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1 jereme batesTis the season for ice and snow to wreak havoc on our lives. A question I get quite often is how are ice dams covered and do I need to do anything about them? Of course there are no simple answers, so let's work through how ice dams are covered by insurance.

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Ice dams occur during the melting and refreezing process. As snow melts, water runs down the roof underneath the existing show and then refreezes at the roof's edge, creating a dam where additional snow melt pools. The pooling or even the ice itself can cause major damage to your exterior roof, gutters, raise shingles, and rot roof deck. It can also cause water damage to insulation and sheet-rock, which could eventually lead to mold.

You may be wondering if my insurance does cover an ice dam. According to Tutwiler & Associate - Public Adjuster, "if the loss and damage was 'sudden and accidental,' meaning that the damage was abrupt and unexpected, most insurance companies will afford coverage. To the contrary, many insurance companies may deny coverage under situations where they feel the ice dams occurred over a long period of time, neglect or faulty maintenance, defect or faulty design/construction of the structure, and the most common 'normal wear and tear.'" Essentially you should have coverage unless the insurance company feels this is an ongoing problem that you've clearly ignored.

While your home may be covered subject to your deductible, you may be left short on any damage to personal property and the cost to remove the ice dam itself. Many homeowners policies have named peril coverage on their personal policy, which is essentially a long list of events for which you have coverage. While named peril coverage works for most events, you should explore an open peril or all risk coverage policy, if you have personal property concerns as it relates to ice dams. Additionally, most insurance companies limit or exclude the cost to remove snow or the ice dam itself, claiming it's preventive maintenance. This is similar to trimming trees in the insurance companies' eyes. The cost for ice dam removal can be greater than $1,000, leaving you wishing you had taken action before you had a claim!

Here are some helpful tips on preventing and dealing with ice dams.

Prevention

  • Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris
  • Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic: vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures are all possibilities
  • Inspect, or have your roof and attic inspected for proper ventilation and insulation
  • Look for signs of inadequate ventilation: rust spots, rusty nails or a mildew smell are all signals that moisture has formed on the inside of your roof
  • If you have soffit vents in your eaves, make sure they are not blocked and insulation surrounding them is secured so that air can flow easily
  • Keep snow from accumulating on the lower three to six feet of your roof

Additional Steps

  • Install snow and ice slides to prevent ice and snow from "bonding" to the lower roof
  • Install a rubberized ice and water shield beneath the roof shingles for the first three to six feet from the eaves up
  • Install heating cable along the eaves to melt ice

Removing Ice Dams

  • Consult a roofing professional
  • Do not use a snow blower, shovel or blowtorch to try to chip, break or melt ice dams
  • Do not use a pressure washer as it can easily damage cold, brittle roofing materials.
  • Steam is the fastest, most effective and safest to the home.

Of course every insurance company varies and you should reference your policy with coverage and exclusion concerns. Stay warm and safe this winter,and contact Bates Insurance Group with your insurance questions.

Source: Tutwiler & Associate - Public Adjuster