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Preventing & Getting Rid of Ice Dams

Ice damming is a maddening problem that afflicts homeowners all over Minnesota and other cold climates. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average home insurance claim for water damage and freezing (which ice dams can cause) is $3,098.

What is an ice dam?

During the winter, the heat from your home rises into your attic and exits through your roof. The area of your roof directly under the attic warms up, while the outer edges remain cold, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety. If there's snow on your roof, the rising heat melts the snow.

The melted water then drips down the roof and refreezes once it reaches the colder gutter area or overhang. Once the ice dam is formed, it traps the rest of the water running down your roof and water can't properly drain off your roof. This build-up can damage shingles, your roof, ceiling, and interior walls.

Does home insurance cover damage from ice dams?

Fortunately, according to the Insurance Information Institute, most homeowner's policies cover damage related to ice dams. However, heading off ice dams can save you the trouble of filing an insurance claim (and paying a deductible ($1000 deductibles are common)) and also help prevent your insurance rates from rising due to filing a claim.

How can I prevent ice dams?

Homeowners have several options for battling ice dams:

  • Better insulation: Insulate your attic from the rest of the house to avoid heat leaks. Identify and seal off sources of heat leaking, including vents, furnaces, electrical outlets and light fixtures, the Institute for Business and Home Safety recommends.
  • Improved ventilation: Proper roof ventilation allows heat to escape your attic (through vents at the edge of the roof, for example) without it warming your roof deck and creating ice dams.
  • Protection for the roof: The tactical deployment of "underlayments" -- products that create watertight barriers between the deck of your roof and the shingles -- won't be able to stop ice damming but may be able to prevent or minimize damage, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety.
  • Rake your roof: Get a roof rake from your local hardware store and rake the snow off as much as you can from your roof when the snow builds up.  This will give melting snow a clear path down to your gutters.

Advance preparation: Clear debris and leaves out of your gutters before winter. Also, be on the lookout for signs of dripping, leaking or mold in the attic so that you and your home insurance company can take care of damage before it worsens.    

So you have an ice dam, now what?  Don't get on the roof and chisel it off.  That is dangerous and you can also damage your roof.  Some people try a special ice melt you can throw up there that you can purchase from your local hardware store.  Your best option is to hire a professional to remove the ice dam though.  They have special machines that use steam to safely melt the ice off your room.  It's not cheap, but the alternative is paying your insurance deductible, going through the hassle of a claim, having your home insurance rates going up, and dealing with contractors fixing the potential damage they'll cause to your ceiling and walls.  

Call us if you need us:  Call Lakeside Insurance Brokers at 952-854-0109 if you have any questions.  Prevent and get rid of those ice dams and stay warm!