Q

Does homeowners insurance cover roof collapse from snow?

A

Yes, homeowners insurance covers roof collapse caused by the weight of snow, ice, or sleet. But a roof that was previously damaged or in bad shape may not be covered, so it’s best to keep your roof well-maintained.

Nothing says “winter wonderland'' like a layer of delicate snow on your home, lawn, and nearby trees, but excessive snowfall can pose a threat to your home — and too much snow can even cause your roof to collapse under its weight. A standard homeowners insurance policy will typically cover roof collapse from snow, ice, or sleet, as well as damage to your personal belongings if roof collapse causes snow to enter your home or damages your possessions. But a roof with existing maintenance issues or prior, unresolved damage may not be covered, which is why you should keep your roof well-maintained all year round.

To prevent roof collapse from snow and associated water damage, you should keep your gutters clear of debris, remove accumulated snow in between snowstorms (if possible), and look out for any warning signs, such as curling shingles.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Roof collapse caused by snow, ice, or sleet would be covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy

  • Damage to your ceiling and personal belongings would also be covered if your roof collapses on top of them

  • It’s best to keep-up your roof all year round in order to avoid damage to the rest of your home in the event of a roof collapse

Can a roof collapse from snow?

Snow can certainly cause a roof to collapse under its weight, especially if repeated snow events prevent it from fully melting in between. If snow is followed by rain, the snow might absorb the rainwater, making it even heavier and harder to remove.

According to Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, most roofs can withstand up to “20 pounds per square foot of snow” before becoming distressed (assuming they’re in good condition before it snows). But a poorly maintained roof can support much less than that, so it’s best to keep your roof well-maintained in order to avoid significant damage.

Does insurance cover roof damage from snow?

Yes, homeowners insurance covers roof damage from snow, including roof collapse and related ceiling damage. Ice dams, which can cause your roof to cave in, are also covered. Unless specifically excluded from your policy, homeowners insurance may also cover related weather conditions like:

  • wind and hail damage from a blizzard (though you may need to pay a deductible before you can get covered)

  • water damage from a roof leak if a snowstorm creates an opening in your roof

  • frozen or busted pipes (as long as the pipes were properly maintained prior to the damage)

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If it can be determined that your roof was previously damaged or in poor shape prior to snowfall, then homeowners insurance won’t cover it. In general, standard homeowners insurance won’t cover maintenance issues, like wear and tear, corrosion, and anything else that if addressed, could’ve prevented the snow from causing your roof to collapse.

Typically, however, roof damage or collapse from snow or ice is covered by home insurance. When you file a claim after a roof collapse, your insurance company will likely send you some portion of the settlement right away, so you can start arranging repairs and pay for temporary housing while yours is a construction zone.

How to prevent roof collapse

The best way to prevent roof collapse from snow is to maintain it all year round, especially in the months leading up to winter. To minimize the impact of severe weather conditions on your roof, you should:

  • Clean your gutters - keep your gutters free of leaves and debris so melting snow can travel through the downspout and into the ground

  • Prevent ice dams - if possible, remove snow from your roof in between storms to prevent it from piling up

  • Trim overhanging branches - snip any branches that are hanging over your roof. This will prevent snow capped branches from melting on your roof, but it will also keep pests like squirrels and rodents at bay (you may need to hire a tree removal professional for this)

  • Insulate your attic - proper attic insulation can keep heat circulating throughout your highest floor, causing most of the snow above it to slough away

  • Look out for the signs of damage - warning signs associated with potential roof collapse include sagging or deformed steel, a cracked or split ceiling, and bowed utility pipes, according to property and casualty experts

  • Hire a snow removal contractor - If you want to keep your roof clear of snow without getting your hands dirty (or in this case, wet), you can hire a snow removal contractor to remove the snow for you. This will also ensure that the job is done as thoroughly as possible, so you don’t accidentally miss any spots