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Roof Ice Dams and Snow Storm Safety Tips

(Dec. 2012) – There's nothing like a big snowstorm to lift the spirits of children, and some adults as well. But there's also a down side to a winter wonderland: rooftop ice dams that can cause serious damage to your home.

Ice dams can occur after periods of heavy snowfall, followed by temperatures that hover near freezing. They form when melting snow runs down the slope of the roof and refreezes near the edge. As more snow melts and runs down the roof, water builds up behind the ice dam and seeps into the home, damaging drywall, carpeting and cabinets; and sometimes even collapsing ceilings.

Fortunately, there are some easy and effective measures homeowners can take to prevent ice dams from forming. Try these tips from American Family Insurance:

  • The key to prevention is to keep the building's attic temperature as close to the outside temperature as possible. This means insulating the attic floor and installing adequate ventilation. Peak or roof-mounted vents allow warm air to exit the attic; soffit vents allow cold air to enter the attic. Both types of vents are advised.
  • Proper venting and insulation may not prevent ice dams when homes are blanketed by heavy snow. Sometimes, the only option is to remove snow from the roof. It's only necessary to clear the bottom 6 feet to allow the water to reach the gutters and drain to the ground.
  • If snow must be removed, you may want to contact a qualified professional to avoid the risk of injury. While it's not an expense covered by insurance, letting a professional do the work is the safest route.
  • A "roof rake" or "snow puller" can be used to remove snow from a roof while the person is standing on the ground. These tools are often available at local hardware stores.
  • Inspect gutters from the ground to see that they have not pulled away from the structure, and that the gutters slope towards the downspouts. Clean gutters and downspouts to allow unobstructed flow of running water to the ground.

Based in Madison, Wis., American Family Insurance offers auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, health insurance, business and farm/ranch insurance in 19 states. American Family insurance is the nation's third-largest mutual property/casualty insurance company. Web: www.amfam.com; Facebook: www.facebook.com/amfam; Twitter: www.twitter.com/amfam.