Ice dam and snow coverage explained

January 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Most business and homeowner policies cover weight of ice and snow that causes damage (check the policy to be sure) but the following is a discussion of a common problem after large snowstorms.

SNOW & ICE COVERAGE:

The most common form of policy is the HO3 policy form.  Direct writing insurance companies like State Farm, Nationwide and  Allstate use their own version of this common policy, usually called “deluxe”.  It covers all risks of physical loss to the dwelling and other structures on your property except those specifically excluded.  This policy covers ice dam water damage to building components only.  If you have an HO2 policy form or the less expensive direct write policy (often called “standard”), there is usually no coverage for ice dam claims  (weight of ice or snow is covered under both the HO3 and HO2.)  Under most homeowner forms contents (personal property) are not covered for water damage from snow or rain unless the exterior of the building is first damaged by the force of wind or there is a complete or partial collapse of the roof and water enters through such opening.  Carpet installed over finished flooring is usually considered contents, not a building component.  Of course sheetrock, plaster, paint, wallpaper, wood floors, electrical fixtures, etc. are considered building items.

 

WHAT IS AN ICE DAM?

An ice dam forms when warm air from a heated house circulating under the roof melts snow on top of it.  A thick layer of snow traps air and acts like insulation allowing the surface of the roof to warm to the point that it melts the snow.  As the water flows down the roof it reaches the edge (overhang) which is colder than the rest of the roof because there is no heat under it.  The water then re-freezes at the edge of the roof and more water coming down the roof flows over it, building up more and more ice.  Eventually this ice forms a dam which traps the liquid water on the uphill side of it.  Water then rises to the point that it flows under the shingles, entering the house and causing water damage.  The only way to stop this damage once it has begun is to remove the thick layer of ice, which is often extremely difficult.

In many snow belt areas, electric warmers can be installed under the edge of the roof  when re-roofing.  Metal edging is sometimes used to allow any ice build up to slide off the roof (the rough texture of roof shingles holds ice in place.)  Ice dams can usually be minimized by quick removal of snow from the lower section of a roof.  Be sure to drag the snow down the roof rather than trying to shovel upwards, as a shovel will often catch a roof shingle and tear it off!  Hardware stores and mail order houses often carry a special telescoping tool to remove roof snow; it looks something like a big rake without teeth.

 

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