Hail can wreak havoc on a home, so follow these tips to keep your property safe

By Sara Bruskin

 

If you’ve lived in Boulder County a while, you’ve probably experienced a hailpocalypse. But if you’re new to this area, buckle up! The Front Range features a perfect combination of natural conditions that encourage major hailstorms in spring and summer. Let’s look into the science behind hail to see why our area is so prone to these fly balls of the meteorological world, and what homeowners can do to protect their pads.

Cloud to ground lightning bolts striking the front range foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains in Boulder County. A view of Mount Meeker and Longs Peak in the distance. Photo by James Insogna

Up In the Clouds

The story of hail begins with thunderstorms, which are created when warm air from the south crashes against cold air from the north. Normally, the resulting rain just falls to the ground, but if there’s a strong updraft—which happens quite frequently next to a mountain range—the precipitation flies up into colder parts of the atmosphere and freezes.

In lower elevations and warmer climates, that frozen water generally melts back into rain before it strikes the ground. However, at more than 5,000 feet above sea level, Boulder County is significantly closer to those atmospheric freezing zones, so it’s less likely the hailstones have time to melt before hitting home—literally.

We may not have control over the crazy weather around here, but we can control how prepared we are for its effects. The two main things that will safeguard your house from hail are durable building materials and a comprehensive insurance policy. We chatted with local experts to get advice on both.

Resilient Roofing

If you’re building a brand new house or just replacing an old roof, consider investing in materials that can take a pummeling from hail. JR Baird, director of operations at Scott’s Roofing in Lafayette, says, “The most common shingle upgrade for hail resistance is a Class 4 IR (impact–resistant) asphalt shingle.” This shingle type is made of rubberized asphalt that’s more flexible than standard asphalt, and thus, less brittle and prone to breakage.

Other options, such as concrete tile and stone-coated steel, are considered hail resistant as well. “Concrete tile is probably the most durable option, but not as common due to budget and other considerations,” says Baird, who notes a reputable roofer can walk homeowners through all the options to meet their needs and budget.

While it’s best to use the right materials from the start, oftentimes we end up with whatever roof the previous homeowners installed before we moved in. It wouldn’t be prudent to race out and replace a roof that’s still in good condition, but you can make sure any future damage is accounted for in your homeowners insurance policy.

The deadly combination of wind and hail can take a huge toll on a roof’s structural integrity. Photo by Matt Howard;

Coverage and Claims

No matter the quality of your current roof, it’s a good idea to check and see what kind of support you can expect from your insurance provider in the event of hail damage. Rick Baker, of Rick Baker Insurance in Boulder, advises homeowners to consider shortfalls that may be written into their policies.

First, Baker says, check to make sure you have replacement-cost coverage on your roof, as opposed to actual cash value. If you’re only covered for the latter and file a claim for hail damage, your insurance company will pay out a depreciated settlement that reflects the monetary value of the roof before the claim. Replacement-cost coverage, however, covers the entire expense of a new roof. “Some companies have a prepublished depreciation schedule in the policy that shows the amount percentage of settlement they will allow based on the age and type of roof,” Baker says.

He also advises homeowners to make sure their policy doesn’t have a ‘matching exclusion.’ He cautions, “This exclusion allows the insurance company to replace only the damaged portion of the roof, even if the roofing material or color does not match the existing roof or siding.”

Understanding your deductible is also important, as it may be different for hail-specific claims. Baker says that many companies calculate deductibles for wind and hail damage as a set percentage of the overall dwelling coverage. The usual deductible is 1%, so he notes, “If you have a home with $1,000,000 of dwelling coverage, your wind hail deductible would be $10,000.” Anticipating that deductible can help you plan your finances with disaster preparedness in mind.

If your roof is damaged during a storm, get it inspected and document the damage so you can make an insurance claim as soon as possible. Photo by Lstock.

After the Storm

To reap the benefits of your insurance coverage, you’ll need to quickly assess the damage after a bad hailstorm. Have a reputable local roofer visit your home for a free inspection, and if there is damage, get an estimate of the cost to repair or replace your roof, along with photos of the damage.

Most insurance providers have a one-year time limit for filing a claim, but it varies with different companies, so check your policy and don’t miss the deadline. This isn’t something you want to wait on, anyway. Roof damage can lead to leaks, and moisture damage is a headache and a half.

You can preempt that migraine by following these tips, and go into hail season with increased confidence. (P.S. You also might want to park your car in the garage.)

 


 

Hail-covered vegetable garden. The plants are protected by a strong net. Photo by Tchara.

Protect Your Plants

Hail can wreak havoc on a garden, too. Because the forecast doesn’t always predict hailstorms, you might want to invest in some chicken wire cloches or anti-hail netting to protect your garden all season long.

Strawberries damaged by hail. Photo by Vadym Zaitsev.

If you do get advance storm warning, anything from supported plywood boards to overturned trash cans can work as temporary shelters for your plants. If high winds are expected, use large rocks to weigh down protective equipment.

After a storm, check plants for damage. Broken stems provide optimal breeding grounds for pests, and are also prone to fungal infections. Neatly prune back damaged areas and apply fungal treatments if needed.

—S.B.