Class 4 Shingles: The Making of a Durable and Impact Resistant Roof

September 3rd, 2020 BY First American Roofing

Your roof is supposed to protect your home from the elements, so it must be built to withstand even the most severe storms. High winds, rain, blowing debris, and hail storms can significantly affect the structural integrity of your roof and roofing shingles if the damage they cause isn’t dealt with quickly.

To keep their homes protected from hail and other storms, many homeowners choose to work with a local roofing company to install durable roofing materials like:

Although there are many great roofing materials to select from, asphalt shingles have remained number one across the country for decades – and for tons of great reasons. Many roofing experts believe that the most durable roofing systems are made using impact-resistant, class 4 shingles.

So, are these high-performance shingles actually worth installing on your home? Let’s dive into the world of impact-resistant shingle systems to find out if they are the right fit for your new roof!

What Are Impact Resistant Shingles?

Impact-resistant shingles are those that have been built to withstand more impact from debris or hail than other models. They are designed with greater flexibility, having gone through the “steel ball test” or UL 2218 standard testing. Class 4 impact-resistant shingles offer the highest level of durability compared to other classes of asphalt shingles.

How Are Impact Resistant Shingles Made?

Impact-resistant shingles, or IR shingles, are engineered for greater flexibility so they won’t immediately crack on impact during hail storms or when high winds blow debris around. One way to make class 4 impact-resistant shingles is by adding a flexible polymer mesh to the back of your regular asphalt shingles. Doing this can help absorb impact after being hit and keep the shingle from cracking during a storm.

Another way class 4 impact-resistant shingles are engineered is by mixing a rubber-like polymer material with the asphalt used in the manufacturing of your basic roofing shingle. This makes the shingles much more rubbery and bouncy, thus limiting the full impact of hail or other debris during a storm. No matter how they are manufactured, impact-resistant shingles withstand more impact than their counterparts, particularly class 4 impact-resistant shingles.

How Is Impact Resistance Determined?

Shingles that have been tested to withstand the force of large hail or debris using Underwriter Laboratories standard testing 2218 will be categorized based on how they sustain damage. The test includes dropping a steel ball from varying heights and speeds to simulate hail hitting your shingles during a storm.

During the UL2218 testing, a 2-inch steel ball dropped from 20 feet signifies the relative impact of a large golf ball-sized piece of hail. When hit with a ball of hail this size, your average asphalt shingle would show cracking or breakage beneath the impact area. Class 4 impact-resistant shingles would not.

What Are the Different Classes of Roofing Shingles?

The different classes of shingles are determined by the impact they can withstand based on the size of the steel ball used and the height from which the ball is dropped. The ball is dropped twice in the same spot, and if no damage is seen, the shingle meets that class. So, technically, classes 1 through 4 all withstand impact to a certain level, but 4 is the highest and most impact-resistant of them all.

It’s important to remember that 2-inch-sized hail is bigger than the “golf ball-sized” hail you hear referenced, which is relatively rare. Since this impact resistance test uses a 2-inch steel ball, you could probably get by with a class 3-rated shingle if your home is located in an area that is not frequently hit with severe storms that bring such big hail.

Do I Need Class 4 Shingles?

The answer is: it depends. If your house has a low-pitched roof and does not often face the threat of hail storms or high winds, then you may be adequately covered with class 3 shingles. However, if you live in an area that experiences these threats more frequently — like Texas or “Tornado Alley,” for example — we recommend going with class 4 for that added protection.

In addition, class 4 impact-resistant shingles should be the sole choice for those living in Tornado Alley and hurricane zones, for sure. You don’t want to wind up like Dorothy and Toto after your roofing materials are torn off in a tornado. Class 4 impact-resistant shingles stop intense wind storms and tornadoes from doing too much damage.

The benefits of class 4 shingles also apply to those living in midwestern states like Wisconsin or Minnesota because you can rest easy any time severe rain or hail storms, strong winds, and the occasional tornado warning roll in. This is one of those occasions when spending the extra money upfront for the highest quality products is 100% worth it.

hail damage

How Can Hail Damage My Roofing Materials?

While it might be easy to spot a fresh new dent on the hood of your car since the mark is right in front of your eyes, hail damage on your roof is not as apparent because the shingle surface is hard to see from down below. Roof damage from hail may come in many forms and varying degrees of severity, especially depending on where you live.

Regardless of the hail’s actual size, strong winds can speed up the rate at which it impacts your roof. In fact, smaller sizes of hail can actually create worse damage on your roof than usual. So, how can you tell when hail has damaged your roof?

Here are the different ways in which hail can damage your shingles.

Loss of Granules

Asphalt roofing shingles are covered in small, bumpy granules that protect the asphalt coating beneath and help water flow off your roof. They are necessary for keeping your roof sealed, secure, and protected from leaks.

