The U.S. experienced nearly 7,000 severe hail storms in 2023, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Severe Storm database. This is up from approximately 6,000 severe hail instances reported the year prior, and the nearly 5,000 hail storms reported in 2021. While weather patterns fluctuate — 2020 saw just over six thousand instances while 2019 saw over seven thousand — the trend is toward more storms that can cause damage to roofs.

Hailstorms have the potential to inflict considerable damage to roofs, resulting in cracking, puncturing, or fracturing of roofing materials. This can result in issues like leaks, water damage, and, in more severe cases, structural damage to the home.

IKO Nordic shingle line is one of five offered by the company boasting impact-resistant options made from polymer-modified asphalt and reinforced with a heavyweight fiberglass mat.

According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, hail events make up 70 percent of property losses annually. NOAA tracks storms causing over $1 billion in damages and in 2023 there were 5 hail events which made the list, costing over $13.8 in property damage. This number does not account for all the storms which produced less than $1 billion in damage. Data shows the intensity of hail-producing storms to worsen with climate change, with hail events coming more frequently with larger hail stones.

Hail also isn’t the only concern for homeowners. Falling branches and detritus such as acorns can cause lasting damage to shingles. Regardless of location, in Hail Alley—a large portion of the midsection of the country—or elsewhere, impact resistant roofing shingles can be a benefit to homeowners, from the long-lasting protection to saving on roof repairs and potential insurance discounts.

GAF carries two impact-rated shingles: Timberline AS II and Grand Sequoia AS, both of which are Class 4 impact-rated.

“Impact resistant asphalt shingles are built to endure hail and other impact related weather conditions, offering greater durability than traditional asphalt shingles,” Dyana Sweigart, marketing services manager for IKO, explains. “The shingle is reinforced either on the front or the back of the single with a fiberglass mat for increased strength and flexibility. They are also typically thicker than a traditional asphalt shingle.”

IKO’s Nordic shingles have an additional polymer modified asphalt component that “gives them a bouncier make up,” Sweigart says. The polymer modified asphalt lends increased flexibility and tear-resistance to the shingle, acting like a shock absorber and earning it a Class 4 Impact Resistance rating from FM Approvals.

Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions offers two non-asphalt impact-rated shingles for more extreme impact protection. Newport Concrete is Class 4 impact rated and brings old-world Spanish charm.

Ashley Alfonso, senior product manager for GAF, seconds Sweigart’s assessment. “The shingle can use a reinforcing base mat or mesh to strengthen the shingle, or it will feature a rubber-like polymer, such as styrene-butadiene-styrene (SBS), in the asphalt composition, [which] creates a shingle that is more flexible and more capable of absorbing the energy from hail impact than traditional asphalt shingles.”

All GAF impact-resistant shingles and ridge cap shingles are made with their proprietary SBS-modified asphalt formulation and pass UL’s toughest impact-resistance test — UL 2218 Class 4. Timberline, one of the flagship products from GAF, features an SBS-modified shingle, in addition to a few other products offered by GAF.

While asphalt shingles, and impact resistant asphalt shingles, are a mainstay in the United States, they’re not the only option.

Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions offers two non-asphalt options for those looking: Unified Steel and Newpoint Concrete. “The strength of concrete and the flexibility of steel give each product their natural potential to perform well against hail impacts,” Robin Anderson, technical and strategy development manager for Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions says. “Added performance details, including ribbing and profiling, add to the survivability of the products in the face of severe hail.”

Understanding Impact Ratings

There are two main third-party certifications that manufacturers strive to earn for their impact resistant asphalt shingles.
The UL 2218 Impact Test is a standardized test developed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which involves dropping a steel ball from a height of up to 20 feet onto the roofing material. This is intended to simulate the impact of hailstones and other detritus that might fall on a roof. From there, the material is rated from Class 1 to 4, with Class 4 the most resistant to the impact. Class 4 rated shingles are able to withstand steel balls that are 50.8 mm or 2 inches in diameter.

Unified Steel Stone Coated shingles are a lightweight solution boasting a ‘very severe hail’ impact-resistance rating.

The FM 4473 standard from FM Approvals uses ice balls instead of steel balls to simulate the impact of hailstones on a roof. The rating system is the same as the UL system, using Classes 1 through 4, with Class 4 being the highest impact resistance. The FM 4473 rating system uses the same size ice balls as the steel balls used to determine UL 2218 ratings.

Changes in weather patterns due to climate change have spurred on the sectors involved in roofing, from manufacturers to lawmakers. “There have been many effects due to extreme weather, such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, and hailstorms, becoming more frequent. Home insurance premiums and deductibles are increasing, while coverage is decreasing,” Alfonso says. “There have also been changes to local codes and evolving homeowner incentives to influence homeowners to choose impact-resistant shingles in hail-prone areas.”

In addition to the standard Classes 1 through 4, FM also has a ‘very severe hail’ rating — which measures impact greater than 2 inches. Where Class 4 is the highest possible rating in the standard evaluation, a FM-VSH rating expects the ability to withstand double the kinetic energy impacts of a Class 4 rating: 26-29 foot pounds (ft-lbs) verses 53-58 ft-lbs.

In 2019, FM Global identified 14 states which have at least partial regions which experience very severe hail, including all of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and most northern counties in Texas, with data supported by NOAA. Regions with this designation have shown a concentration of reports with hail larger than 2 inches in recent years.

