Snowmageddon: Is your roof at risk of collapse?


After the unprecedented series of record-breaking snowstorms, we’re hearing some reports of roofs collapsing under the weight of the snow. One of our insurance partners, The Hanover, posted this persuasive graphic on their Twitter feed comparing the cost of a roof replacement vs a roof rake.

roof-rake

That’s pretty convincing, but how do you know if your home or business is at risk? The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has a great infographic (below) along with an informative post on Four Steps to Identify and Address Roof Risks from Heavy Snow – it offers tips for how to identify and assess your risk and how to address problems safely. It’s well worth a read, particularly since forecasters say there may be more snow in our future this week!

This has got to end someday, right? When it does, keep this resource handy:
Responding to Flooding When Snow and Ice Melt

Snow-Roof-Risks_IBHS1

Ice Dams 101: How to handle winter roof hazards


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Photo credit: Wikimedia

We notice that a lot of searches for “ice dams” on our blog this year. While ice dams are a winter peril that we New Englanders have become all-too familiar with, some of our southern neighbors may be meeting them for the first time. We’ve updated information from a prior post to offer some key facts.

How do you know if you have ice dams?

Essentially, if you have large icicles hanging from your roof, you probably have an ice dam problem -see the photo above. The icicles are the symptom, not the underlying problem, which is generally one of insulation. The University of Minnesota Extension offers a solid explanation of what ice dams are and why they occur, as well as information about prevention. Don’t miss the excellent diagram that shows why they form.

If you have ice dams on your house, you need to address them with a two-fold strategy:

First, you need to get rid of the ice dams and minimize the immediate damage.
Your best bet is to hire an experienced professional to do this – it can be a risky task. Some folks want to go out and chop away at icicles, but it’s not a good idea to be climbing on snow- and ice-covered roofs or using ladders on slippery ground. Plus, using the wrong tools to remove snow or chunks of ice from your roof may cause further damage to your shingles or your gutters. Not to mention damage to you: flying ice chunks can be very heavy and sharp. Many people also use salts or other chemical concoctions to deal with ice dams, a less-than-ideal “fix” because chemicals can damage or discolor your roof and can leach into the ground, damaging plants and greenery. If you have a low roof, one of the most common ways that people deal with ice dams is by purchasing a specially-designed roof rake and removing snow from directly above the ice dam. Again, this can pose risks to both you and your roof.

Second, you need to diagnose the underlying problem and take steps to prevent ice dams from forming.
While ice dams can sometimes occur as a result of freezing rain, more often than not they are a symptom of an insulation problem which should be addressed because there are other problems besides ice dams that can occur, such as a build-up of moisture that could lead to rot, mildew or mold. Not to mention that with poor insulation, heating costs are almost literally going through the roof. While there are a number of products that can treat the symptoms and prevent ice dams, the best way to protect the value of your house would be to enlist the expertise of a weatherization, insulation, or energy conservation contractor to diagnose the and remedy the root problem. Builder and consultant Paul Frisette offers his thoughts on why ice dams form and how to prevent ice dams by treating the root cause, not just the symptoms.

Ice dams and homeowners and rental insurance
The Insurance Information Institute discusses what’s covered and what’s not in terms of water damage: “Standard homeowners and renters insurance provides coverage for burst pipes, wind driven rain and damage resulting from ice dams on your roof.” III also offers this helpful rule of thumb: “Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, while water that comes from the bottom up, such as an overflowing river, is covered by a separate flood insurance policy.”

In a separate article on recent severe storms, III discusses winter water damage:

“Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up is considered flooding and would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers. Federal flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters. Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies.”

“Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams—a condition where water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls—is covered. There is generally a requirement, however, that the homeowner has taken steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and maintaining pipes, drains and gutters.”

When in doubt about your coverage, call your agent – that’s what we’re here for!

