Late Winter Storms Brings Roof Collapse And Ice Dam Risk

massachusetts snow roof collapseWinter Safety and Insurance Alert

With more heavy, wet snow in the forecast and roofs already covered in snow, the risk of roof collapse and ice dams remains very high. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) warns that fluffy snow piled high on roofs can act as a sponge, absorbing rain and adding additional stress to structures.

Relatively flat roofs are particularly vulnerable, MEMA says. In other cases, roof ice dams have formed causing water build-up, leading to interior damage. These conditions can accelerate the snowmelt.

Prevention of Roof Collapse

  • Be on the alert for large accumulating snow build-up or snowdrifts.
  • If roof snow can be removed with the use of a snow rake (available at most hardware stores), do so. Try to avoid working from ladders, as ladder rungs tend to ice up, snow and ice collect on boot soles, and metal ladders and snow rakes conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line.
  • Flat roofs can be shoveled clear, but only if it is determined that the roof is safe to stand upon. Exercise care when on the roof to avoid potentially dangerous falls.
  • Flat roof drainage systems should be kept clear to minimize the risk of excess roof ponding in the event of subsequent heavy rainfall or melting.
  • Large icicles can form on roof overhangs, but do not necessarily mean ice damming is occurring. Icicles overhanging walkways can be dangerous and should be carefully removed.
  • All of the above actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults. The snow is heavy, and roofs and other surfaces may be slippery.
  • Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.

ice-damIce Dam Treatment & Prevention

  1. Try to remove snow from the roof but only if it can be done safely. A roof rake or push broom can be used but may cause damage to the shingles. If it’s not possible to remove the snow safely, call a professional like I did.
  2. Chisel grooves into the dam to allow the water behind it to drain off. This is a good emergency measure, especially if rain or a sudden thaw is coming. Be careful not to damage those shingles!
  3. Fill an old pair of your wife’s pantyhose with calcium chloride snow melt and lay it across the dam. I’m not kidding! I did this over the weekend and it seemed to work. It will help to melt the dam and also keep that area of the roof clear. DO NOT USE ROCK SALT! It will stain the roof and siding. It is best for small dams or prevention. It’s also a good idea to scrape the snow off the roof first.

To prevent ice dams in the longer term, keeping warm air from escaping into the attic is the first course of action. In addition to helping resolve ice dam issues, it will result in a more comfortable and less expensive to heat home.

Ice Dam Insurance Coverage

Very few insurance policies cover ice dam or snow removal from your roof or anywhere else on your property for that matter. However, interior or exterior damage caused by an ice dam or roof collapse is typically covered. As with any insurance claim, call the claims department immediately and take photos of the damage.

Good luck and be safe!