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Hail Resistant, Class 4 Shingles: The Making Of A Durable Roof

September 3rd, 2020 BY First American Roofing

Your roof is supposed to be what protects your home from the elements. So you want it to be built to withstand even the most severe storms. Some people believe the most durable roof is going to be made of impact-resistant, class 4 shingles. Are they worth it? Let’s dive in and find out!

What are Impact Resistant Shingles?

Impact-resistant shingles are shingles that have been built to withstand more impact from debris or hail than other shingles. They are designed to be more flexible, and they have also gone through the “steel ball test” or the UL 2218 standard testing. 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. Your average asphalt shingle, when impacted with a ball or hail this size would show cracking or breakage of the shingle beneath the impact. Class 4 impact resistant shingles would not.

Impact-resistant shingles, or IR shingles, are engineered differently to be more flexible, thus not immediately cracking on impact. One way to create an IR shingle is to add a flexible polymer mesh to the back of your standard asphalt shingle that would help absorb impact and keep the shingle from cracking. Another way IR shingles are engineered is by mixing rubber-like polymer material in with the asphalt. This makes the shingles rubber-like and much more bouncy, thus limiting the full impact of a chunk of hail or other debris.

No matter how they are manufactured, they withstand more impact, particularly Class 4 shingles.

My Insurance company says they will offer a discount for class 3 or class 4 rated shingles. Is this a good idea?

Some insurance companies recommend a class 3 or class 4 impact rated shingle and will even offer a reduced premium for having an impact-rated roof. This sounds like a good idea, however, the insurance company will likely have you sign a form detailing out the brand of the shingle. This same form usually has terms in it allowing the insurance company to deny a hail/impact claim based on appearance. If your impacted rated roof sustains damage, the insurance company could deny the claim based on that exclusion. We strongly recommend accepting a discount in exchange for an appearance exclusion. We recommend having a quality shingle installed, with a quality manufacturer warranty, and having a good insurance policy that covers you in the event of a storm, rather than buying a class impacted shingle. 

What are the Different Classes of Shingles?

The different classes of shingles are determined by the impact they can withstand based on the size and height of the steel ball drop. 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 four is the highest and most impact-resistant of them all.

Class 1: A 1.25-inch steel ball is dropped twice from 12 feet high.

Class 2: A 1.5-inch steel ball is dropped twice from 15 feet high.

Class 3: A 1.75-inch steel ball is dropped twice from 17 feet high.

Class 4: A 2-inch steel ball is dropped twice from 20 feet high.

2-inch sized hail is bigger than the “golf ball-sized” hail you hear referenced, which is fairly rare. You could probably get by with a Class 3 rated shingle if your area is not frequently hit with severe storms that bring such hail.

How Can Hail Damage My Roof?

Hail damage on your roof is not as apparent as hail damage to the roof of your car, for example. It may come in many forms, in varying degrees of severity. Despite the hail’s actual size, strong winds can speed up the rate in which the hail impacts your roof, and even smaller sizes can sustain worse damage than usual. Here are the different ways in which hail can damage your shingles.

hail damage

Loss of Granules

Asphalt shingles are covered in small, bumpy granules that protect the asphalt coating beneath, and help water flow off of 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 be exposed to the elements. This granule loss, if not repaired eventually, can allow the asphalt/fiberglass mat to dry out and crack, leaving you susceptible to leaks. This process generally takes years though to happen. You should be able to see granule loss by the slight discoloration in your shingles. Almost like a part was rubbed away.

Obvious Divots or Dents

Large hail can leave much more substantial and visible dents and divots in your shingles. These are relatively easy to spot as they indicate a change in the smoothness of your shingle’s surface. They will likely involve both a dent and a loss of granules. Dents can also crack the asphalt coating underneath, which again, leaves your roof susceptible to leaks.

Scratches or Cracks

Hail does not have a smooth outside, despite being ball-shaped. They often have relatively jagged edges, and if the wind blows them sideways, they can scrape along your roof or side of the house. That scraping can cause significant scratches, both cosmetically unpleasing, and perhaps bringing a loss of granules. They 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.

The Benefits of Class 4 Shingles (In Simpler Terms)

We’ve talked about the science behind impact-resistant shingles and the Underwriters Lab tests they go through to be classified, but what are the benefits of Class 4 shingles that homeowners should consider?

class 4 shingles

Lower Frequency of Roof Damage/Repair

What the UL2218 test shows is that Class 4 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, contractors can get overwhelmed with the number of damaged roofs, but when homeowners have Class 4 shingles, they can have less frequent and severe damage incidents.

Extended Lifespan

Your roof is at its highest level of integrity when it’s first installed. That integrity lessens as time goes on, but proper maintenance and preventing damage can help lengthen that 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 in turn can help it last longer and to its intended lifespan.

Eligible for Discounts

Homeowners should look into installing Class 4 shingles because they’re eligible for a discount. Contractors and insurance companies may offer discounts to homeowners who install impact-resistant roofs (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 shingles on their roof and an increase in insurance premiums. Luckily, that won’t be the case with hail-resistant shingles because they’re still classified as 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, always reach out to your insurance company before installing your new IR shingles.

Do I Need Class 4 Shingles?

inspecting damage and considering class 4 shingles

The answer is: it depends. If your house has a low-pitched roof and does not face the threat of hail storms or high winds as often, 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 for example — we recommend going with Class 4 for that added protection. Class 4 shingles should be the sole choice for those living in “tornado alley” and hurricane zones, for sure.

However, the benefits of Class 4 shingles also apply to those living in midwestern states like Wisconsin because you can rest easy any time severe storms, strong winds, and the occasional tornado roll in. This is one of those times that spending the money upfront for the highest quality products is 100% worth it.

How Can I Get an Estimate for Hail Resistant Shingles?

If you think you’ve sustained hail damage, first read our tips for what to do first, then contact us. We are experienced in insurance restoration work and can help you during the claims filing process. We can come out to your property to assess the damage and give you a quote for what repairs could cost you, or work right along with your insurance adjuster to get the best-appraised value of repairs. Please fill out our estimate form here to get started!

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