Roof Inspection for Hail Damage

by Rick Abbott PE, SE

When attempting to determine if an asphalt roof was damaged by hail, a number of items should be considered.  The following questions are just thoughts compiled from inspecting 100's of roofs, and researching the published information on hail.  Traditionally, professional engineers have been used to provide unbiased inspections in order to evaluate roofs that were possibly damaged by hail.  Roofs that are clearly damaged by hail are not challenged because the damage is obvious.  The buildings located on the edge of a hail event are normally the ones that can be more challenging to determine if the hail caused damage.

It is normally a good practice to use an unbiased professional engineer when the cause of damage is not known, but professional engineers are not required.  Common sense is required.  An unbiased opinion is required.  A careful inspection is required.  An inspection by someone familiar with the following questions is required.  The inspection of an asphalt roof requires careful observations, and a little bit of understanding with regard to how roofing materials function and age.

Are large numbers of asphalt shingled roofs being replace unnecessarily in the USA? If your answer is “yes”, then why is this waste happening in an age of increased environment awareness? Who we kidding? Hail inspection is not rocket science.  There are less than 100 questions to consider, and 6 requirements to do the inspection right.

Most can think through this thought process on their own.  Some need a little convincing of the facts.  What is required to do a good roof inspection?  The following 6 requirements are needed:

  1. A good eye
  2. A clear conscience
  3. An unbiased view point
  4. A desire to seek the truth
  5. A little knowledge about roofing materials
  6. A ladder

The following 95 questions are questions that should be considered when evaluating a roof.

  1. What was the condition of the roof prior to the storm?
  2. What happened during the storm or since the storm?
  3. Was the roof functioning prior to the storm?
  4. Did the roof shed water?
  5. Did the roof leak prior to the storm?
  6. Did the roof leak after the storm?
  7. Did the roof look new, old, or worn?
  8. Was the roof dead? Had it exceeded its useful life?
  9. How old was the roof?
  10. Had there been repairs completed and why?
  11. How long was the roofing product expected to last?
  12. What was the manufacturer's published warrantee?
  13. What specifically did the hail do at the property?
  14. What effect did the hail have on the property?
  15. Will the roof need to be replaced or can it be repaired?​​
  16. What does the weather data show?
  17. What size hail was reported?
  18. Where was the hail report relative to the property?
  19. What did the radar hail maps show hail at the property?
  20. Was the house within the areas identified by radar?
  21. Were there eye witnesses?
  22. Did the owner witness hail at the property?
  23. What was reported on the NOAA weather website?
  24. What size is accepted threshold damaging hail size?
  25. What was the estimated hail size at the location?
  26. How did the estimated size compare with threshold size?
  27. Was the hail soft or hard?
  28. What pre-existing conditions were present?
  29. Did pre-existing conditions affect roof resistance?
  30. What direction did the hail come from?
  31. Was the wind strong?
  32. Was there a lot of rain with the storm?​
  33. Was the rain all at once or over a long period of time?
  34. How much rain was measured?
  35. What trajectory did the hail take when striking the roof?
  36. What else was damaged at the property?
  37. Was a sample of the hail taken and preserved?
  38. Where photographs taken of the hail?
  39. Were there spatter marks on painted surfaces?
  40. Were there spatter marks on algae stained surfaces?
  41. How big were the spatter marks?
  42. Did the roof have other problems?
  43. Were the shingles balding, streaking, or blistering?
  44. Were the shingles organic mat or fiberglass?
  45. Were there man-made scuff marks or walking paths?
  46. Had damaged occurred due to animals?
  47. Did the shaded areas have moss or algae?
  48. Had vandalism, or fraud been ruled out?
  49. Have the roof blemishes reduced the life expectancy?
  50. What were the angles of the roof slopes?
  51. What angle did the hail make with the roof surfaces?
  52. Was the hail impact perpendicular?
  53. Were all slopes affected?
  54. What was the make-up of the roof?
  55. What was under the top layer?
  56. Were there more than one layer of roofing materials?
  57. What material was installed in the valleys?
  58. What material was installed on the ridges?
  59. Were the edges of the roof supported?
  60. Were unsupported edges broken?
  61. Were there noticeable bruising, depressions, or tears?
  62. Was there recent granule loss?
  63. What did the blemishes look like?
  64. What was the distances between the blemishes?
  65. Was there a pattern to the location of blemishes?
  66. Did the pattern extend to the dangerous edges?
  67. Were there blemishes in hard to reach areas?
  68. How many blemishes were on each slope?
  69. Who has been up on the roof?
  70. How long were unsupervised people on the roof?
  71. What else was damaged on the property?
  72. What else was damaged in the area?
  73. What were the conditions of other items exposed items?
  74. Were other items dented on the property?
  75. Was the mail box dented?
  76. Were the gutters dented? Which ones?
  77. Was the stained wood decks cleaned?
  78. Were the window frames dented?
  79. Were the AC fins dented? Which sides?
  80. Was the garage doors dented?
  81. Were the downspouts dented?
  82. Was the fascia dented?
  83. Where yard toys dented?
  84. What was the condition of the shed?
  85. What was the condition of the wood fences?
  86. What was the condition of the yard plants?
  87. Were the roof vents dented?
  88. Where the exterior lights damaged?
  89. Were the exhaust caps dented?
  90. Were the roof vents dented?
  91. What was the condition of exposed flashing?
  92. Were the window screens dented?
  93. Was the condition of the patio furniture?
  94. What was the condition of the siding?
  95. What was the condition of the painted surfaces?

Don't misunderstand the issue of damage and coverage.  If the roof is damaged by hail, action needs to be taken, but more times than not, owners are convinced they need a new roof when they haven't even looked at it.  Why is this so?  Is it due to overly aggressive contractors and the talk of large hail nearby?  or worse?

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