When homeowners notice water leaking inside their homes during the winter months, it can be confusing to understand and pinpoint where the water might be coming from… it’s not even raining outside and the temperatures are below freezing. The problem could be ice damming.

Ice dams, when left to develop over time, can put an immense amount of weight on your roof’s structure and potentially result in collapse. Rebuilding an entire section of the roof is an expensive repair, especially if you’re not sure if it’s covered by your HO-3 homeowner’s insurance policy.

What is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms from the refreezing of melted snow. Any heat escaping from your home’s roof may melt snow in direct contact with it, but that heat loss may not be warm enough to melt the snow in its entirety. The remaining snow forms somewhat of insulation for the water underneath.

As that water flows down to your gutters and comes into contact with gutter debris and cold temperatures again, it freezes and creates an ice dam. As the snow continues to melt and tries to drain to your gutters, it is trapped by the newly formed ice dam – leaving the water with nowhere to go.

It forces the water to either permeate between roofing shingles or cause your roof to collapse due to the additional weight. Either could cause extensive damage to your home.

What is an HO-3  Homeowner’s Insurance Policy?

An HO-3 homeowner’s insurance policy is an extremely common type of policy used to cover the financial burden from covered damage to your home and any other structures on the property. It often includes medical payments and personal liability, when needed.

This coverage is dependent on “perils ” – insured perils (included in your policy) and uninsured perils (not covered by your policy). Examples of insured perils include damage from things like water, fire, vandalism, and theft. Depending on your specific policy, earthquakes may or may not be covered, but commonly, flood-specific insurance requires the purchase of a separate policy.

Does an HO-3 Policy Cover Damage from Ice Dams?

It is always recommended to contact your homeowner’s insurance agent to verify your specific policy’s coverage. However, a majority of HO-3 policies cover most major damage due to ice dams. An HO-3 policy often has expansive coverage and under this type of policy, extensive weather-related damage to your home should be covered.

While your policy may not specifically name “ice dams” in the coverage descriptions, it is often included in the “weight of ice and snow” section – in the case of a roof collapse. Regarding exterior structures like pools, fences, foundations, walls, and other load-bearing features – your policy may not cover that damage.

If you have questions about whether or not specific damage is covered, please contact your insurance agent.

How to Prevent  Ice Dams from Forming

Prevention is the best way to avoid major damage from ice dams. Create a seasonal maintenance plan and prepare by cleaning all leaves and debris from your gutters that could cause water to build up and freeze, checking your home’s attic ventilation to avoid heat loss, and inspecting and repairing any air leaks around vents and access panels. During cold weather months, keep snow from accumulating in the area closest to the gutters.

If you’ve tried all those methods (or don’t have the ability to conduct a maintenance plan) and ice dams are still forming, consider hiring a professional like Ned Stevens to remove the gutter completely and eliminate the risk of expensive interior damage due to ice dams.