While they’re not the most common problem for homeowners, ice dams can cause a significant amount of damage to your home. The good news is that this damage is usually covered by your homeowners insurance policy.
What is an Ice Dam?
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms along the edge of your roof, usually at the gutter. The dam causes a blockage that prevents melting snow and rain from draining properly from your roof. The formation of an ice dam occurs when the higher portions of your roof are above freezing while the lower portions of your roof are at or below freezing for extended periods of time. This usually happens when something within the home is inadvertently heating the roof, causing the melting that forms the dam itself.
Eventually, water begins to collect behind the dam itself. Over time, the water will either cause damage to the roof or will find a way into the home; seeping into the ceilings and walls and causing major water damage.
Ice Dams and Your Insurance
Most of today’s insurance policies are written on an “all perils” basis, which means you have coverage for any type of loss that is not specifically excluded from the policy. Ice dams are typically not excluded.
Is it possible that your insurance company will deny your claim based on water damage exclusions? Water damage exclusions typically refer to water that comes from plumbing, appliances, HVAC units, swimming pools, and ground-level sources. Water that leaks through the roof is more likely to be covered (unless your policy, again, specifically excludes it).
Preventing Ice Dams
Make sure you take some time each fall to check and winterize your home. Make sure your gutters are clean and working properly to move water away from your home and foundation. Ice dams and melting often happen when there is some sort of heat source allowing the higher portions of your roof to warm up. Make sure you attic is insulated and be sure there are no lighting sources (recessed lighting), vents, or uninsulated HVAC items in the attic. Make sure your attic is vented properly.
Keep an eye on the roof of your home, along the edges, especially after a very heavy snowfall. If you begin to see the formation of an ice dam, remove it as soon as possible. If your roof is steep, or it is unsafe, there are companies experienced in removing ice dams before they can damage your home. Unfortunately, this service is typically not covered by your homeowners policy. Call your insurance agent at the first sign of water damage. The sooner you have repairs made, the less damage you’ll ultimately incur.