Freshly fallen snow on your home may look beautiful now, but that snow and ice on your roof could also be creating costly ice damage. One out of every 55 insured homes will have a claim related to water damage or ice damage each year, according to estimates from the Insurance Information Institute. Don’t let this happen to your home!
Ice dams form when the warm air in the attic causes the roof to warm and snow to melt. This water then runs down the roof and freezes when it reaches the colder roof edge, creating a “dam” of ice. The ice then traps more melting water, sometimes forcing this water underneath the shingles and into the house. Ice dams can be responsible for wet, stained ceilings and walls, peeled paint, and rotten siding.
Routine maintenance can help reduce the risk for ice dams. Keep gutters clear from leaves, sticks, and debris so melted water can flow freely away from your house. Don’t neglect the attic either. Stopping air leakage is essential to reducing the risk for ice dams. Most air leakage is related to gaps in drywall or cracks around light fixtures, plumbing pipes, and the chimney.
Fixing air leaks requires pulling back insulation and then plugging these leaks with foam or caulk. Homeowners should also verify that attic insulation meets building code requirements. If your home is older or has not had an insulation checkup in recent years, consider hiring a professional team to plug any leaks in your attic.
A heavy snowfall may result in an ice dam, cautions The Family Handyman. If you have a single story home, one option is to use a snow rake to remove snow off the roof. A snow rake is an aluminum scraper mounted at a right angle on a telescoping aluminum pole. Always use a snow rake when standing firmly on the ground; do not use a snow rake from a ladder! If possible, buy your snow rake before the first snowfall.
If you have a two-story home and cannot easily use a snow rake to keep your roof clear, consider installing heat cables. These high-resistance wires are mounted on your roof and plug into outdoor GFCI receptacles. Heat cables may also be a smart choice where two roofs meet at a right angle (“roof valleys”) and fill with windblown snow.
In the event that you cannot safely remove snow from your roof and an ice dam forms, you may need to hire a roofing company to steam off the ice dam. An ice dam steamer is similar to a high pressure washer and uses warm water to melt the ice. Never try to chip off the ice yourself with an ice pick. Doing so could seriously damage your roof's shingles.
Your homeowner's policy may protect your home's interior from water damage caused by ice dams. However, prevention is key. Coverage will vary based on your specific policy, so it’s always a good idea to talk to your agent and determine if additional coverage is necessary.