In areas meeting the Very Severe Hail criteria, their options might narrow. Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions’ Unified Steel Stone Coated roofing shingles meet the FM-Very Severe Hail (FM-VSH) rating. Coming in a variety of profiles and colors, the Unified Steel Stone Coated shingles are also rated for High Velocity Hurricane Zone winds.

It is therefore vital for remodelers, home improvement professionals, and even homeowners to understand the ratings, to best determine for their clients or themselves what products to use on their homes.

Discounts, Premiums, and Unexpected Benefits

DaVinci Multi-Width Slate shingle is made from composite material and combines the natural beauty of stone slate with the durability and easy maintenance of a synthetic roof.

Given the purpose of impact resistant shingles, it’s hard to put a lifespan on the materials. Since many will be installed in places such as Hail Ally where impact is expected and damage is possible to occur, it’s impossible to know how long even an impact rated shingle will last before needing to be replaced. While manufactures may give standard 10 to 25 year warranties on their products for regular wear and tear, these will not include ‘Acts of God,’ of which hail is considered.

That being said, “Some insurance companies offer discounts on insurance premiums [if the homeowners install impact resistant shingles], but they are not guaranteed,” Alfonso says. “If available, discounts vary by state and insurance company.”

“While hail has been more frequently found across different areas of North America than perhaps it had traditionally, not all areas get the equal distribution of hail,” Jack Gottesman, marketing services and group director for IKO, explains. “Therefore, what insurance carriers do in some regions is create incentives that they’ll give you if you put on impact resistant shingles, either class 3 or 4.”

These discounts are not offered by the manufacturers themselves, and thus cannot be guaranteed. “It is something you’re seeing homeowners talk about, insurance offering these premiums,” Gottesman continues. “I know hail storms have increased dramatically over there last couple have years due to climate change and is expected to get worse.

Because of that, we’ve taken this quality of impact performance seriously, and over the past two years have transitioned just about all of our shingles to being impact resistant. We have five different lines that qualify under impact resistance because we see this trend becoming increasingly important.”

DaVinci Multi-Width Slate

Anderson agrees. “The market for roofing materials that better protect against hail damage is growing. With storms increasing in frequency and intensity, it is more important than ever that the roof chosen by the customer protect against potential storm damage.” Additionally, homeowners are able to access information about their products themselves online, as well as researching best practices for the changing weather and conditions in their areas. “Homeowners are becoming educated about this and are much more active nowadays in choosing a roof that not only looks aesthetically pleasing, but can withstand the elements.”

In addition to impact resistance and potential discounts on homeowner’s insurance, impact resistant asphalt shingles can offer other benefits.

For example, both GAF’s Timberline AS II Shingles and IKO’s Nordic shingles both boast algae-resistant properties in addition to the impact resistance. GAF’s Timberline shingles feature proprietary time-release technology that utilizes algae-fighting copper for long-lasting algae deterrence. IKO’s Nordic shingles have special algae-resistant granules embedded in their surface to help inhibit the growth of algae.

According to Alfonso, impact resistant shingles are considered ‘premium’ and tend to cost between 10 and 25 percent more than traditional asphalt shingles. With this comes the expectation of higher quality materials and performance overall.

Mark Pagel, general manager with DaVinci Roofscapes agrees, “People are eager to move away from the hassles of maintaining their roofs. They don’t want to deal with the worries of storm or fire damage. They like the idea of saving on insurance premiums long-term.”

Owens Corning TruDefinition Duration Flex (left) and Duration Storm (right) are both rated UL Class 4, intended to withstand the strongest storm winds and impacts.

Expectations on performance are also likely higher for the higher price point. In areas where perhaps hail or regular severe impact is not a priority, the homeowner may still choose those shingles for their wind resistance and overall durability — and therefore extended expected lifetime.

DaVinci’s Multi-Width Slate is a composite shingle, offering the aesthetic of a natural slate roof with an impact rating of UL Class 4 and wind resistance up to 110 miles per hour.

IKO’s FastLock sealant keep shingles lying flat and staying put, even in 130 mile per hour winds. “Our sealant is activated by the warmth of the sun shining on it, which helps the shingles stick to the one below it,” Gottesman says. “Additionally, the shingle features a reinforced woven band which helps keep the shingles from blowing off in particularly high-force winds, even if it’s not sunny or warm enough at installation for the sealant to immediately activate.”

Tamko Stormfighter shingles are Class 4 rated and claim the industry’s highest wind warranty available for an impact-rated aspahlt shingle at 160 mph, in a variety of profiles.

Similarly, TAMKO’s StormFighter IR shingles, which have an impact rating of UL Class 4, boasts a proprietary AnchorLock layering technology; a poly-fabric layer anchors nails into the nailing zone, allowing TAMKO to offer WindGuard Warranty coverage up to 160 miles per hour.

TruDefinition Duration Flex shingles from Owens Corning are made with SBS polymer modified asphalt and feature a UL Class 4 rating. Similarly able to withstand winds of up to 130 miles per hour, the Duration Flex shingles also claim 25 years of algae resistance using copper-lined granules.

“Because of its performance attributes, higher impact rated tile is more expensive than its [traditional, non-impacted rated] product profile counterpart,” Anderson says, but adds that the “weather resistance provided reduces the chance that the homeowner will have to repair their roof after a hailstorm,” saving the homeowner in the long run.

Homeowners and contractors alike are keenly aware of the impact climate change has had and will continue to have on the decisions homeowners are making when it comes to their homes. It is crucial for the contractors to be well-informed, not only about the potential damages that may arise in a given area, but also about the available products and essential product attributes. QR

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