they’ll cover. The policy you have will depend on a variety of factors such as the age of your home and roof, the location you reside in, and the limits of your policy.
The roof itself may have had a warranty, but this usually only covers things like manufacturers defects, or problems caused by faulty installation. It’s helpful to have this warranty, of course, but it doesn’t help for finding compensation after a hailstorm. By contrast, your insurance policy will most likely cover damage done by natural disasters, like hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and hailstorms.
Especially problematic is the fact that hail can have a lasting negative effect on your roof, and even void the warranty it came with. This is especially true if your roof is made up of asphalt shingles…and most roofs in the US are. The hail can wear away the granules on the shingles. These granules prevent the roof from succumbing to UV damage, which can dry out the shingles and ruin the roof. Over time, the damage caused by a hailstorm can have some serious repercussions that snowball into irreparable loss that your insurance company won’t cover.
Most insurance companies have a statute of limitations that prevent you from filing claims after a certain amount of time, so it’s important to assess the hail damage as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may move on, thinking everything is hunky dory, until one day, years down the road, some unrelated problem (like leaks or buckling) leads you to look into the roof…only to realize you should have taken care of this years ago.
In any case, you or the contractor will be looking for some signs of damage, which might include broken shingles, missing flashing (along eaves and chimneys) loose paint, and interior water damage.
You’ll also want to take stock of how many granules are in the gutters. Don’t literally count them…that would take way too long. Just asses if there is a lot of buildup in the gutter, from the asphalt shingles getting knocked around.
Of course, there will be other signs that are not so obvious, and harder to look for, so having a good contractor or home inspector come in to asses the damage is key.
Once the contractor has come out and notified you of any damage to the roof, you’ll want to reach out to the insurance company again to set up a date and time for an adjuster to come out.
Similar to when a driver gets into a car accident the adjuster will come out (or you go to them), take a look at your car, and tabulate the cost of the damage. The home insurance adjuster will come out and take a look at the roof, but also surrounding areas of the home, such as the gutters, walls, windows, and more.
The adjuster will be able to explain the claims process to you, and tell you how payment (if any) will occur. If you work with a reputable contractor, they can help you mediate the claim, if necessary, to make sure you get what you need to cover the cost of roof repairs.
Make sure you save all receipts and invoices for work done on the roof, because the insurance company will probably need to take these to compensate you for the work, especially if you need to have an ongoing dialogue with them about the cost of repairs.
In some extreme cases, the insurance company may even need to put you up in a hotel or apartment while work is being done—say, if a tree fell through your roof and into the living room. That could be fun for some, and nightmarish for others…but at least you’re not having to pay for these alternative arrangements.
If this article leaves you with any moral to the story, it should be threefold. First of all, record the damage immediately (date, time, and photographic evidence, including comparison photos that establish the size of the hail).
Get on the process ASAP. Hire a contractor to come out and take a look, and call the insurance company. Second, make sure you always have a list of good contractors to work with, because in times like this, you may be tricked into settling for second best.
Also, contractors may be busy rushing around to a lot of different homes in your area, so it helps to make friends and build connections that will give you some priority.
Thirdly, having a good home insurance policy is paramount. You can’t rely on your roof’s warranty for storm damage. Moreover, your bank or mortgagee will probably require you to have a policy anyway.