Hail is one of the biggest threats to a roof. Most common in the Midwest, hail storms can strike anywhere and typically cause more than $1 billion in damages each year in the U.S.

Hailstones can range from small bits of ice to chunks the size of a softball, and the larger the ice that hits, the more damage can be done to your roof. Common hail-caused issues include:

  • Holes and split seams that cause leaks
  • Missing or damaged asphalt shingles
  • Cracked or broken tile, slate or concrete shingles
  • Flooded gutters or clogged downspouts caused by accumulated shingle granules or other roof debris
  • Dents on vents, gutters or flashing

What can you as a homeowner do to minimize hail damage? If you install a new roof from scratch, you'll want to make sure your roofing contractor installs a sturdy roof decking and slopes the roof to withstand more hail. But for most homeowners, scrapping their existing roof and starting over isn't practical. Instead, look at replacing your shingles with impact-resistant asphalt shingles.

You may like the look of other types of shingles, but tile or slate shingles are easily cracked or broken by hailstones. Roofing material manufacturers have developed asphalt shingles that are well-suited to areas where hail is a concern.

In 1996, the UL 2218 classification was developed to set standards for roofing materials that could withstand hail damage. Materials are rated at Class 1 through Class 4, with Class 4 being the toughest and best able to escape hailstorms unscathed. Testing during the development of the standard included dropping steel balls between 1.25 inches and 2 inches on sample roofs to simulate various sizes of hailstones.

Out of this process, modified asphalt shingles were developed to be stronger and more flexible than any that had existed prior to development of the standard. These shingles are more like rubber and can keep hail from breaking the structure of the shingle. Asphalt is also less expensive than some types of hail and wind-resistant roofing materials, like aluminum, copper and plastic, that had previously been used to thwart hail.

Because impact-resistant shingles don't look any different from standard shingles, check to make sure that they are identified as Class 3 or Class 4 products. Talk to your roofing contractor to make sure that these high-resistant products are part of your new roof cost proposal; you should also check the materials when they are delivered to your home to make sure they are resistant.