Hail storms may be rare in more temperate regions of Canada, like Vancouver, but they do happen from time to time. By comparison, prairie provinces are much more susceptible to hail storm events, with cities including Calgary and Edmonton prone to multiple hailstorms every year. In those regions, hailstorms are one of the most frequent causes of exterior damage reported to insurance providers.
In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of home insurance and hail damage.
During a thunderstorm, strong updrafts of warm air and downdrafts of cold air begin to circulate in storm cell clouds. The updrafts carry water droplets up above freezing altitude, where they form droplets of ice. Then, downdrafts carry the frozen droplets into warmer air, causing it to partially thaw. There, it runs into more water before being picked up again by another updraft, refreezing and growing larger when it passes through cold air again.
If this cycle repeats enough times, the frozen droplet gets bigger and bigger until it’s finally heavy enough to drop to the ground as hail. The stronger a storm cell is, the longer it can recycle these ice droplets—producing larger and larger hailstones, sometimes getting as large as golf balls or grapefruits.
We’ve all seen the damage hail can do to cars. In the prairie provinces, some car dealerships have tents and shelters to prevent the massive damage that even mild hailstorms can cause to their inventory. If the hail is big enough, it can damage homes, too. Houses are not as easy to protect as vehicles; after all, you probably can’t put a tent up over your house every time dark clouds roll in.
Some home components are more prone to hail damage than others:
Roof shingles, shakes and tiles: Your roof is the most exposed to falling hail, and is most likely to suffer hail damage. Small-to-medium sized hail can erode asphalt shingles, causing granular loss, cracks or small perforations to the shingles. Medium-to-large hail can crack and puncture wood shakes and tiles. Homes with metal roofing panels, while resistant to some sizes of hail, may still dent or crease as they absorb the impact of falling hailstones.
Skylights: While skylights are designed with hail exposure in mind, no skylight can be truly guaranteed to resist the largest hailstones. If a large enough hailstone hits a skylight in just the right place, it can crack or break—just like any other window.
Flashing, chimneys and eavestroughs: Most chimneys, flashing and eavestroughs are made of aluminum. This is a durable material, but once hailstones get big enough, they can still cause dents and cracks. If enough hail falls, eavestroughs and gutters can be clogged with hailstones, causing water overflow or even collapse if the weight of hail and water is too great.
Depending on the strength of the wind, hail can also come down at an angle. In fact, wind-driven hail is very common, and in addition to damaging a home’s roof, it can also damage siding, patios, decks and windows. Beyond the home itself, hail can wreak havoc on plants and trees. For this reason, it’s important to be mindful of old, weak or large branches which extend over your home and could break off when loaded with enough hail.
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Most home insurance policies provide coverage for damage caused by hail, but policy deductibles and limits of coverage vary. Outdoor plants are usually excluded, so if you’re concerned about particularly valuable plants or trees, you might want to have some form of shelter like large pots or a net you can pull over them in a storm.
Whether you have a comprehensive or a named-perils home insurance policy, if hail damage is included in your policy, then damage over your deductible is most likely covered. In response to increasing hail and wind losses, some insurance providers have modified their policies to impose different, higher deductibles for hail damage in areas that are especially prone to hailstorms. Some providers offer the chance to pay extra for a lower hail deductible. If you’re not sure how your individual policy works, contact your insurance provider to review your coverage.
If your roof was old and worn before hail damage occurred, then your insurance provider may not pay the full cost of replacement. They may apply depreciation to your settlement to account for wear and tear that left the roof vulnerable to hail damage. Some insurance providers have even modified their policies to depreciate roofs no matter what causes damage or what condition the roof was in prior to a loss occurring.
There are also some limitations on coverage for siding. If a hailstorm damages just one or two sides of a house, most home insurance policies will only cover the cost of replacing siding on those sides. The policy would cover the cost of replacing damaged siding with new siding from the same manufacturer, and of the same colour and style (as long as it’s still available).
Sometimes, new siding may look different than the old siding, even when they’re exactly the same style and colour as the old. Siding fades over time, so it’s basically impossible to find new siding that matches the faded siding. Unfortunately, most home insurance policies won’t pay to replace all the siding on a home just to get a colour match. Though, they may do so if the original siding is no longer available.
Mobile or manufactured homes often will not be covered for certain types of hail damage. If you live in a mobile or manufactured home, have your insurance provider review your coverage with you, and help you understand what to expect if you suffer a loss.
Check your policy or speak to your home insurance provider to see how your policy works, so that you aren’t taken by surprise if hail damages your home.
It’s important to ensure that you’ve got the broadest home insurance coverage available. That way you know you’re covered, not only for roof damage or broken windows, but also for any water damage to the inside of the home as a result of hail damage to your home’s envelope.
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About the expert: Rena Novotny
Rena's 23-year career started as an independent adjuster where she specialized in complex property, liability and special risk loss. As a branch manager, Rena hired, trained, mentored and coached several adjusters. She continues part-time post-graduate studies in neuro-psychology and traumatization, learning how both may impact the insured's engagement on catastrophic claims. Rena has a MA (Conflict Analysis and Management), CRM, CIP, and holds a level 3 adjusting license.
About the expert: Stefan Tirschler
Stefan is responsible for underwriting leadership, market expansion, and product research and development for Square One's operations. Stefan has earned his Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional designation, and maintains a level 2 general insurance license in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Stefan is also an Education Committee member and CIP/GIE instructor for the Insurance Institute of Canada.
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