Damage To Structures and Personal Property

When some of us see a cumulonimbus cloud moving our direction we get nervous. We take the time to put blankets or moving pads over our vehicles, pull the gas grill under the patio cover, and call the kids inside. Why shouldn't we? While the average cloud weighs 25 tons, the mighty cumulonimbus cloud (the kind that brings thunderstorms and hailstorms) weighs as much as 10,000,000 tons and produces lightning that burns at 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit - nearly five times the surface temperature of the sun. Those of us that take these types of precautions are the ones who have experienced the power of a thunderstorm (and its aftermath) firsthand. In fact, ever since seeing a house in Edmund, Oklahoma that had just been torn in half by a tornado, we have been much more cautious about venturing outdoors when a cumulonimbus cloud is in sight.

Understanding the type of damage that hailstones will cause to structures and personal property is important because in our experience, many property owners tend to discount the severity of the damage and the consequences of putting off or failing to perform permanent repairs in a timely manner. Doing so can promote the progressive deterioration of your property, void manufacturer warranties (most roofing material warranties are voided by hailstone impact) and costly equity loss or concessions when it comes time to sell your property. There are four primary reasons why property owners do not give hail damage the attention it deserves:

1.) They are unaware of the true scope of damage to their property. According to property casualty insurance policies it is the policyholder's duty to document the loss. Insurance Adjusters are there to confirm damage that is being claimed and identify the Proximate Cause (the root cause of the damages) to verify that the Claim is valid. Adjusters DO NOT have a duty to perform a through inspection to discover every intricacy of the damage and bring it to the policyholder's attention. This relationship and these responsibilities are clearly spelled out in insurance policies but most policyholders to not read them.

2.) Property owners and (often times) their contractors minimize the need to repair damages that appear minimal or are out-of-sight believing it is not worth the time or money to properly address. They underestimate the consequences of doing nothing.

3.) Property owners have other items or upgrades that they wish to spend their insurance allowance on. For instance, if they want to upgrade their roof shingles to a Class 4 Impact Resistant shingle, then they don't mind putting off painting a gouged belly band and window trims or living with unsightly dents in the gutters.

4.) Property owners cannot find suitable labor or contractors who are willing to perform small jobs so they give up trying or else perform inadequate repairs themselves.

Policyholder Duties

According to Andrew Wallingford, author of The Claim Game, There are five primary things that policyholders MUST DO after experiencing property damage:

1.) Safety - Secure your property to prevent anyone from being injured. For instance, if shards of window glass litter your bathroom floor, clean them up. If the task requires requires a professional (like a downed power line) immediately hire the professional. Securing your property is not optional, it is a requirement of your policy.

2.) Reporting Damages - Call your insurance company and report the damages. They will want to know the type of peril, the date of the loss, and an idea of what the most severe damage is. Keep track of your claim number. Reporting your claim in a timely manner is another requirement of your policy although with hail damage, some insurance companies are benevolent because they realize that you may have not been aware of the damages (to a roof for instance) right away.

3.) Temporary Repairs - Your insurance company may 'Authorize' temporary repairs when you call in your Claim but their authorization is inconsequential. You are REQUIRED to make temporary repairs to prevent further loss. For instance, if wind blew shingles off your roof, you must tarp the roof to prevent water from damaging the interior of your home. If you have a broken window; board it up. If you need to hire a professional, then by all means do so. Insurance companies have the legal right to deny your claim in part or in full if you were negligent to perform your duties as the policyholder. The good news is that your insurance company will reimburse you for temporary repair costs that you can document if they determine that the peril is covered. (If a tree fell in your front yard and did not land on a structure, you would have no coverage because it did not damage your property. You would not be reimbursed for putting up caution tape, filling the hole the root system created, or removing the tree from the property,)

4.) Documentation - Thoroughly documenting your loss can "mean the difference between a fair and satisfying settlement and getting left holding the bag." Document all damages, repair time and costs, events and communications with your insurance company or contractors with notes, receipts, invoices, photos, video, a conversation log, etc. Even if a friend, or a family member helped make temporary or permanent repairs to your property, have them write an invoice. The insurance company will reimburse you for your time or theirs if you can document it.

