Our homes are a lot more susceptible to damage due to the weather than we are often aware of. If you live in an area that experiences heavy snowfall, your roof is likely to face the risk of snow and ice damage.

In fact, the older homes are, the more likely they are to sustain snow and ice damage to roofs. Newer homes with thin metal roofs or flat roofs aren’t particularly well equipped to deal with this kind of damage either. In this short read, we’ll tell you how snow and ice actually damage roofs, what you can do to prevent such damage, and what aspects of damage caused by the winter weather are covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Read more: Metal roof cost

How do snow and ice damage roofs?

winter roof damage

Every time temperature changes melt snow and ice on your roof, water seeps into small holes in your roof. When the weather gets really cold again, this water in your roof will freeze and expand, making those holes larger. The next time it gets warmer, this frozen water thaws, and more water enters your roof.

Signs of snow and ice damage

There are quite a few telltale signs of snow and ice wreaking havoc on your roof. 

A roof that is in a healthy condition should be able to support around 20 pounds of weight, which is approximately around 4 feet of snow.

However, if you see your roofline sagging, it is a clear sign that it cannot handle the weight, and is in bad shape.

The formation of icicles from your roof is another telltale sign of snow and ice damage to your roof. Address these issues at the earliest to avoid leaking ceilings, potential health hazards, and even structural damage. Ignoring them will only cause you more distress as the winter gets colder.

Ice dams and how to deal with them

Poor ventilation causes uneven roof temperatures, and this causes ice dams to form

Poor ventilation causes warm air from your attic to what up the bottom of your roof, making the ice and snow there melt. This thawed ice becomes water and runs down the colder edges of your roof before melting again. This creates large blocks of ice which often block gutters.

Blocked gutters prevent meltwater from running off of your roof, causing moisture build-up under the shingles of your roof. Left unchecked, ice dams can create icicles capable of tearing down gutters and damaging shingles. 

Clearing ice dams begins with identifying where the dams are located. If they are located around your gutter and are within reach with a ladder, apply an ice-melting agent to the dams. Once they have been cleared, make sure you clean out any extra snow that may be on your roof using a long-handled ice rake.  

There are a couple of things you will have to keep in mind though. Working on rooftops, especially in the winter months, when you have ice and snow, is extremely dangerous. Unless you have experience with removing ice dams and using a roof rake, employ the services of a professional. Also, clearing ice dams is not going to be a one-time activity. It is likely you will have to do it a few times over the course of the winter.

Preventing ice dams

snow guard
  1. Make sure your roof is well ventilated. This will allow for warm air to escape from your attic and will prevent heat from building up under your roof.
  2. If you’re getting your roof replaced, make sure you install a quality underlayment. While this will not prevent snow from melting, it can definitely prevent water from getting your roof decking and causing damage.
  3. Insulate your attic to make sure warm air does not escape your attic.
  4. Make sure your gutters are cleaned of debris before winter sets in.
  5. Schedule a roof inspection well in advance, so you can address any repairs before the winter sets in.
  6. Periodically hire professionals to remove snow from your roof.

What your homeowner’s insurance policy covers

1. Hail

Hail storms are as much of a threat to your home as snow and ice during the winter months. Your homeowner’s insurance will cover damage to your home by hail.

If hail damages a building on your property that isn’t your home, such as an unattached garage, that will also be covered under the other structures coverage component in your policy.

2. Roof damage

If your roof collapses or sustains severe damage during the winter months due to heavy snow and ice, your insurance policy will pay for you to get your roof repaired or replaced. If the damage is so severe that your home is temporarily uninhabitable, your policy will cover additional expenses like hotel accommodation while your home gets repaired under the additional living expenses coverage in your policy.

3. Damage caused by ice dams

Your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the cost of repairing any structural damage caused by ice dams to your home. However, damage to personal belongings and cost of hiring an ice dam removal service will not be covered.

4. Frozen pipes

While water damage to your home caused by ruptured or frozen pipes will be covered under your policy, damage caused by frozen pipes will not get coverage if the inside of the home was not maintained at the ideal temperature.

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Read more: Important tips on how to estimate roof cost

Snow and ice damage to roofs: prevention, insurance and more was last modified: May 22nd, 2021 by Narayan Shrouthy
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