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How to prevent snow and ice damage on your house

1. Snow and ice buildup on the roof

Generally speaking, Canadian homes are designed to stand up to the trials of winter. But snow and ice can easily build up and all that extra weight can damage your roof.

When to clear the snow or ice from your roof

It's time to act when there’s around 70 cm (about 2 feet) of snow or 5 cm (about 2 inches) of ice on the roof.

Be very careful when clearing snow and ice from your roof. If you’re clearing the roof yourself, work from the ground using a roof rake with a telescopic handle. Take care not to accidentally damage the roofing material and keep your tools well away from nearby hydro cables.

That said, the dangers are real and injuries are all too common, so we recommend that you hire a professional with the right equipment and knowledge of safety procedures, especially for removing ice, which is a more difficult job.

Note: When you clear snow, avoid damaging the roof shingles by always leaving at least a 2-inch layer of snow. That way the tools will never come into direct contact with the roof. Careless snow removal could damage the roofing material, and that may not be covered by your home insurance.

Warning signs of water seepage

No matter how much snow or ice there is, be on the lookout for signs that water is seeping through the roof. Check the ceiling and walls on the top floor of your house for:

  • Water stains or rings
  • Blistering
  • Water droplets

Signs of structural damage to your home

  • Cracks on indoor walls
  • Interior doors that start to stick, rub or not close properly
  • Warped ceilings
  • Unusual structural creaking

If you’re worried about the risk of water seepage or buildup of snow and ice on the roof, ask a building expert for advice right away.

Does your home insurance cover you against snow and ice damage?

If you’re insured with us, damage caused by water seepage or the weight of ice or snow is covered if your policy includes Water Damage – Above Ground Water and Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet (Endorsement 42) coverage.

2. Ice dams

Those icicles hanging from the eaves may look pretty, but they spell trouble. They can be a sign of a potentially serious problem—ice dams.

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edges of a sloped roof. If there’s an ice dam on your roof, it stops snowmelt from draining off the roof. That means water can accumulate and seep through the walls and ceiling into your home.

Ice dams tend to be caused by poor ventilation or insulation in the attic. Heat from the house melts the snow on the roof. The melting snow flows down to the lowest part of the roof where it freezes. Ice builds up over time, creating an ice dam that blocks the flow of water from melting snow. Now this water has nowhere to go but inside your house.

Here are some tips to help prevent damage caused by ice dams. Here again, we recommend that you hire a professional with the right equipment and knowledge of safety procedures.

  1. Regularly check the edges of your roof to make sure no ice dams have formed.
  2. Inspect the attic and seal any openings that could let out warm air from your home escape into the attic.
  3. Make sure there’s no space between the batt insulation strips (e.g., mineral wool).
  4. Make sure the attic is well ventilated and cool. That way, any snow on the roof will be less likely to melt and create ice dams.
  5. Ensure that the attic floor is well insulated to prevent heat from inside the home escaping through the roof and forming a layer of ice, which can quickly become an ice dam.

3. Snow buildup on your above ground pool

Above ground swimming pools are designed to withstand the weight of water in the summer, but they’re more vulnerable to the pressure of heavy snow and ice in the winter. Also, melting snow in the spring can expand (by becoming a block of ice), potentially damaging the pool, especially the cover.

You can avoid these problems by regularly clearing the snow off your swimming pool, so it’s never entirely buried under snow. Here are 4 steps for protecting your above ground pool in winter:

Remove the snow from the pool

Don’t get into the pool to shovel snow! If you do, the snow or ice could give way under your weight. This could damage the pool cover—and injure you!

Avoid damaging the rim

Use a plastic shovel to avoid scratching the edges of the pool. Also avoid walking on the coping to clear snow from the rim of the pool as this could weaken or crush the pool structure.

Don’t forget about the pool drain!

Remove snow from inside and on top of the drain to keep it from cracking.

Hire a professional if needed

The work will be done right and safely.

4. Protect other parts of your home

Stairs, doors and balconies

Remove snow or ice right away. Remember to be thorough—especially if they’re used as emergency exits.

Temporary carports

Temporary carports aren't designed to withstand excessive snow and ice buildup, so it’s important to clear them regularly. They can collapse under the weight of snow, so try to work from the outside rather than the inside when removing snow.

Oil and gas appliances

Make sure there’s adequate clearance around tanks and pipes and that they’re easily accessible and protected if snow and ice falls from the roof.

Hot tubs

Remove snow after every storm to make sure the cover survives the winter!

How to prevent snow and ice damage on your house

Every winter, thousands of people have to make home insurance claims for damage caused by snow and ice. But the good news is that you can do a lot to prevent this type of damage. Here are 4 ways to help protect your home.

The Personal refers to The Personal General Insurance Inc. in Quebec and The Personal Insurance Company in all other provinces and territories.

The information and advice in this article are provided for informational purposes only. The Personal shall not be liable for any damages arising from any reliance upon such information or advice. The Personal recommends using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, expert advice.