Preparing for winter doesn't just mean cleaning your gutters and sealing up potential openings in your home — it also means checking your home insurance policy to make sure your home is fully protected for the months ahead.
Homeowners insurance covers most causes of winter weather damage, including wind, roof collapse from snow, roof leaks from ice dams, and other sources of loss that are covered under your policy. However, if your pipes freeze and burst because you failed to drain outside faucets or maintain heating in your home; or if your insurer determines that any winter storm damage to your home was a result of neglect, insurance may not help cover the loss
What type of winter storm damage is covered by homeowners insurance?
From cold snaps to blizzards to freezing rain, there are no shortage of elements that can wreak havoc on your house during the winter. Fortunately, your homeowners insurance coverage can help cover the cost of repairs if your home is damaged from wind, snow, freezing, or other causes of winter storm damage.
Below are common winter storm conditions covered by homeowners insurance
Weight of snow or ice
A typical homeowners insurance policy specifically covers the weight of ice, snow, or sleet. That means if snow accumulates on your roof and causes it to collapse, or if a tree falls onto your home due to heavy winds or snow, home insurance can help cover the cost of repairs or replace any of your possessions that were damaged.
If your pipes or household systems freeze and burst during a cold snap, you may be covered for the resulting water damage to your home. However, insurers generally only cover damage due to freezing if you took proper care to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place. In other words, if your pipes froze and burst because you left for a few months and forgot to shut off the water valve, your insurer likely won't cover your claim.
A blizzard brings both snow and strong winds. Home insurance includes coverage for wind damage, so if a blizzard rips the roof off of your home, or if it causes a tree on your property to fall on your garage, homeowners insurance can help cover the cost of repairs.
What type of winter storm damage is NOT covered by homeowners insurance?
There are certain types of winter storm damage that are not covered by a homeowners policy, including:
Sometimes blizzards can lead to flood damage, especially if you live in an Atlantic coastal state. Home insurance excludes coverage for flooding. You’ll need a standalone flood insurance policy to protect you from any type of flood damage.
Insurers consider it your responsibility as the homeowner to maintain your property. If your roof was in bad shape before a blizzard, like if it already had a hole in it, and snow got inside or caused it to collapse, you likely won't be covered. You also likely won't be covered if you didn’t take reasonable precautions to make sure your pipes and HVAC systems were protected from freezing weather.
How to prepare your home for winter
If you expect freezing temperatures or a blizzard is headed your way, there are some steps you can take to better protect your property from damage.
Trim tree branches: Blizzard winds and the weight of snow can break already weak tree branches that could damage your home.
Insulate pipes: Adding extra insulation to the exposed pipes in unheated areas of your home, like attics, garages, and basement cellars, can help prevent them from freezing and bursting.
Insulate your attic: Poorly insulated attics can allow heat to escape and can quickly melt the snow on your roof. This can potentially lead to water damage if it seeps through any cracks or holes in the roof.
Shut your water off: If you’re going on vacation or leaving town for a few weeks during the winter months, it may be a good idea to turn your water off to avoid freezing.
Set a thermostat to a specific temperature: Keeping your house set at a certain temperature, especially when you aren’t home, will help lessen the risk of freezing.