Roof Connections Podcast: Episode 6 – Major Hail Events

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DH: Today you can see we are doing the podcast live out of our houses. We are trying to do our part to quarantine and stop the spread of Coronavirus. Today I am joined by three gentlemen from RoofConnect. We have the Vice President of Sales, Wade Crosswhite, Vice President of Operations Jeremy Hill, and Vice President of Technical Services Eric Harrison. Thanks for joining me guys. Y’all are all at Little Rock, there at the office, I assume they are doing some of the same things there that we’re doing in Dallas?

WC: Getting closer, yes, we’re always a little behind.

DH: We’re all doing our part to stop the spread, and hope before too long we can get back to work and back to business as usual. Thanks for joining me today guys. Today I want to talk a little about spring storms, and hailstorms specifically. Spring of 2020 officially started a few weeks ago. With it come the huge costs from thunderstorms and hail damage. Here are a few facts about major hail events in the United States. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2016 there were over 5600 major hail events in the US, causing over 3.5 billion dollars in property damage. States that usually suffer the most damage from major hail events each year include TX, KS, NE, SD, CO. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric & Administration’s Severe Storm Database, major hail events start to occur more frequently in March and April, before peaking in June, and then continue to occur frequently throughout the summer into September. So guys, while there is not much we can do about preventing storms and hail, what are a few things that property managers can start doing now, to protect their roofs before spring storms and hail events start occurring?

EH: You want me to take that one to start off? One thing that customers need to do is make sure your insurance policies are up to date. Typically, hail events are something that will be covered by insurance, so make sure it is up to date. Then, make sure you have a qualified roofer, someone who is experienced, knowledgeable, and reputable to check your roof for damage.

WC: Just to add to that, I think information is key. Having the knowledge of what is up there. So often, what happens in hail services is roofs get damaged, but it is minor damage like hairline cracks, so it doesn’t leak immediately. It is like a crack in your windshield. But over time it gets bigger and bigger, and then it starts to crack and leak, and then they call their insurance company, who  looks at the hail forecast and says there hasn’t been any hail in 9 months, so this can’t be hail, and that is simply not the situation. So knowing the status of your roof before a storm is important, and then knowing directly after it is extremely important as well. 

EH: One thing, we’re seeing a lot more single ply roofs in the commercial world, and hail damage doesn’t always show up immediately. A couple of good things to do are to get on your roof and see if any roof top units like exhaust fans or air conditioners or things like that, look for dings and dents in the coils and covers of those things. Also, cool or white roofs, after they’ve been on for a while begin to not be so white anymore, look in that dirt for little white pop marks. It doesn’t mean that your roof has measles, it means that you have hail damage. Apart from that, like Wade said, the damage doesn’t always show up immediately, you can have your roofing contractor cut out a sample and check the back side of it. That is where you will see the damage before you’ll see it on the top side. It will be some type of dimple or crack. That will migrate, it will break down the scrim and reinforcement inside your membrane and will migrate to the top side of your membrane. That is when you will start having the problems that Wade is talking about.

WC: Eric said two really important things there. One, have a roofing contractor go out there. You need to be partnered with a trusted roofing contractor. It always blows my mind when I think the insurance industry is, I’m going to pay you money, so if something happens you can tell me if you’re going to pay me back. And I don’t understand any of the policy, right? You never hear of an insurance company going under because they had to pay out too many claims. What insurance companies do is, I think, the peel back section that they test is 8” x 8”, and so many times I’ve seen them go out and cut out that one small section, and there’s no damage there. But then a roofing contractor will come out and do a 6’ x 6’ area and pull it back, and you can see the damage. Don’t just take, no matter how great a guy your insurance agent is, don’t just take his word. The money is too big here. You need a trained roofing professional. They can look at the flashings and counter flashings and see if there are dents in the metal and go through and find where there is hail damage. If your roof is damaged by hail, I don’t care if it doesn’t start leaking immediately, it is going to be severely damaged months later and you will have major problems. You have to be on the front end of identifying it, and have someone who can help you identify it, and go to your insurance agent then. Don’t go to your insurance agent first and ask for their advice.

DH: What advice do you have for facility managers that have, say their store is in somewhere like “Tornado Alley” where they get hail throughout the whole season, do you just have to play that by ear and watch for leaks?

WC: What I am going to recommend is have a trained, trusted roofing professional go out and inspect the roof for damage regardless. You’re talking about an $800 inspection. If you don’t identify it, so many people are out of sight out of mind, if it is not caught, you could have a $400,000 roof that, instead of getting your 20-25 years out of it, you’re going to get 3-4 years. There is that kind of money at play, so it is well worth getting those inspections done.

JH: Just to add to that, for a facility manager that has a lot of locations throughout the country, and their focusing on trying to maintain all of them, having a trusted source to help identify areas where hail strikes may have hit. RoofConnect is available to help facility managers in that sense. But there is also software out there that will show where the hail storms hit, even if you’re on the fringe of that location, you need to do some due diligence and make sure you are in the clear. 