5.) Damaged Property - If you have a pile of damaged property (like roofing shingles) or personal property (like broken flower pots) DO NOT discard them (even if you take photos first). As annoying as it may be to have a pile of junk in your yard, your insurance company has the right to inspect the loss as well as salvage rights. There is nothing wrong with putting debris and damaged property in a 'neat' pile or piles but DO NOT remove it from your property until the Adjuster has a chance to look at it in person. In the meantime, you can document the value of your personal property that was lost. For instance, a dented gas grill, broken flower pots, a broken bird feeder, plastic toys, etc. can quickly add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars your insurance company is willing to pay you that you NEARLY threw away!

Biggest Policyholder Mistakes

The Wrong Contractor

In our experience, more than 90% of the companies that sell hail restoration services are only interested in addressing the roof and gutters because they are quick to repair and generally the most profitable trades. They lure property owners into focusing on the 'low-hanging fruit' (a new roof) instead of the property owner's legitimate need to restore their home to a true, pre-loss condition (the purpose of property insurance). It is ESSENTIAL that property owners understand that they can only hold a contractor accountable for repairs that the contractor actually performs. For instance, if the contractor glosses over $15,000 worth of repairs in his estimate for you/your insurance company, he will not be held accountable for the suppressed information. These types of contractors (usually 'roofing' contractors) do not have the skill set to address all of your property damage which means that they actually have a VESTED INTEREST IN NOT HELPING YOU.

What Works

The best solution for getting all of your hail damage addressed by your insurance company and performing proper repairs in the proper order (which will preserve - even increase the equity in your property) is to hire a legitimate restoration contractor that has the staff, knowledge, dedication and attention to detail that you need to get the job done right. Just remember that you (as the property owner and policyholder) have the power and responsibility of oversight. You must be involved in the process and consistently communicate with your contractor and insist that your contractor communicate with you. If something that your contractor tells you does not make sense or 'doesn't seem to add up', demand 3rd party documentation to demonstrate that what you are being told is credible.

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External Links

WikipediA Hail



According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), "damage from hail approaches $1 billion in the US each year". Hail sizes are categorized as:

The velocity at which hail is falling when it strikes the ground varies by the size of the stone, friction, wind speed and direction, and collisions with raindrops and other hailstones. On average, Pea sized hail is falling at about 20mph when it strikes the ground, Golf Ball at about 52mph and Teacup size hail is falling at about 110mph when it strikes the ground.

It is unusual for larger hailstones to fall perpendicular to the ground when reaching lower altitudes. The thunderstorms that produce large hail typically have violent, swirling winds that fling hailstones in all directions. After a severe hailstorm, it is not uncommon to find piles of hailstones rather than an even dispersion. In fact, in 2006 this writer saw massive hailstone impacts on three sides on one home with the fourth side completely untouched. On the westward side of the home, there were hailstone impacts on the siding only 18 inches below a balcony that cantilevered out 12 feet from the home. The glass from shattered windows was so widely disbursed that the carpets in the entire home required replacement.

Thunderstorm Basics (Taken from the NOAA NSSL)

What is a thunderstorm?

A thunderstorm is a rain shower during which you hear thunder. Since thunder comes from lightning, all thunderstorms have lightning. A thunderstorm is classified as "severe" when it contains one or more of the following: hail three-quarter inch or greater, winds gusting in excess of 50 knots (57.5 mph), tornado.

What is known?

An average thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. At any given moment, there are roughly 2,000 thunderstorms in progress around the world. It is estimated that there are 100,000 thunderstorms each year. About 10% of these reach severe levels.

How does a thunderstorm form?

Three basic ingredients are required for a thunderstorm to form: moisture, rising unstable air (air that keeps rising when given a nudge), and a lifting mechanism to provide the "nudge."

The sun heats the surface of the earth, which warms the air above it. If this warm surface air is forced to rise -- hills or mountains, or areas where warm/cold or wet/dry air bump together can cause rising motion -- it will continue to rise as long as it weighs less and stays warmer than the air around it. As the air rises, it transfers heat from the surface of the earth to the upper levels of the atmosphere (the process of convection). The water vapor it contains begins to cool, releasing the heat, and it condenses into a cloud. The cloud eventually grows upward into areas where the temperature is below freezing. Some of the water vapor turns to ice and some of it turns into water droplets. Both have electrical charges. Ice particles usually have positive charges, and rain droplets usually have negative charges. When the charges build up enough, they are discharged in a bolt of lightning, which causes the sound waves we hear as thunder.

