How to Prepare for Hail in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the top states for hailstorms, but damage isn't inevitable. Find out how you can prepare for hail and protect your home from hail damage.

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Hailstorms can be violent weather events. They can arrive quickly, cause significant damage, and leave you to clean up the mess and make repairs. 

Don’t underestimate the amount of damage hail can cause. In a typical thunderstorm, hailstones are usually falling at 25 to 40 mph, pounding all exposed surfaces. In strong supercells with very large hail, the ice can fall as fast as 72 to 100 mph. That would be like a pro baseball player pitching hundreds or thousands of baseballs at your house.

Although you may not have much notice before a hailstorm begins, you can take steps before a storm to prepare for hail damage and protect your home.

Hailstorms in North Carolina

North Carolina ranks in the top 10 states for hail property damage, and both Raleigh and Winston-Salem have been the center of major hailstorms. 

In 2019, NOAA tracked 102 reports of large hail in North Carolina. That’s nickel-size hail or larger. As a result, more than 25,000 North Carolina homeowners made insurance claims that year because of hail damage. Moreover, this is likely an underestimate of the total property damage that hail causes because many homeowners may not be aware of hail damage to roofs or problems on the upper story of a home. 

Taking proactive steps can help protect your home from hail damage and strengthen your structure against severe weather events. Use these 10 tips to prepare for hailstorms in North Carolina. 

1. Preventive Tree Care to Avoid Falling Limbs

During a hailstorm, the battering of ice pellets can quickly weaken trees or cause dead branches to fall. Proactive tree maintenance and landscaping can help you avoid a tree crashing into your roof or falling limbs smashing your windows.

Check your yard for overgrowth that needs to be trimmed, dead branches that need to be cut down, and weak trees that could be dangerous. This type of outdoor maintenance is crucial to preventing many types of home damage. An unmaintained yard can quickly become a hazard during severe weather, and overgrown roots can damage your home foundation. 

2. Check Your Insurance Coverage

It’s important to protect yourself against the unexpected costs of hail damage. If a severe storm hits your neighborhood, you don’t want to be left holding the bill for a $10,000 roof.

Start by checking your homeowner’s insurance policy for hail coverage. Homeowners living in higher-risk states like North Carolina may find that there could be exclusions for cosmetic damage or there could be a separate deductible rate for wind and hail claims. You may also want to consider adding flood insurance coverage if your home is at risk of weather-related flooding. 

3. Keep Up with Roof Maintenance and Upgrades

Your roof will usually take the brunt of most hailstorms. Storms can tear off shingles and reduce a roof’s lifespan. Roof damage because of hail can also be difficult to identify. If the shingles remain intact but the aggregate surface washes down the gutters, homeowners may not be aware of the damage until a few years after a storm when a 30-year roof starts leaking.  

Regular roof maintenance can help you strengthen your home against hail damage. Keep the roof free from moss, secure any loose shingles, and re-caulk flashings when needed. 

When it’s time to replace your roof, select products that are resistant to dents, tears, and granule loss. Look for Class 3 or Class 4 shingles, which can give you the impact resistance that protects your home from hail damage. These shingles may also make you eligible for a homeowner’s insurance discount.

4. Make Windows Impact Resistant

Glass surfaces are vulnerable to hail damage, and hail preparations should consider windows, skylights, or glass doors. Homeowners have a few options for protecting these surfaces.  

Installing exterior shutters that close over large windows can protect them from hail damage, windstorms, or hurricanes. Another option is to install interior coverings such as drapes, blinds, or shades that can help protect occupants from flying glass shards if windows are broken during a hailstorm. Homeowners can also upgrade to impact-resistant windows to protect their home against many types of weather threats. 

5. Check Chimney for Tilting or Separation from House

A hailstorm is usually accompanied by directional winds. This can be problematic for chimneys because an unstable chimney could topple or shear during the storm. 

Before a hailstorm, look to see if your chimney is starting to separate from your house or if there is evidence of tilting or cracking. A tilting or leaning chimney could be an indicator that the underlying soil below the foundation is shifting or compressing. Repairing an unstable chimney before a storm can help you maintain a strong structure going into the storm. 

6. Improve Gutters and Drainage

If a hailstorm also drops an inch of rain onto an average-sized house, your gutters will need to manage nearly 1,000 gallons of water. If your gutters fail, that water could end up in your basement or crawl space. 

Regular maintenance of gutters and downspouts can keep them clear of debris so that water can be directed away from your home’s foundation. However, lightweight aluminum gutters can be easily dented from hail or mangled from the wind. Upgrading to gutters made of stronger materials can make them more impact-resistant against hail damage. 

Preventive water systems can also help you avoid costly flood damage if your gutters fail or your home floods. Sump pumps are a valuable flood mitigation tool, and some flood insurance policies even chip in $1,000 toward their installation. 

7. Add Car Protection with Car Ports, Garages, or Car Covers

Preparing for hail damage also means considering ways you can protect your vehicle from dents and broken windows. A garage provides the best protection against hailstorms, and for vehicles exposed to hailstorms, the average car insurance claim is $2,500. 

If your home doesn’t have a garage, you can protect your vehicle from hail damage by using carports or protective car coverings.

8. Protect HVAC Systems

Your air conditioner’s outdoor condensing units may be just as exposed to hail damage as your roof or siding. In particular, the condenser coils are frequently made from lightweight aluminum, making them easily damaged or dented by hail. 

Check if your HVAC system already has hail guards installed. If it doesn’t, the manufacturer may offer an add-on protective covering. 

9. Protect Roof Vents

On the roof of your home, you may have exhaust systems or vents for the water heater or clothes dryer. These vents can be vulnerable to hail damage, and if they’re not working properly, fumes or carbon monoxide could build up in your home. 

Installing hail guards may help protect rooftop vents, and regular maintenance can also help vents withstand storms. Make sure water seals remain intact and that caps and covers are securely in place. 

10. Choose Hail-resistant Siding

Hail typically dives downward at an angle because of the accompanying winds. After a hailstorm, it’s common for one or two sides of a house to be dimpled or cracked while the other sides remain intact. 

Vinyl and aluminum siding is susceptible to hail damage, and when it’s time to upgrade, choosing impact-resistant materials can give you more protection. Fiber cement siding, engineered wood, and steel have the most resilience to hail damage. 

When it comes to hail, floods, or other severe weather events in North Carolina, preventive maintenance can improve your home’s resilience. Learn about the best ways to protect your home with a free inspection from Tar Heel Basement Systems.