Depending on your roof’s condition, ice dams can often lead to leaks and roof collapses, creating an expensive problem. Fortunately, homeowners insurance covers the weight of snow and ice. That means if an ice dam forms on your roof and it collapses, you’ll likely be covered by your homeowners policy. That said, there are a few considerations to bear in mind before filing a claim.
Homeowners insurance covers property damage caused by the weight of ice, snow, and sleet.
If an ice dam causes your roof to fall through, your insurance would likely help cover repairs.
Repairs to other structures on your property, like fences, pools, patios, and docks, may not be covered in the event of damage caused by ice dams or snow buildup.
Compare your policy deductible to the cost of repairs to determine if it’s worth filing a claim.
If the damage to your property isn't much more than your deductible, it may not be worth it.
What is an ice dam?
An ice dam is a buildup of water that dams up — or collects — on your roof and freezes, forming a giant ridge of ice. Ice dams form because one part of your roof — usually along the edges — is colder than other parts of your roof. When water from the warmer section melts off, it flows into pockets where ice has accumulated, creating more ice and pools of water. This forms a barrier between your roof and the gutter, making it difficult for water to drain, and the weight can lead to roof collapse.
Does homeowners insurance cover ice dams?
For the most part, yes. A standard HO-3 homeowners insurance policy doesn’t outright mention that ice dam damage is covered, but insurers generally consider it “weight of ice and snow” — a peril that is covered by homeowners insurance.
That means if an ice dam causes your roof to collapse, insurance may help cover the cost of repairs. And if the roof collapse damages your personal property inside your house, home insurance will likely help pay to replace those belongings, too.
When is ice dam damage not covered by homeowners insurance?
There is a section of your policy that specifies that damage to certain structures on your property won’t be covered if the cause of loss is freezing, thawing, and weight of water or ice. Those structures include:
Foundations, bulkheads, walls, and any other structure that supports all or part of a building or other structure on the property
Piers, wharves, and docks
Does homeowners insurance cover the cost of ice dam removal?
If the ice dam damages your home, insurance will likely pay for the repairs and removal of the ice. But homeowners insurance generally doesn’t provide “preventative" coverage. So if the ice dam hasn’t yet caused any structural damage, your insurance company most likely won’t pay to remove it.
That means if the ice dam is on your roof but isn’t causing any damage, you’ll have to wait for it to melt, remove it yourself, or pay a professional to.
Is it worth filing an ice dam damage claim?
Whether you should file a claim for ice dam damage depends on the severity of the loss. Frequent claims make insurance more expensive and make it harder to get coverage in the long run — major insurance companies are known to turn down applicants with multiple claims in a short period of time. Also, if the damage amount isn’t higher than your deductible, then you won’t be able to file a claim.
But roof damage claims can be expensive, and that expense is only compounded if hundreds of gallons of water fall through and ruin a ton of your personal belongings. If we’re talking about an entire section of your roof giving way to an ice dam that causes thousands in property damage, it may be worth filing a claim rather than paying for it out of pocket. But again, it really depends on how high your deductible is and your claims history.
For small roof leaks, consider paying out of pocket
If the ice dam only causes a relatively small roof leak, that’s something you might just want to pay for out of pocket yourself. To remove the dam, consult a roofing professional or look into an ice dam steamer. (Yes, we checked — those exist.)
How to prevent ice dams
The best way to prevent ice dams and spare yourself the maintenance and insurance headache is to be proactive. Good ventilation, drainage, and proper insulation are all ways to keep this problem from turning into an expensive disaster. Here are a number of actionable steps you should take ahead of winter:
Clear your gutters of leaves and debris
Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your home to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, and light fixtures
Check for signs of bad ventilation
Keep snow from accumulating on the lower sections of your roof