Here’s more information from Wikipedia and from a few of our insurance partners:

Travelers: Tips to help remove an ice dam from your roof

Liberty Mutual: Ice Dams

Bats in the Belfry: Home maintenance nightmare


During a new roof installation, some Florida roofers ran into a surprise when they were tearing up the old one. Make sure that checking your roof is a routine part of maintenance.

Bats have an undeservedly bad reputation in public lore (well, except for Batman) but they are important little critters that keep the insect population down, have a role in pollination and seed distribution, and play other important ecological functions. Because of this, they are a protected species under Massachusetts law, and most other state laws too.
The Massachusetts Wildlife Department offers a useful Homeowner’s Guide to Bats that offers information on what to do if a bat gets in your house, signs that a bat colony might be inhabiting your attic, advice for how to get rid of a bat colony that has adopted your home as their own, and other bat-related tips and pointers.
One other note about the video on a different topic from the bats: If you have roofers working on your house, make sure that they use safety harnesses or some type of fall protection! While a work injury would typically fall under workers’ comp, as a homeowner, you don’t want to take any chances.

Dealing with ice dams and other winter weather hazards


For homeowners in snow-prone areas of the country, roof damage or leaks from snow and ice dams are common winter threats to your home. How do you know if you have ice dams? Wikipedia has a good photo of an ice dam forming on a slate roof. Essentially, if you have large icicles hanging from your roof, you probably have an ice dam problem. The icicles are the symptom, not the underlying problem, which is generally one of insulation. How Stuff Works offers a pretty good non-technical explanation of what ice dams are and why they occur.
If you have ice dams on your house, you need to address them with a two-fold strategy:
First, you need to get rid of the ice dams and minimize the immediate damage.
Your best bet is to hire an experienced professional to do this – it can be a risky task. Some folks want to go out and chop away at icicles, but it’s not a good idea to be climbing on snow- and ice-covered roofs or using ladders on slippery ground. Plus, using the wrong tools to remove snow or chunks of ice from your roof may cause further damage to your shingles or your gutters. Not to mention damage to you: flying ice chunks can be very heavy and sharp. Many people also use salts or other chemical concoctions to deal with ice dams, a less-than-ideal “fix” because chemicals can damage or discolor your roof and can leach into the ground, damaging plants and greenery. If you have a low roof, one of the most common ways that people deal with ice dams is by purchasing a specially-designed roof rake and removing snow from directly above the ice dam. Again, this can pose risks to both you and your roof.
Second, you need to diagnose the underlying problem and take steps to prevent ice dams from forming.
While ice dams can sometimes occur as a result of freezing rain, more often than not they are a symptom of an insulation problem which should be addressed because there are other problems besides ice dams that can occur, such as a build-up of moisture that could lead to rot, mildew or mold. Not to mention that with poor insulation, heating costs are almost literally going through the roof. While there are a number of products that can treat the symptoms and prevent ice dams, the best way to protect the value of your house would be to enlist the expertise of a weatherization, insulation, or energy conservation contractor to diagnose the and remedy the root problem. Builder and consultant Paul Frisette offers his thoughts on why ice dams form and how to prevent ice dams by treating the root cause, not just the symptoms.
Ice dams and homeowners and rental insurance
The Insurance Information Institute discusses what’s covered and what’s not in terms of water damage: “Standard homeowners and renters insurance provides coverage for burst pipes, wind driven rain and damage resulting from ice dams on your roof.” III also offers this helpful rule of thumb: “Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, while water that comes from the bottom up, such as an overflowing river, is covered by a separate flood insurance policy.” When in doubt about your coverage, call your agent – that’s what we’re here for!
Snow overload and other perils for public and commercial buildings
Commercial and public buildings with flat roofs are susceptible to other winter woes. In addition to the risk of ice dams, flat-roofed buildings can also suffer damage or collapse from an accumulation of deep snow. Deep snow followed by heavy rain can be particularly perilous, especially for older buildings. One of our insurance partners, Utica National, has issued a handy risk management advisory about severe winter weather and roofs. The advisory includes general guidelines to help estimate the weight of snow.