Ridges of ice can form at the edge of a roof and prevent water from draining away when ice melts. These “ice dams” are not just inconvenient – they can be very dangerous. Here’s what you need to know.
The primary concern with ice dams is the water from melting ice can’t run off the roof. Instead, it backs up and leaks into your home. This can cause extensive (and expensive!) damage to the roof, insulation, structure, walls, and ceilings. Additionally, unresolved water damage can lead to mold which is very costly to remedy since it is often toxic and persistent.
A typical asphalt-shingled, wood-framed roof has a roof load of between 15 and 25 pounds per square foot. Just one inch of ice weighs approximately five pounds per square foot.
If an ice dam traps melt water on the roof, it can add hundreds of pounds of load, plus whatever ice and snow still sits on the roof. This can lead to a roof failure and significant home damage.
Bodily Injury & Property Damage
What do you think would happen if a large chunk of ice fell off the roof and hit a neighbor’s child playing near your home? How about if it slid off the roof and hit your neighbor’s car? They’d certainly pursue you for damages and if the accident led to a serious injury and medical bills, they would probably sue.
This isn’t fear mongering – ice dams are a very real danger you can’t afford to ignore. You have a legal responsibility to maintain your home to ensure safety.
Denied Insurance Claims
Your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover ice dam damage and water damage caused by a sudden, unexpected event. This includes things such as major repairs and replacement of belongings damaged by the ice dam. However, any damage to your home caused by poor maintenance or workmanship isn’t covered.
For instance, if your roof is in a state of disrepair, you chose a low-quality roof, or you ignore furnace maintenance and it fails, there’s a strong possibility your insurer will deny your claim and you’ll pay out-of-pocket.
Additionally, insurers typically don’t pay for ice dam removal. It is the homeowner’s responsibility. If this your first claim for ice dam damage, you will also need to show you’ve taken measures to prevent it from reoccurring.
Buy a snow rake and remove snow to prevent ice from forming. If this isn’t possible the snow will melt and could refreeze. Here are a few warning signs that indicate you’ve got a major problem.
Take a look at the gutters on your home. Are they bowing from the weight of the ice in them? If so, water isn’t traveling off the roof and you’ve got a problem. You should consider hiring a professional to attend to the problem, since it is perilous work and chipping away at ice can damage your roof.
Temporarily, you can place ice melt or rock salt in an old sock or a paper bag and toss it onto the dam, allowing for drainage. However, you must address the cause. You need to add insulation in the attic or roof, seal air drafts, and/or ventilate so they don’t form again.
These are like spears that can cause serious damage when they break and fall. Not only are they dangerous, they’re also a clear indication that your home needs help or ice dams will form again.
If you break off an icicle it could cause others to fall. They can also fall by themselves whenever the weather warms, causing an avalanche of spears to fall downwards.
It’s important you understand your homeowner’s insurance coverage so you know your responsibilities. Don’t assume you can ignore ice dams and file claims for damage repeatedly. Even one claim can cause premiums to rise, so your best bet is always prevention. If you see an issue, repair it quickly and review your coverage with your agent too.