The Thunderstorm Life Cycle

Thunderstorms have a life cycle of three stages: The developing stage, the mature stage, and the dissipating stage.

The developing stage of a thunderstorm is marked by a cumulus cloud that is being pushed upward by a rising column of air (updraft). The cumulus cloud soon looks like a tower (called towering cumulus) as the updraft continues to develop. There is little to no rain during this stage but occasional lightning. The developing stage lasts about 10 minutes.

The thunderstorm enters the mature stage when the updraft continues to feed the storm, but precipitation begins to fall out of the storm, and a downdraft begins (a column of air pushing downward). When the downdraft and rain-cooled air spreads out along the ground it forms a gust front, or a line of gusty winds. The mature stage is the most likely time for hail, heavy rain, frequent lightning, strong winds, and tornadoes. The storm occasionally has a black or dark green appearance.

Eventually, a large amount of precipitation is produced and the updraft is overcome by the downdraft beginning the dissipating stage. At the ground, the gust front moves out a long distance from the storm and cuts off the warm moist air that was feeding the thunderstorm. Rainfall decreases in intensity, but lightning remains a danger.


The supercell is a highly organized thunderstorm. Supercells are rare, but pose a high threat to life and property. A supercell is similar to the single-cell storm because they both have one main updraft. The difference in the updraft of a supercell is that the updraft is extremely strong, reaching estimated speeds of 150-175 miles per hour. The main characteristic which sets the supercell apart from the other thunderstorm types is the presence of rotation. The rotating updraft of a supercell (called a mesocyclone when visible on radar) helps the supercell to produce extreme severe weather events, such as giant hail (more than 2 inches in diameter, strong downbursts of 80 miles an hour or more, and strong to violent tornadoes.

The surrounding environment is a big factor in the organization of a supercell. Winds are coming from different directions to cause the rotation. And, as precipitation is produced in the updraft, the strong upper-level winds blow the precipitation downwind. Hardly any precipitation falls back down through the updraft, so the storm can survive for long periods of time.

The leading edge of the precipitation from a supercell is usually light rain. Heavier rain falls closer to the updraft with torrential rain and/or large hail immediately north and east of the main updraft. The area near the main updraft (typically towards the rear of the storm) is the preferred area for severe weather formation.

---------------End NOAA NSSL Content---------------

Property Damaging Hail Photos

1.75" hailstone. The clarity of this stone is an indication that it is very dense and will cause substantial damage on impact. This stone is large enough to damage trees, shrubs, fences, paint, screens, windows, shingles, gutters, other soft metals, siding, automobiles, travel trailers, skylights, air conditioners, and more.

1.5" to 2" hailstones. Notice leaf debris ont the lawn in the background. Foliage on the ground is the best indication that a hailstorm has passed through. If you arrive home and see a significant amount of leaf debris on the ground, it is a good idea to have your property inspected. Hailstones usually melt quickly from the substantial rainfall that follows the hail.

Holes from hailstone impact of this size and depth are unusual but depressions in your lawn or flowerbeds are a strong indication that a hailstorm has hit your property.

This is the size of hailstone that created the holes in the lawn above. A hailstone this size weighs over a pound and has the capacity to crash through a roof, skylight or deck as well as seriously injure or kill humans and livestock.

This photo is to accompany the content in the sidebar. It is a prime example of why leaving even minor hail damages un-detected and/or un-repaired can be costly. This minor hail damage to a fascia/barge board that went un-repaired for five months. If it had been detected and repaired immediately it would have required sanding, priming, and painting. Left untouched for five months, it degraded to the point that the paint was peeling and the wood was rotting. To perform a repair the shingle molding had to be replaced (which required several shingles to be removed and re-installed) and everything had to be sanded, caulked, primed, and painted. If the damage had gone unattended much longer, the expensive replacement of the barge rafter may have been required. Leaving even minor hail damage un-repaired can become VERY costly over time.


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