Ice Dams: 4 Ways to Protect Your Property from Winter Damage

The accumulation of only several inches of snow, combined with the right weather conditions, can cause ice dams to form along the roof edge and gutters.

This is caused by snow melt running down the pitch of the roof and refreezing into a band or “dam” along the roof edge. The ice can become heavy enough to crack gutters and cause them to fall. The falling ice and metal can also cause damage to windows and the exterior of the structure.

Additionally, as snowmelt pools against the ice dam, the trapped water can begin to make its way into the house. If not detected early, damage to insulation and drywall can be extensive and mold growth can result.

It’s not surprising, then, that ice dams and their resulting damage are the cause of many property insurance claims. The following are a few ways to ensure your property is protected, both beforehand and in the event of damage occurring.

Preventive Maintenance

Whether you have to file a claim or not, preventive maintenance is important. Besides the obvious benefits of keeping any structure in good condition, an insurance company may deny coverage if it appears that the damage resulted from lack of upkeep and regular maintenance.

Gutters should always be kept in good repair and clear of leaves or debris. Roofs and attics should be inspected for structural integrity, insulation, and ventilation. If there are any signs of water intrusion, loose or missing shingles, mildew, or blocked vents, these should be dealt with immediately.


The addition of certain upgrades to the structure may also be a good investment. These include the installation of rooftop snow guards or slides that allow snow and ice to drop in small amounts and prevent the accumulation that causes ice dams to form. Older roofs may benefit from the addition of a layer of rubberized ice and water shielding under the shingles. This is particularly beneficial in the area three to six feet up from the eaves, where ice dams tend to cause water ingress. In some situations, the installation of special heating cables in the eaves is a successful measure to prevent ice accumulation at the roof edge.

Snow Removal

The key to preventing ice dams from forming is to keep the lower three to six feet of the roof free from the accumulation of large amounts of snow and ice. Sometimes this may require the removal of snow from the roof. If you choose to do this yourself, a “roof rake” specifically designed for snow removal can be purchased. For safety, overhangs and roof edges should always be cleared first. Obviously, great care should be exercised when removing snow and ice from a roof and there are many risks involved in this activity.

For this reason, hiring a professional who is licensed, bonded, and insured is recommended. This is especially true if an ice dam has already formed. A professional will be able to use steam equipment to melt the ice, thus removing it in the safest possible way for you and your property.

Expert Help

In the event that you do have to file an insurance claim for damages caused by an ice dam, expert help is important. Some insurance companies are much easier to deal with than others, and ice dam claims can be a difficult ongoing process to investigate. Often, the damage extends many layers deep into the roofing and interior of a structure and its full extent is not always immediately apparent. When dealing with insurance adjusters and contractors, having an experienced public adjuster on your side can be the most important thing you do to ensure a complete recovery.

Have questions about your property insurance claim? Feel free to contact Stark Loss for more information about how a Public Adjuster can help.

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