During extreme winter weather, we receive a lot of inquiries regarding damages caused by ice dams.
What you should know
- What is an ice dam?
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. When water backs up behind the dam, it can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.
- What causes ice dams?
Three things are required for an ice dam to form: snow, heat to melt the snow, and cold to refreeze the melted snow. The heat from inside the home rises through the ceilings and into the attic. Without sufficient attic ventilation, heat collects under the roof deck, melts the snow on the roof, and refreezes before dripping off the roof. As this process continues, the layer of ice at the eave gets thicker; eventually causing a “dam” that traps the melted snow behind it and creates a pool of water.
- Ice dams can lead to different types of damage. Water from the melted snow pools and eventually backs up onto the roof surface. The pool of water can creep under the shingles and into the home causing interior water damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas. Sometimes the ice dam can cause damage to the roof covering as well. The water can also continue to re-freeze, causing gutters to potentially collapse from the additional weight.
- Insurance coverage related to ice dams is dependent on the extent of the damage and differs by carrier. The damage caused by the ice dam is typically a covered claim (subject to your deductible); however, the removal of the ice dam itself may or may not be covered. If there is coverage for the removal of an ice dam, it is usually limited to the area that is causing the damage, not the entire property. Any future preventative measures (like increasing your attic insulation) are a great idea, but those costs are generally NOT covered by insurance.
- Prevention is always the best defense! Many of the ice dam situations we encounter are often not significant enough to warrant a claim. It’s best to try to avoid the problem.
- Every situation is different. Coverage scenarios will vary by carrier and the conditions and specifics of each property. Individual carriers will determine if and what coverage is available.
A few things you can do to potentially lessen the damage caused by ice dams:
- Use a roof rake and push broom to remove snow from your roof. Caution: never climb on your roof without proper safety equipment. When in doubt, hire a professional!
- Place ice melting “pucks” on the problem areas of your roof to speed up the melting process. These can be found at your local hardware store. Use with caution and read the reviews carefully.
- Hire a professional ice dam removal company. If your situation is significant, an ice dam removal company will use a heat source to take care of your problem. This can be a very expensive process so do your research about the various options or consult with a trusted contractor.
- Increase your ceiling/roof insulation to cut down on heat loss. The best long-term solution is to make your ceiling air-tight so no warm air can flow from the house into the attic space.
- Pro tip: make sure all your venting and ridge caps have good air flow so heat can escape your attic. If they are covered due to ice or snow, they likely are trapping heat in which could lead to further damage. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, always consult a trained professional.
We’re happy to help! Contact the Cox Insurance team with any questions. Stay warm and safe!
Cox Insurance provides Home, Auto, Liability and Commercial insurance that exceeds expectations. For a personalized quote, please contact us here.