Ice Dam Insurance Claims
Ice dams are a common occurrence in northern climates receiving significant precipitation in the form of snow. They develop when heavy snow buildup melts during the day and then refreezes when temperatures drop overnight. After several days of melting-freezing cycles, it's common for the melted water and ice to work up under the shingles until water enters the attic and eventually does damage to the ceilings, wall and contents. In cases where the ice dam goes unnoticed for an extended period of time, it can do significant damage to the building and its contents.
While most all-risk and replacement cost value insurance policies afford coverage from damage resulting from weight of snow and ice, it is important to inform your carrier as soon as damage is noticed, and to review your policy for limitations and exclusions. While you may be covered if an ice dam forms and a portion of your roof collapses, water intrusion resulting from an ice dam is not as straightforward. Many ice dam claims come into conflict over the timeframe in which the damage ultimately occurred. Carrier representatives will often posit that damage occurred gradually, over time, and due to a failure by the insured to mitigate against the development of the ice dam. As such, the damage does not meet the requisite of “sudden and accidental” which carriers will use as a grounds for a denial. Thus is it important to act quickly if interior damage is noticed from an ice dam, as even though the ice dam caused the leak, and immediate damage may be covered, subsequent damage resulting from delay and negligence will almost certainly be denied.
Ice Dam Prevention and Mitigation
According to NOAA there's no way to guarantee an ice dam won't damage your home, but you can take steps to cut the chances of an ice dam forming in the first place:
- If you haven't already, thoroughly clean all leaves, sticks and other debris from your home's gutters and downspouts. This allows melting roof snow to flow into gutters and
- Make every effort to keep snow on your roof to a minimum. Long-handled devices on the market called "roof shakes" let you stand on the ground and pull the snow off the roof. Keeping heavy snow loads off your roof reduces the chances for both ice dam formation and roof failure due to the weight.
- All winter long, keep gutters and downspouts clear of snow and icicles.
- Evaluate the insulation and ventilation in your attic. Most experts agree the R-value of attic insulation should be at least R-30 (R-38 is preferable in northern climates). In addition, good airflow from under the eaves or soffit area along the underside of the roof and out through the roof vents is essential. The insulation prevents heat loss from the interior of the home. The venting allows the attic air to stay cold enough to prevent or minimize the freeze/thaw cycle on the roof. Consult a reputable roofing and/or insulation contractor about these improvements.
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