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Snowmelt and Ice Dams Can Cause Serious Damage to Your Home. Do You Have Coverage?

Category: Personal Insurance

After the long winter we all welcome the warmth of spring. But with that warmth comes some dangers for your home as the snow melts and the resulting rush of water needs somewhere to go.

Melting snow can cause damage to your home in several ways, from ice dams to basement flooding. Homeowners insurance covers some damage from melting snow, but it depends on how the damage was caused and where the water came from. Most standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for winter-related storm damage that occurs as a result of wind, snow, ice, freezing rain and severe temperatures. Coverage for ice dams depends on the situation and your policy. Some policies will cover damage caused by ice dams while others will specifically exclude it. Some will only cover structural damage, while others may cover damage to your possessions that were inside your home.

If snow on the ground melts and floods your basement, you will likely not have coverage under your homeowners insurance policy. “Flooding” is treated differently than “water damage” for insurance purposes. Any water that enters your home due to flooding will not be covered by your homeowners insurance. You need flood insurance to cover water damage caused by floods.

What are Ice Dams?

Ice dams form on many roofs after a heavy snow, or many smaller snowfalls, and subsequent periods of melting. As heat from inside the home warms the roof and the snow melts, the water will flow toward the eaves, which will be colder than the other parts of the roof. Here the water may re-freeze and prevent the backed-up water from draining off of the roof. With nowhere to go, the water begins to seep under the shingles and into the interior of the home, causing damage.

Damage from ice dams can include:

  • Raised shingles
  • Rotted roof deck
  • Gutter damage
  • Water damage to insulation or drywall
  • Mold
  • Damage to your home’s contents
  • Icicles that can fall and injure someone

If ice dams have formed on your roof, you might see water stains or signs of moisture in the attic or around the tops of the exterior walls on the top floor. Icicles hanging off of your roof can be a sign of ice dams, as well. Look carefully at where icicles are located; if they are confined to the gutters and there seems to be no water trapped behind them, then you likely don’t have ice dams. However, it is always best to remove the icicles as they can fall and seriously injure someone.

Remove ice dams by knocking the ice and snow off with a roof rake or cutting a channel through the ice to allow the water to drain. You should also clear the areas around downspouts to make it easier for gutters to drain when the snow melts. If ice dams and damage are significant, you may need to call a professional to help you remove the ice dams and fix the damage.

Some other ways to prevent ice dams and damage from snowmelt include:

  • Check your roof before winter and repair problem areas
  • Clean gutters before winter
  • Be sure your landscape is properly graded to drain water away from your house
  • Shovel snow away from your home’s foundation every time it snows
  • Clear out ice jams in your gutters immediately
  • Keep an eye out for signs of water entering the home, including a damp smell, wet carpeting, wall stains or peeling, wall bowing, or a dripping sound near the exterior walls
  • Install electric de-icing cables on your roof if it is susceptible to ice dams

Are you concerned about ice dams and damage from snowmelt? Do you know what your homeowners insurance covers? Do you want to learn more about flood insurance?


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