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Winter Storm Damage and your Homeowner’s Policy

By December 19, 2019May 24th, 2021No Comments

Leavenworth, Overland Park and the Greater Metropolitan area just experienced our first major snow storm of the season. This winter wonderland can create a picturesque scene but it can also be silently causing damage to your home.

First, lets talk about what kinds of damage you may experience from snow, ice and freezing conditions. Then we can address what steps you can take to prevent damage and what protection your homeowner’s policy may provide.

Roof Collapse

The additional weight of accumulated ice and snow can lead to roof collapse. The pitch of your roof plays a factor in how quickly the ice and snow accumulate. The lower the slope the faster the snow and ice will accumulate.

To alleviate the weight of ice and snow on your roof, hire a professional to remove the snow when possible. If a professional is not available you can use a roof rake from the ground to clear the snow. Use caution to avoid any overhead power lines. Lastly, you could use a ladder to access the roof and shovel off the snow. Make sure to use safety harnesses and any additional safety precautions.

Roof collapse due to the weight of ice, snow or sleet is typically covered under a homeowner’s policy. The damage would be subject to your policy deductible and certain limitations may apply due to the age and condition of the roof prior to the damage.

Ice Dams

Ice dams occur when the snow touching your roof melts and then the water refreezes before running off the roof. Ice dams can cause water to back up under the shingles causing water damage to insulation, ceilings and walls. They can also cause damage to shingles and gutters if they break free and fall. They will take the shingles and the gutters with them and also damage anything that they land on below.

To prevents ice dams from occurring you should make sure your roof is cleared of snow. In addition, make sure your attic and ceiling have proper insulation. Gutters and downspouts need to be regularly inspected to ensure proper drainage.

In order for your homeowner’s policy to trigger coverage from an ice dam, damage must occur first. The damage to your structure is typically covered under a homeowners’s policy, subject to the policy deductible. Depending on the type of homeowner’s policy that you have, personal property damaged by the ensuing water may not be covered.

Frozen Pipes

When the temperature outside drops below freezing, water in your plumbing pipes can freeze. When water freezes it expands causing pressure in the pipe. Eventually that pressure can cause your pipes to burst. The most susceptible pipes lack insulation and are located in unheated interior areas of the house such as basements, attics and crawls spaces.

Before a leak occurs, you should make sure that pipes in vulnerable areas have proper heat and insulation. In addition, only water that is stationary will freeze. If you are concerned about your pipes freezing leave a faucet on with a slow drip to keep the water flowing. Opening cabinet doors will allow heat from the rest of the house to reach your pipes.

Fortunately, most homeowner’s policies will cover the water damage caused by freezing pipes, subject to the deductible. The policy typically covers the ensuing water damage but not the repair to the actual pipe that burst. Exclusions can apply if the heat in the building was not properly maintained.

Downed Trees

Snow, ice and sleet can rapidly add weight to tree branches causing them to snap and break. Avoid shaking branches in an attempt to clear them of heavy snow. Shaking can cause damage or breakage.

To keep your trees strong and healthy during the winter months begin and annual pruning regimen. During this process remove weak limbs and excessive branches.

If you have a tree that falls due to the weight of ice, snow or sleet you may have coverage available under your homeowner’s policy for reasonable expenses to remove the tree. Typically, the coverage is available only if the tree damages a covered structure or blocks accessibility to the covered location. Dollar limitations do apply to this coverage.

Should a downed tree damage your home or other covered structure your homeowner’s policy would cover those repairs subject to the policy deductible.

Winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornados, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

We are here to answer your policy questions and make sure you have the best coverage available. Call us today for a policy check-up!