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What Is Weight of Ice and Snow Home Insurance?

Winter’s almost here, and it’s not enough to just assume your home is adequately insured against emergencies. If you live in an area regularly blasted by snowstorms, you should be aware of whether your home insurance policy covers damage caused by a very specific peril: your roof caving in from the weight of ice, snow, or sleet.

Depending on the insurance provider, and the type of policy, this coverage may be automatically included, or may need to be purchased separately as an add-on. Snow is already starting to blanket roofs across Canada—if yours collapses, do you have the right kind of coverage?

Why you might need it

Winter can take a heavy toll on your roof. Months and months of accumulating ice, snow, and sleet (the slushy lovechild of rain and snow) can add a surprising amount of extra weight to a home’s structure—any more than two feet of packed snow per square foot might be too much for your roof to handle. Flat roofs are more susceptible to snow buildup and collapse, while sloping roofs can form ice dams and icicles, which can tear off your roof gutters and shingles. This weakens your home’s structural supports by allowing snowmelt to seep under your roof and into your walls.

Perhaps most importantly, you should note whether your homeowners’ policy covers damage to both your home and its contents. You can pretty much guarantee that if your roof comes crashing through your bedroom, your belongings will be damaged.

If you live in an area that’s susceptible to rough storms and lots of snow and this type of coverage isn’t included in your homeowners’ policy, it makes sense to buy it as additional protection.

How it works

In the event that your roof caves in from the weight of ice, snow, or sleet, your homeowners’ policy will cover the cost of repairing your roof and replacing any damaged belongings (up to the policy’s stipulated limits), less the amount of your policy’s deductible.

However, there are conditions and limitations. For one, your roof must actually physically collapse downward—weakening, bending, sagging, or cracking of the structural supports is not enough, especially if your insurance provider deems this damage to be the result of poor upkeep or neglect.  Like humans, roofs have life expectancies—if yours is near the end of its life or in poor repair, your claim might be denied, or your settlement will be limited.

Ultimately, the best kind of insurance is maintenance. Inspect your roof once a year and replace missing, broken, or aging shingles. During the winter, hire a licensed contractor to clear your roof, gutters and downspouts of snow, ice and debris. This is one area where you shouldn’t cheap out—it’s a dangerous job, even for a professional, and you want it done right (and without injury).

By maintaining your roof over the course of its life and keeping it as clear as possible over the winter, you can significantly minimize the likelihood of having to file an insurance claim.

To estimate your insurance costs, get a home insurance quote.

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Flickr: J. Triepke