Is insurance available for hail storm damage?

Reviewed by Rena Novotny and Stefan Tirschler

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.

Hail drops

What causes hail?

During a thunderstorm, strong updrafts of warm air and downdrafts of cold air begin to circulate in storm cell clouds. Water droplets are carried up above freezing altitude by the updrafts, where they form droplets of ice. Then, downdrafts carry the frozen droplets into warmer air, causing it to partially thaw, where 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.

Can hail actually damage my home?

We’ve all seen the damage hail can do to a car; in the prairie provinces, some car dealerships have begun to construct 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 cause damage to homes, which 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, so it makes sense that the roof is most likely to suffer hail damage. Small-to-medium sized hail can begin to 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 eaves troughs: Most chimneys, flashing and eaves troughs are made of aluminum, whether painted or plain. This is a durable material, but once hailstones get big enough, dents and cracks can still occur. If enough hail falls, eaves troughs and gutters can be clogged with hailstones, causing water overflow or even collapse if the weight of hail and water is too much to support.

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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What can I do if my home suffers hail damage?

Most home insurance policies provide coverage for damage caused by hail, but policy deductibles and limits of coverage can 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 of these providers will still allow you to purchase lower deductibles if desired. 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. Depreciation may be applied to your settlement in order to account for wear and tear that left the roof vulnerable to hail damage, contributing to the loss that ultimately occurred. 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 tends to fade 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.

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 a loss occurs.

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.

Contact your insurance provider to make sure you have the broadest coverage available. You’ll want to make sure that you’re covered, not only for any 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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