Image of an outbuilding surrounded by snow covered pine trees.

Does Farm Insurance Cover Snow Load Building Collapse?

Updated November 4, 2020 . AmFam Team

Did you know some portions of your farm and ranch coverage may not be active over the winter? Learn how our additional coverages can help protect your finances from building collapse if your roof should fail from a snow load.

After you’ve brought in the harvest and prepared your operation for its annual winter hibernation, you might think that the risks to your farm are taking the winter off. But in truth, mother nature can do a lot of damage to your property in winter. Wind and snow loads can wreak havoc on weak or dated structures. And without the right farm insurance and additional coverages, your farm’s finances may be out in the cold if the unexpected should happen.

Special farm endorsements — otherwise known as additional coverages — can help cover building collapse costs that are the result from winter precipitation on your outbuilding’s roofs. Today, we’ll explore the nuances of our weight of ice, snow or sleet and winter perils coverage to help you protect everything you work so hard for all year long.

The Importance of Outbuilding Coverage

As winter approaches, it’s a good idea to have your American Family Insurance agent over for an annual insurance review. That’s because you may need additional coverages over the winter months to best protect your operation. You’ll get the details you need to understand exactly how you’re covered — and perhaps more importantly —your agent can help you get a Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet endorsement.

Unfortunately, many farmers only learn their coverage during the winter months needed a special endorsement after snow collapses a roof. And when a building collapses because sleet, snow or ice have overwhelmed the roof’s ability to structurally support the load, those losses can be extensive.

Supplemental building collapse coverages like our weight of ice, snow or sleet endorsement can help you find the funds to regroup and rebuild after a covered loss occurs.

Frequently, equipment stored inside is damaged or destroyed as a result of a collapse. And other items like feed, fertilizer, farming implements and even livestock can all take a very expensive hit without additional farm building insurance or livestock coverages in place.

What Is Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet Coverage?

It’s an optional endorsement that names building collapse from winter precipitation as a covered loss. It’s coverage designed to offer protection for farm/ranch buildings against risks of direct physical damage due to building collapse resulting from the weight of winter weather precipitation loads on outbuilding roofs.

What are the signs of structural failure that leads to roof collapse?

Indications of a future roof collapse are sometimes easy to see, if you know what to look for:

  • Bowed trusses
  • Ice dams forming along the gutter
  • Creaking and cracking sounds
  • Sagging rooflines
  • Bends and ripples in roofing supports
  • Cracks in the walls and ceilings
  • Cracks in the foundation wall
  • Interior leaking

How to Protect Against Ice, Snow or Sleet

As the temperatures drop, and snow begins to fall, the accumulated weight of unmelted precipitation can take a toll on unreinforced roofs and older buildings as the cumulative snow load starts to build up over time. The collected weight of those events can have a devastating impact on your farm’s outbuildings.

Learn About Estimated Snow Loads in Your Area

In order to get a better understanding of how much weight a roof in your region is rated for, it’s best to learn about it by searching “snow loads by zip code” online. The ATC Hazards by Location (Opens in a new tab) load estimation tool is a great resource for getting a baseline understanding on how weather events impact structural rating guidelines in your area.

For instance, in Madison WI, ground snow loads average around 30 pounds per square foot. Roofing structures in that area should therefore be rated to hold at least that much per square foot. A little further north in the Michigan town of Watersmeet, located in the Upper peninsula, ground snow loads are estimated to be twice as much as those experienced in Madison.

Review your farm outbuilding plans for structural details

One way to understand how much weight your farm’s buildings can take on is to verify inspection records with the county. If the building passed inspection, you’ll have some certainty that the structure met the minimum snow load requirements for your area when it was built.

Have a plan to remove snow from roofs

Winter storms and blizzards can unleash howling winds that combine with quickly increased snow loads on roofs — offering up a perfect storm of wind shear and excessive weight. By keeping a careful watch on the snow loads as they accumulate on your roof, you’ll have a better idea of when to take action.

Monitor snow accumulation

Download a snow weather app that warns you in advance of local snow accumulation. Apps like Winter Storm Tracker Pro and Storm Shield will get you early warning and can deliver details on local snow buildup.

Hire a roof snow removal contractor as necessary

Look online for licensed, bonded and insured snow removal experts in your area. Interview those that are well-reviewed and have them out to look at your buildings and get a quote on their services. And remember to verify all workers are properly tethered and harnessed in accordance with OSHA safety guidelines.   

How to Protect Livestock From Snow Load Collapse

Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, being proactive about the safety of your livestock can go a long way in avoiding a disaster. You’ve got a lot invested in your farm, and part of that big investment can be in the head of cattle you house in outbuildings. Here's how to help keep your livestock investments safe from snow load collapse:

Pick up an added animal perils endorsement on your cattle insurance coverage

By purchasing a rider for building collapse, you can better protect your livestock housed in your outbuildings. Reach out to your agent and learn about other livestock and cattle endorsements that can offer you real peace of mind when the winter weather bears down on your county.

Get the Winter Insurance You Need to Keep Your Farm Protected

Whether the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a light winter or one for the record books, the truth is winter storms can be unpredictable. And the high-pressure domes that typically follow snow events do a good pretty good job of preventing it from melting.

So, before the snow, ice and sleet starts to accumulate, take a few moments and reach out to your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab). Get a quote on the coverages you need to help protect your big investments — you’ll find more peace of mind knowing everything you’ve worked so hard for is insured carefully.

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