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Ice damming could lead to expensive water damage for homeowners

The Advisors

March 9, 2015 - Daily News from the Canadian Underwriter

Prevention is key to saving money and protecting homes and businesses, notes a press release issued Sunday by Integrity Roofers Ltd. As of Monday morning, Environment Canada was forecasting temperatures in Toronto this week ranging from a low of 2 degrees Celsius to 9 C, with mostly sunny conditions and rain forecast for just one day.

To date in March, Environment Canada figures shows that the average maximum temperature was -2.4 C, the average minimum temperature was -11.9 C and the average mean temperature was -7.2 C. During the month of February, no above-zero temperatures, based on readings from the Toronto International Airport, were recorded.

Shay Barat, owner of Integrity Roofers Ltd., suggests that thousands of homeowners could face floods and property damage as a result of ice dams. Once an ice dam from a roof starts to melt, it can cause damage that cost far more than doing the preventative work, Barat contends.

Integrity Roofers reports that ice dams are partly the result of heat that escapes from inside a home into the attic, which then warms the roof during the winter months. "When combined with the sun and fluctuating temperatures, this causes the snow on the roof to partially melt and then accumulate at the edge of the roof or overhang, and once eavestroughs are full, the ice begins to expand under the shingles, causing them to separate," notes the company statement.

Barat notes that the freezing, thawing and refreezing process contributes to ice dams, which can lead to water infiltrating homes. "The melting water enters into homes, destroying insulation, damaging the attic, electrical work, seeping into drywall and causing dangerous mould spores," he reports.

Ice dams are hardly a new concern. Saskatchewan, for example, saw a major increase in ice dam claims in 2013. SGI Canada reported in early 2014 that the insurer had received 2,600 ice dam claims that year – compared to just 28 claims reported in 2012 – that cost $21.7 million.

Andrew Cartmell, president and CEO, Saskatchewan Government Insurance"It's very important to ensure ice dam coverage is in place before a loss occurs, since coverage is not automatically included with all home insurance policies," Andrew Cartmell (pictured left), president and CEO of SGI Canada, said at the time.

Integrity Roofers recommends that homeowners check for telltale warning signs of ice dams, such as sheets of ice along shingles, icicles along the edge of eavestroughs and frost accumulation in attics. "Before this ice melts, homeowners are urged to call a trusted, experienced and certified roofing professional with the proper safety equipment visit their homes."

SGI suggests homeowners ensure the attic is properly insulatedDamage from ice dams, however, is almost entirely preventable, Barat suggests. It is recommended homeowners do the following:

  • have a roofing inspection to ensure the attic is well-ventilated;
  • ensure the attic is properly insulated, in addition to the attic floor, to minimize heat from rising from the house and causing snow to melt;
  • install an ice and water shield membrane under the roof covering at least six feet from the eavestroughs line;
  • clean out eavestroughs regularly to remove leaves so that melting snow and ice can flow; and
  • look in the attic for signs of frost, ice and ice around the head of nails on the plywood roof sheeting.

Integrity Roofers notes that people often forget that their roof is not just about the shingles, it is an entire system that involves ventilation, insulation and the external materials that must all work together.

A statement issued last fall by the Insurance Information Institute in the United States pointed out that water damage and freezing account for almost 22% of all homeowners insurance claims south of the border. The average claim amounts to US$4,024.

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