Snow vs Home

January 28, 2020

prevent ice damsWinter brings snowmobiling, skiing, and hockey to the Utica area. Plus cozy fireplaces and indoor relaxation. But it can also wreak havoc on your home.

So we consulted for some tips on preventing the ice dams that can damage the interior of your home. We also found out how to determine the amount of snow your roof can take before the weight gets dangerous.

5 Ways to Prevent Ice Dams

The culprit here is warm air inside that hits cold snow on the roof. The snow melts just slightly and water runs underneath down to the edge of the roof. At the lower edge the water refreezes under the snow and forms a thin layer of ice.

This happens over and over until an ice dam is created. Water backs up behind the ice dam and can leak under the shingles into the house. There it can damage ceilings and walls, especially of the rooms upstairs.

Most homeowners policies will pay for the damage the water causes to the interior of your home. The downside is that a claim is subject to your deductible. Plus you have to take the time to get estimates and get the damaged repaired.

However, you can help prevent ice-back up with these 5 tips:

  1. Keep all drains, gutters, and downspouts free of debris and vegetation. These can restrict proper water flow.
  2. Remove heaters or heat vents in the attic that will heat the snow causing the back up.
  3. Insulate light fixtures in ceilings below the unheated attic.
  4. If you have vents out of the attic ceiling, seal and insulate them so airflow is minimized.
  5. If you have a flat roof, install heating cables on eaves, gutters, and downspouts. This doesn’t remove the ice dam but will create channels for the water to drain off safely.

Heavy Snow and Ice

Not only can snow cause damage with ice backup, but it can also accumulate at dangerous levels. How much is dangerous? Here’s a quick way to estimate the weight of accumulated snow on your roof.

After a new snowfall, 10-12 inches is equal to 1 inch of water. This is about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space. Since most homes should be able to support 20 pounds per square foot of weight, your roof could have up to 4 feet of new snow before it becomes stressed.

3-5 inches of packed snow is equal to 1 inch of water or about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space. So more than 2 feet of packed snow could be a problem.

What usually happens is the new snow falls onto packed snow. For example, 2 feet of new snow on top of 2 feet of old snow could weigh as much as 60 pounds per square foot of roof space. This is, of course, beyond the capacity of most roofs.

The upshot is, if you calculate the weight of the snow on your home’s roof as dangerous, hire a contractor to remove it. If you do it yourself, be careful!!

Here again, if the weight of ice and snow damages your home, we are here for you. Most homeowners insurance policies cover the damage, minus your deductible.

We must admit that we love Utica area winters and all there is to do during this time of year. (Though we do miss the golf season!) But snow brings its problems. So we hope you’ll take care after big storms to get the snow off your roof. And do what you can to prevent ice backups.

Until next time,
Your SZW Team

SZW Insurance is your Utica area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here. In Westchester County call Zak Scalzo at 914.246.0315 or email at