Mastering Roof Inspections: Hail Damage, Part 9

by Kenton Shepard and Nick Gromicko, CMI®



The purpose of the series “Mastering Roof Inspections” is to teach home inspectors, as well as insurance and roofing professionals, how to recognize proper and improper conditions while inspecting steep-slope, residential roofs. This series covers roof framing, roofing materials, the attic, and the conditions that affect the roofing materials and components, including wind and hail.


Since hail is associated with storms, you may find wind and hail damage together as a result of a single storm.

Let’s go over some inspection methods you might use if you suspect that the home has hail damage.


Not all hail damage is found on the roof. Many materials at ground level can also be damaged by hail. Damage to items other than the roof is called “collateral damage.” The nature of collateral damage may give you information about hail size and density that will help you better understand damage you see on the roof.

Elevation Damage

The most important type of collateral damage is “elevation damage.”

Elevation damage is damage to those parts of the home on the exterior walls, such as siding and trim, windows, doors, window well covers, and any other building components that can be damaged by hail.

Collateral damage is more general, and might include lawn furniture, decorations, and freestanding components, such as air-conditioning units.

In performing the "elevation inspection," you’ll be examining everything you see when you step back from the exterior walls and look at the side of the home.

Depending on the material, you could be looking for cracks, dents, punctures, broken glass, spatter marks, and dislodged materials.

Remember that hail does not leave scratches in the material it hits, so if you see scratches in indentations, the damage was not caused by hail.

Hailstones do not produce damage with creases, so if an indentation is creased, it’s not hail damage.

All materials can be damaged by hail. Even concrete and steel can be damaged if the hail is big, hard, and wind-driven.

Let’s take a closer look at the components you’ll be examining when you inspect for elevation damage. We’ll start with the exterior wall components.

Gutters and Downspouts 

Gutters and downspouts are often fabricated from steel, which is highly resistant to hail damage. Aluminum gutters can be damaged fairly easily.  Copper is harder than aluminum, but softer than steel. In addition to the type of metal, damage to metal gutters and downspouts will depend on the thickness of the metal.

Vinyl gutters and leafguards will show punctures or cracks.

When you look at gutters, you’ll be watching for dents made by hail falling from above or blown from a particular direction. Hail striking the bottom of the gutter will create downward indentations.

Hail striking the front side of the gutter may create indentations either toward or away from the gutter channel, depending on the direction of hail fall. These are called "innies" and "outies."

Indentations to aluminum gutters and downspouts which are caused by hail are typically smaller than the diameter of the hail that hit them.

Damage from ladders leaning against a gutter and other mechanical damage should be fairly localized and easy to identify. A ladder will leave two scrapes or dents about 16 inches apart. Damage is usually in a spot where it would be convenient to place a ladder.

Not all damage you’ll see will be hail damage. This photo is an example of non-hail damage.

There are several clues:

  • The force which created the upper indentation was from the side. Hail might be wind-driven, but hail with enough impact-energy to create a dent this severe would not be blown horizontally. This damage also includes creasing and chipped paint. Hail does not crease metal.

  • The force which created the lower indentation was from below, which is inconsistent with hail damage.


Learn how to master a roof inspection from beginning to end by reading the entire InterNACHI series: Mastering Roof Inspections.

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