WC: If you put yourself in the shoes of the insurance agent. They aren’t going to climb up on a roof and spend all day trying to find hail damage so they can pay you money. But if someone delivers them a report that clearly shows there is hail damage, and they identify it, they’re probably not going to climb up there and try to prove them wrong either. So, going to them with clear evidence is very strong. Once they go up there and say there is no hail damage, anything you do after that is an uphill battle. If you go to them with a concise, professional report, and show that hail damage, your chances of getting that paid for is a lot greater. 

JH: We spend a lot of time talking about the single ply side of it, the shingle side is a little easier to discern that there was actual hail damage. The comment that Eric made earlier about looking at your AC units is spot-on. Any kind of pipe penetrations or caps that you have, anything that is metal will show up. But on a shingle roof it will show up pretty prominently, and there’s a certain equation that the insurance company will use, how many strikes are in a square foot or section, to determine if they are going to pay to replace it, and they may only replace a section. Shingles are a lot easier to see, even than what happens to a shingle roof.

DH: If a roof is damaged during a severe storm, what are some tips to help facility managers find qualified roofing contractors like RoofConnect, and avoid the fly-by-night scam artists?

WC: A small contractor pulls less leverage with an insurance agent. There are some really great small roofing contractors out there, but they carry less weight with the insurance agents. So if you have a small contractor you use, and you partner with a bigger one, always go with the big one. Putting a roof down, doing leak calls, and doing inspections are really three different skill sets, so knowing which ones can put together a professional report and have enough leverage to tell an insurance company “this is what we are finding – we don’t need this one single reroof, we are a major company. We can have major influence over a lot of customers, so if you skip out on this one customer, it could hurt your reputation”. It is all about leverage and their reputation. They never WANT to pay, but they do NOT want to hurt their reputation.

JH: It is important to know who your partners are before something like this happens. Selecting the right people prior to an event will ensure that they are going to be there after the repairs or replacement is made. The guys who come in from out of town, you can pretty much spot them. They’re going to be heavy on the residential side. They will dabble in the commercial side, especially if they are doing a roof for a landlord or someone at their house, they’ll say ‘Oh yeah, we can do that too.’ But if they are not from the local area, be skeptical right off the bat. They will come in and do a job, it may be good and it may be bad, and if it is bad, they won’t be there to make repairs and you will be looking for someone else to do the job.

EH: Just do your due diligence, with any contractor you are working with. In a big event, we’ve seen it with hail damage and with tornado damage, these contractors come in and go knocking on doors, handing out business cards. Anybody can write ‘insured’ or ‘licensed’ on their business card. That doesn’t mean anything. Check them out to make sure they are really licensed and insured. If you don’t, it is like Jeremy and Wade were saying, you’ll be stuck holding the bag when your roof is still leaking 6 months later and that guy is nowhere to be found.

DH: I’ve also been told another good thing to do, a lot of them will want you to put a deposit down so they can order materials, DON’T give a roofer any money until there is material onsite at least.

JH: That is correct.

DH: Why is it so important to repair initial hail damage on a commercial roof? 

WC: Two things: the longer you wait, the less likely you are to have it funded by insurance, and the longer you wait, it spreads and cracks out like a windshield so it becomes bigger and more expensive to fix. If a hailstorm hits one week, and within 2 weeks you’ve taken it to the insurance company and shown them, they won’t be surprised. Your chances of getting that paid for are better. That is what you want. If you wait 9 months until it is leaking, because it will leak – it may just take a while- especially in PVC and TPO, it grows as the material expands and contracts over time, and your chances of getting it paid for or getting help from the insurance company becomes less and less over time. 

JH: The other thing is the public concern, especially if you have foot traffic inside your building, you have an obligation to do as much as you can. Reporting that there was a potential issue to take the steps from whenever issues start to occur, and having your roofing contractor go out and make an assessment and address potential leak areas prior to them leaking, will help prevent future issues.

EH: Early detection is best, because you can address it before it becomes bad, it is a lot more economical to fix it early that to fix it down the road. You have an obligation to your tenants, your employees, customers, whoever is in your building to address it early.

DH: Commercial roofs are not like residential roofs and shingle roofs. The cost to replace even a small section of a commercial roof is a lot more than a residential roof, so I see how letting that damage build up over time could lead to a much more costly repair.

EH: I’ve used the example of a vehicle, and Wade has used it like changing the oil in your car, but if I feel a wobble in one of my wheels or hear a squeaking I probably need to go get it checked out. It will probably be a lot easier and a lot less painful to do it then versus when the wheel falls off when I’m going down the highway at 70 miles per hour. Things can get exponentially worse when you put them off. 

DH: That reminds me, my truck is making a noise, I better take it in to get checked out. Did y’all have anything else you wanted to share before we shut this down?

WC: No, I don’t think so. If anybody has any concerns, find a local contractor or a large contractor, and look for a good inspection report. Like Jeremy said, identify your partner before the hail damage occurs. 

DH: Well that is going to wrap it up. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me in this format. This is new to us but I think it worked out pretty well.

WC: Wash your hands.

EH: Don’t touch your face.

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