Hail can knock off these granules, exposing your asphalt coating to the elements. If not repaired eventually, this granule loss can allow the asphalt/fiberglass mat to dry out and crack, leaving you susceptible to leaks.

The typical granule loss process generally takes years, but it can also be sped up when your roof is hit with storm damage. You should be able to see granule loss by the slight discoloration in your shingles, almost like a part was rubbed away. Or you might notice your gutters becoming filled with granules from the shingles.

Obvious Divots or Dents

Large-sized balls of hail can leave much more substantial and visible dents or divots in your roof’s shingles. Unlike smaller, cosmetic dents and cracks, these will be relatively easy to spot as they indicate a change in the smoothness of your shingle’s surface.

This kind of damage will typically involve both a dent in your roof and a loss of granules on your shingles. Dents can also crack the asphalt coating underneath the shingle, leaving your roof susceptible to leaks.

Scratches or Cracks

Hail does not have a smooth outside, despite being ball-shaped. The small conglomerations of ice often have relatively jagged edges, and if the wind blows them sideways, they can scrape along your roof or on the side of your house. That scraping can cause significant scratches that are both cosmetically unpleasing and structurally damaging, as they may lead to more granule loss in your shingles.

Scratches also may not necessarily dent your roof but will indeed leave cracks on the surface or underneath on the coating. Watch for these minor scratches and cracks. A professional should be able to spot these during the inspection.

class 4 shingles

Benefits of Class 4 Impact Resistant Shingles (In Simpler Terms)

We’ve talked about the science behind impact-resistant shingles and the Underwriters Lab tests they undergo to be classified, as well as what can be behind things like cracks, scratches, divots, or dents.

But what are the actual benefits of class 4 shingles that should have homeowners considering installing them? Take a look below:

Lower Frequency of Roof Damage/Repair

What the UL2218 test shows is that class 4 impact-resistant shingles won’t bend, crack, or tear when hit with large, high-speed hail. This is an incredible innovation and can save tons of time and money for both homeowners and contractors.

In areas with frequent hail storms or high winds and tornadoes, contractors can get overwhelmed with the number of damaged roofs. That can mean you might not be seen for weeks or more, leaving you without a working roof. However, when homeowners have class 4 impact-resistant shingles installed, they can have less frequent and severe damage incidents that require a consultation with a roofing contractor for roof repairs.

Extended Lifespan

Your roof is at its highest level of performance and structural integrity when it’s first installed. That integrity lessens as time goes on, but proper annual maintenance and tactics to prevent damage can help lengthen the time your roof stays intact.

By installing impact-resistant shingles, you are giving your roof even more ability to withstand high winds and strong storms with hail, which can help it last longer and to its intended lifespan.

Eligible for Discounts

Homeowners should look into installing class 4 impact-resistant shingles because they’re eligible for a discount. Sometimes, contractors and insurance companies offer discounts to homeowners who install impact-resistant roofing shingles (some as much as 25%), which will help keep your home protected in the many years of hail storms ahead.

Won’t Effect Insurance Premiums

Some worry about having class-rated roofing shingles on their home due to an increase in their insurance premiums. Luckily, that won’t be the case with hail-resistant shingles because they’re still classified by a residential underwriters code (RU). So, your home will stay insured at a lower rate than if you didn’t have them installed—that’s a win-win! To be certain, though, always reach out to your insurance company before installing your new hail-resistant shingles.

Understanding Insurance Discounts

Some insurance companies recommend a class 3 or class 4 impact-rated shingle, and many insurance companies provide discounts on your premium for having an impact-resistant roof. This might sound like a good idea, but your agency or company will likely require you to sign a form detailing which brand of shingle you can install.

This same form usually has terms in it allowing them to deny a hail/impact insurance claim based on appearance. If your impact-rated roof sustains damage, the insurance company could deny the claim based on that exclusion. We strongly recommend accepting the discount these insurance companies offer in exchange for an appearance exclusion.

In addition, we recommend having quality roofing shingles installed with competitive manufacturer warranties. You should also prioritize securing a good insurance policy that covers your roofing shingles in the event of a storm.

inspecting damage and considering class 4 shingles

Replace Damaged Shingles With an Impact Resistant Roofing Material

If you think you’ve sustained hail damage on your roof, read our tips for what to do first, then contact the expert team at First American Roofing to start your replacement with class 4 impact-resistant shingles. Our team of roofers and customer service experts is experienced in everything from the actual restoration work down to assisting with insurance claims.

We can come to your property to assess the damage to your roofing shingles and give you a quote for what repairs could cost you or work alongside your insurance adjuster to get the best-appraised value of repairs. Give us a call today!