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Ice Dams and Homeowners Insurance


Ice dams are an exasperating problem which affects those of us living in colder climates. During the winter months, we often receive calls regarding damage to homes from ice dams.

How ice dams form

Ice dams are formed by the snow melting and then refreezing at the edge of the roof creating a "dam."  The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.  Moisture entering the home from ice dams can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew.

ice damsPrevention of ice dams

In the short term, there are a couple things you can try. 

  1. Try to remove snow from the roof but only if it can be done safely.  A roof rake or push broom can be used but may cause damage to the shingles.  If it’s not possible to remove the snow safely, call a professional.  Some contractors will help break up ice dams.
  2. Chisel grooves into the dam to allow the water behind it to drain off.  This is a good emergency measure, especially if rain or a sudden thaw is coming.  Be careful not to damage those shingles!
  3. Fill an old pair of your pantyhose with calcium chloride snow melt and lay it across the dam.  It will help to melt the dam and also keep that area of the roof clear.  DO NOT USE ROCK SALT!  It will stain the roof and siding.  Use caution with this method.  If the dam is too big you may increase the pool of water behind it!  It is best for small dams or prevention.  It’s also a good idea to scrape the snow off the roof first.

To prevent ice dams in the longer term, keeping warm air from escaping into the attic is the first course of action. In addition to helping resolve ice dam issues, it will result in a more comfortable and less expensive to heat home.

Dealing with ice dams

If you currently have water seeping into your house, you should try to minimize the damage to walls and ceilings.  If you are able, you might go up into the attic to see if you can diagnose where the water is coming from - maybe there is a leak or drip in a specific area? If so, put a bucket or towel there to catch some of the water. It is often leaking right at the connection between roof rafter and ceiling joist/ attic floor joist (or right at the edge of the truss) and that makes it very difficult to reach from the interior. Controlling the flow of the water and preventing water from infiltrating other areas of the home is a good idea.

How ice dam claims are handled

Homeowner insurance companies take different stances when it comes to water damage from ice dams.  Some may be proactive in paying to have a company melt the snow and ice off the roof with power washing.  Others may push back if you file a claim for mold damage 3-4 months after the storm.  Don’t hastily put a claim into your insurance company as more snow could come.   Consult with your insurance agent regarding your specific situation.   


Wonderful article but you failed to mention if you call a contractor to remove ice dams/snow from your roof it will cost at least $800 to $1000, that is if they are available. Another impact upon seniors trying to live in a private residence in NE. Is a roof collapse covered by hone insurance? I hope so.
Posted @ Thursday, February 03, 2011 1:32 PM by Howard Hutchison (Hutch)
Your comment regarding cost is a good point. We have been referring a company that charges $200 per hour for four men and they have done many roofs in 2-3 hours, so the cost could be a little less, however it is still a big expense. Considering many people now have $500 and $1000 deductibles on their policies, spending $600-$800 and minimizing the water damage may be a good alternative to having water get in your walls and having your walls ripped open for a few weeks as a result. It is a choice, homeowners can make. 
As for collapse due to the weight of ice and snow, it is a covered peril with most homeowners insurance policies.  
Thank you for your unput!
Posted @ Thursday, February 03, 2011 1:50 PM by Rick Anderson, VP of Sales @ Gaudette Ins.
$800-$1000? My guy is only charging me around $100 for a 40' x 20' 30-degree roof.
Posted @ Monday, February 07, 2011 3:09 PM by James Pittman
James, you're getting a great deal. If your guy is insured, we'd like to get his name and number. Thanks.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 08, 2011 11:03 AM by Rick Anderson
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