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Friday, July 8, 2011

The History of Class IV Roofing, UL 2218

Just how did we get here and where are we going on impact resistant roofing? I was there, in the field, not in the lab, and have watched the changes, so here we go:

Before, back in the day(I hate that saying), the ways roofing were made more hail resistant, also known as impact resistant, was to make sure you had a firm deck, proper ventilation, and, if you were lucky, had a steep roof.

The angle of a steep roof allows for deflection on large straight falling stones or one side damage on somewhat vertically zooming stones. But the roofers are lucky because they risk their health and lives when installing roofs on high pitches.

Insurance Companies Want To Increase Profits

Most of the greatest single losses by insurance carriers are hurricanes. They even get names, unlike hailstorms. But the hailstorm is the mass of losses as there are so many every year and the insurance carriers have accountants that see this. So after the 1995 storm, that surpassed the mother of all hailstorms in 1992, we had to change the name of 1992's storm to "that other storm that caused shortages of materials." 1995 became "the big one." We couldn't call them Charlie or Bob so we used phrases like ooh and awe.

But the losses were great and the mother of all insurance companies, State Farm, was pissed. If we speak internationally the mother is Lloyd's, the step grandmother of State Farm. Now I get serious.

People noticed that the SBS modified bitumen flat roofs held up pretty good against hail despite there relatively thin design. The great minds at SFI began to swirl and bob and someone shouted "we can exchange discounts if people will spend more money on roofs that won't come back to bite us in the rear.

Ha ha ha! Just like Texas tried to save energy with dual glazed glass statutes for windows, the evil manufacturers jumped up to ruin a great deal for the consumer. Do you really think a builder would put in a decent window on a $50,000.00 home. He won't even do it on a $5 million dollar one. So the energy efficient window fails in a few years and now you have a fogged non energy efficient window that makes your house look like doo doo until you have to pay to have it fixed when you sell it. Now the new buyer has a repaired cheap builder grade window. 

Similar happenings happened with roofing. The great culprits, Atlas and Malarkey, who never easily pay out a warranty claim, started making class 4 garbage. If I stumble across one of them that is over seven years of age that has not blistered, I think something is wrong with the product. I learned this in 1980 in the great organic shingle failure wars when Atlas and Masonite (another member of the crappy product lobby, although their namesake was a historical class action suit they now make awesome products) used to sell their factory back and forth and constantly claim the product was made by the other.

So these dogs come in and make a product that will withstand the dropped ball test when new, but not when exposed to the sun for a little while. That is why many insurers are getting away from the class 4 discount program.

If I haven't lost you yet I'll get back to some very interesting history:

State Farm invented a hail gun and started shooting man made hail, otherwise known as ice, at roofing products. Boy wouldn't have like to have seen the parties if they had done that in the eighties. Corporate drinking was phased out in the 1990's by the accountants because they can't hold their liquor. 

But State Farm needed a standardized test so they hired the experts, the Underwriters Laboratories. The white frocks of SFI and UL began their research hand in hand. somewhere after the "Mother of All Hailstorms" in 1995. They took steel balls, and not the Italian iron balls concept, of various sizes at different altitudes, and dropped them on different roofing products. After having gathered the data in a legitimate fashion by paying UL, the standardized testing agent everyone respects, State Farm went to the Insurance Board, which is staffed with insurance execs, and started the process of passing mandatory discounts for impact resistant roofs.

Caveats were laid out like that after January I, 1999, each and every shingle has to be individually stamped with its class 4 rating and manufacture date. Also appearance allowance disclaimers were written in but the homeowner had to sign a form to get his discount. I don't want the cheese anymore, I just want out of the trap.

So by giving back large discounts on premiums the insurers hoped to cut their losses. And they did at first. But the evil roofing manufacturers products started failing and some insurers wanted to give back the cheese too.

A few insurers like State Farm, USAA, Met Life, still push the non-mandatory discount program but Farmers and Allstate have opted out. Farmers has gone to a quality and newness discount program that incrementally raises your rates.

I believe that the products made by GAF and Cetainteed, as well as Gerard, will continue to hold up. We've had several calls here in Irving this year on Decra roofs that have been totaled but none on Gerard. Aluminum roofs fail under any circumstances. So does copper.

Never forget that proper ventilation is the best tool to keep you roof newer and better resistant to the forces of nature. If your roofer does not comprehend the minimum ventilation rule, the 300 Rule of Balanced Ventilation, then he's not much of a roofer. If he doesn't inspect your soffit vents then he doesn't care.

As James Burke said, "the only constant is change," we'll see what the future brings in the roofing industry. I expect it will be more synthetic materials that fail, as that seems to have been a constant for the last 25 years.

I recommend you stick to composition, steel, or even fire resistant number one perfection class 4wood shingles and class 3 shakes.

Jon Alan Wright
Jon Wright Roofing, Siding, and Windows
1915 Peters Rd., Suite 310
Irving, TX 75061
972.251.1818 Office
214.718.3748 Cell
972.554.8090 Fax
    Follow jwrightroofing on Twitter


nat said...

I tell homeowners that if they want to save money on insurance, opt out of the storm chasing scam and just carry fire insurance. In North Texas, homeowners insurance has become little more than prepaid roofing services if you happen to catch the adjuster in a good mood. Many roofers are tearing off perfectly good roofs that have many years left in them all for the sake of making an easy buck. These same roofers often leave the homeowner in no better shape because of their sloppy workmanship.

Insurance companies really don't care because they are going to make a profit no matter what. They just raise their rates and there is little anyone can do about it.

Ed Senter

nat said...

Back in the day, 3 and 4 layered roofs were common. Back in the day, cities like Plano were shingled with No. 2 over exposed wood shingles. Back in the day, track homes were roofed by bonafide hacks who only cared about how many squares they could install and they gave the staple gun an undeserved bad reputation.

Then when a little marble sized hail hit these roofs, the homeowners and scam storm chasers demanded new roofs. Most homeowners even got their $250 deductible "covered". Insurance companies didn't care because they will make their money no matter what.