The 29th of September 2014 thunderstorm blew in without much warning during the Centennial / Highlands Ranch, Colorado early afternoon rush hour. When softball-size hail smashed through the roof of a local restaurant, customer Steve Franklin headed for safety to escape falling debris and glass shards from exploding windows. Franklin, a National Weather Division veteran, knew this fall storm would make national headlines.
“The hail punched right through the ceiling,” Franklin said. “The hailstones knocked ceiling tiles loose and rainwater cascaded down from the electrical fixtures. I hid out in the restaurant’s basement room along with the other customers and employees. I found out later the storm injured eight people.” An experienced weatherman, Franklin knew that the fierce storm had passed directly over his home in Centennial. “I called my insurer and the claim adjuster told me the roof had to be replaced. Afterwards, property insurance premiums went up fifteen percent in my area.”
Fortunately, most storms aren't as violent as the one Franklin experienced, and hail larger than baseball size is rare. “Ninety percent of hail is golf ball size or less,” said contractor Bill Beezley, of Parker Remodeling in Douglas County. However, while smaller hailstones may not fracture standard roof shingles, damage still remains.
“Hailstones damage asphalt roof shingles by knocking their granular covering loose,” said Colorado State engineering professor, Dr. Jeff Johnson. “Once enough granules are knocked off, the shingles’ underlying asphalt is exposed. Then sunlight deteriorates the asphalt and water enters the house.”
Wind and hail-related roof losses are an enormous loss pressure for casualty coverage providers. “Roof claims represent a substantial part of most property insurance companies’ portfolios, and insurance premiums are based on losses. So as claim losses mount, property insurers actively seek ways to mitigate them.
Roofing standards to the rescue
Recent developments in roofing material production promise an effective way to mitigate roof loss claims, and are within financial reach of most homeowners. Impressive laboratory and field test results prove how these new materials, often called “impact resistant,” can make homeowner roofs nearly impervious to most wind and hail-related damage.
So what is impact resistance “IR”? Prior to 1996 it was common knowledge that certain materials offered better wind and hail protection than did others, but no defining standard existed. So in 1996, in an effort to tackle the roof loss problem, several property insurance industry experts teamed with the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) to develop the UL 2218 classification. UL 2218 set a national standard for roof impact resistance by rating materials from Class 1 through Class 4, based on their resistance to impact testing with steel and Ice balls simulating 110-mph hailstones of varying sizes. A Class 4 rating is the toughest.
Roofing manufacturers began producing affordable Class 4 roof materials that had been commercially unavailable before 1997. Modified asphalt shingles are stronger and more flexible than standard ones. The rubber-like quality prevents hail from fracturing the fiberglass mat, eliminating premature deterioration. The added flexibility also makes the shingles more wind resistant, making it harder for high winds to blow them off.
Class 4 products made of aluminum, copper, plastic and resin shingles have been available for years, but they cost considerably more than standard roofing materials. With the introduction of modified asphalt materials, many more homeowners are able to achieve greater wind and hail resistance than ever before.
How much protection do the new modified asphalt roof shingles offer? Bill Beezley (Contractor/Roofer) said, “I replaced a wood shingle roof with the new hail resistant materials. Thirty days later after the 29th of September hailstorm, I climbed up and looked around. I couldn't find one hit on the roof.” Impact resistant roofs definitely work said Bill: They can stand up to a 110-mph wind for a prolonged period. The shingles blow up and curl in the wind, but when the wind dies they just settle back down.”
Though impact resistant shingles cost more, they pay for themselves over the long term. “These products cost ten to twenty percent more than comparable weight, non-impact resistant roofing products but since they have increased damage resistance, homeowners who install them will greatly reduce their roofing maintenance costs and may eliminate premature roof replacement altogether, possibly adding to a home’s value at resale time.
Policy premium discounts can go a long way in helping homeowners recover roof replacement costs, depending on the property’s location
Even stronger materials may become commonly available in a few years. Some roofing manufacturers have begun experimenting with substances that have been used for other applications, but never as roof coverings.
As for homeowners, they might consider Arapahoe County, Colorado resident Steve Franklin’s experience with a Class 4 roof. “I don’t think about storms anymore. I just let it hail.”