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413.586.6481 (fax)
8 North King Street
Northampton, MA 01060


22Dec. 2014

About Those Damn Ice Dams

With the recent arctic blasts, it feels like winter has come early to the Pioneer Valley. And when winter comes, so do the ice dams for many of our clients.

The good news is that homeowners insurance will cover damage caused by ice dams, subject to your deductible. Ice dams can cause water damage, carpet damage, mold, mildew, and can necessitate repainting, among other repairs.

Ice dams are avoidable, however. And because they are avoidable, insurance companies feel you should take steps to prevent them. Therefore, the not-so-good-news is that if you have recurring claims for ice-dam related damage, you may find it hard to get an insurance company to offer you homeowners insurance going forward.

So how do you avoid ice dams?

The best way is to keep your attic insulated and ventilated to prevent heat from your lower floors from raising the temperature in the attic.

Ice dams form when snow accumulates on your roof and heat from your attic warms your roof, melting the snow directly above it. The meltwater runs down the roof, but refreezes at the edge of it where it is much colder than above the attic. Over time the accumulated frozen meltwater grows into an ice dam and forces subsequent meltwater to pool on the roof, eventually seeping down through shingles to your ceiling and walls.

Short-term methods for avoiding ice dams include using a snow rake to remove snow from the roof (good only for single story homes) or having a professional remove the snow for you. More effective is to invest in additional insulation, roof and soffit vents, and in some cases an attic fan to keep the air cool. Sealing any areas where heat leaks into the attic is also helpful, though always not easy to do.

If you need to re-roof your home, you should have your contractor add ice-and-water barrier between the house and the roof. Ice and water barrier is a special underlayer that adheres to roof decking and waterproofs it. You may want to consider this as well if ice dams have been a recurring problem for you.

Please call if you have any questions about ice dams or about your homeowners policy.


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