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Hail Damage Thresholds:  What do they really mean?

By Scott Morrison, PE, Haag Principal Engineer

Since 1963, Haag engineers have performed impact tests on and made field inspections of the myriad of roofing materials in order to determine their hail damage thresholds.  These thresholds are often cited by industry professionals.  Their use raises some important questions.  What are hail damage thresholds, and what are they not?  How are they determined?  And when and how might they be useful to you during damage assessment?

What is a hail damage threshold, and what is it not?

A hail-damage threshold indicates the smallest size of hail which might cause functional hail damage to a particular type of roofing.  Because a number of factors play a role in the causation of damage, a hail damage threshold is not a guarantee that hail of a certain size did or did not damage a particular roofing assembly.  Thresholds are merely rules of thumb that ballpark the opportunity for damage to occur.

How are hail damage thresholds determined?

At Haag, tests for threshold damage follow specific parameters.  The roofing materials are impacted:

  • By freezer ice balls which simulate “hard” hailstones (at sizes ranging from ½” to 3”)
  • At perpendicular angles
  • At projectile speeds which are calculated to replicate free-fall speeds of the same size hailstones

Haag thresholds are the result of 52 years of impacting studies in the lab, as well as correlations of such research with many thousands of Haag field inspections.  The table below lists established Haag thresholds for common roofing materials.


Roofing  Threshold
Lightweight asphalt shingles 1”
Heavyweight asphalt shingles and wood shingles 1¼”
Medium wood shingles and clay tiles 1½”
Concrete tiles 1¾”
Built-up roofing (smooth) 2”
Modified bitumen membranes 1½” to 2”
EPDM membranes (smooth) 2”
Other plastic singles-ply membranes (smooth) 1” to 2”
Membranes ballasted with gravel 2½”
Galvanized steel panels 2½”

When and how might these thresholds be applied during damage assessment?

Consider this example for when hail damage thresholds might be particularly useful.

Suppose that hail has been reported as 1” and 2” in two areas of a city.  Since the threshold for lightweight asphalt shingles is 1” hail, a valid hypothesis is that the greater opportunity for damage would be in the area where 2” hail had fallen. Here, the hail-caused damage should be more obvious in asphalt shingles than in the area where the size of hail is closer to the threshold size.


Scott Morrison, P.E., Haag Engineer, 01/2015

Scott Morrison specializes in Structural Evaluations, Foundations, Earthborne and Airborne Vibrations, Roofing Systems, Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis, Research/Testing, and Architectural.  He is a primary author of material in the Haag Certified Inspector courses and many of the Haag Damage Assessment Field Guides.  See his profile here.