How to prevent snow and ice damage to your home
January 18, 2021
Winter is hard on our homes—snow and ice buildup can do serious damage. But the good news is that it’s often preventable. Here are useful tips that can help prevent damages to your home during the cold season.
1. Snow and ice buildup on the roof
Canadian homes are typically designed to withstand the harsh winter. But snow and ice can easily build up and all that extra weight can damage your roof.
Clear snow and ice off the roof
Don’t let snow and ice build up. Clear the roof before you get 2 feet (about 70 cm) of snow or 2 inches (about 5 cm) of ice.
Snow removal tips: When you remove snow, try to leave at least a few inches of snow on the roof to avoid damaging the shingles. Improper snow removal could damage the roofing material, which may not be covered by your home insurance.
If you do it yourself, take care: Don’t climb on the roof. Work from the ground using a roof rake with a telescopic handle. Keep your tools well away from nearby hydro cables.
Call in the pros: If the job is too big or if you need to remove a lot of ice, we recommend that you hire a professional with the right equipment and knowledge of safety procedures.
Check for signs of water seepage
No matter how much snow or ice there is, be on the lookout for signs that water is seeping through the roof. Check the ceiling and walls on the top floor of your house for:
- Water stains or rings
- Water droplets
Check for signs of structural damage
- Cracks on indoor walls
- Interior doors that start to stick, rub or not close properly
- Warped ceilings
- Unusual structural creaking
If you’re worried about the risk of water seepage or buildup of snow and ice on the roof, consult a building expert as soon as possible to prevent further damage from occurring.
2. Ice dams
Icicles hanging from the eavestrough can be a sign of a potentially serious problem—ice dams.
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edges of a sloped roof. If there’s an ice dam on your roof, it stops melting snow from draining off. That causes water to puddle on the roof where it can seep through into your home.
What causes ice dams?
If your attic is poorly insulated, heat from the house rises and melts the snow on the roof. The melting snow flows down to the lowest part of the roof where it freezes—creating an ice dam.
How to prevent ice dams?
Make sure your attic is well insulated. Insulation keeps the heat inside and stops it escaping through the roof.
- Inspect the attic and seal any openings that could let warm air from your home escape into the attic. Add batting to fill any spaces.
- Make sure the attic is well ventilated and cool. That way, any snow on the roof will be less likely to melt and create ice dams.
- Regularly check the edges of your roof for telltale icicles that could be a sign of ice dams.
3. Snow and ice on your above-ground pool
Above-ground swimming pools are designed to withstand the weight of water in the summer, but they’re more vulnerable to the pressure of heavy snow and ice in the winter. Also, fluctuating temperatures in the spring can change snow into ice, and that can damage your pool, especially the cover.
How to protect your above-ground pool in winter:
Remove snow regularly
Clear the snow off your swimming pool, so it’s never entirely buried under snow. Don’t get into the pool to shovel snow because it could give way under your weight.
Avoid damaging the rim
Use a plastic shovel to avoid scratching the edges of the pool. Also avoid walking on the coping to clear snow from the rim of the pool as this could weaken or crush the pool structure.
Don’t forget about the pool drain
Remove snow from inside and on top of the drain to help prevent it from cracking.
Hire a professional
The work will be done right and safely.
4. Maintenance of your hot tub during the cold season
Hot tubs offer an interesting alternative to enjoy the winter cold. Proper maintenance will allow you to enjoy them throughout the season and keep them functional for the rest of the year.
Always keep a shovel close to your hot tub to remove snow buildup around it and to avoid falling on the ice when you get out of it.
Hot tub Cover:
- Avoid snow and ice buildup during the winter, otherwise you may need to replace your spa cover in the spring.
- To remove snow and ice, use a soft-bristled broom instead of a shovel or other sharp tools as this may cause damage to the vinyl.
- Having a quality hot tub cover, designed for the climate of your area, provides added protection for your hot tub during the winter and helps reduce your heating costs. If your area usually receives a lot of snow, a cover with a 6-inch (about 15 cm) foam thickness is highly recommended.
- Although a well insulated cover is a must for our harsh winters, a protective cover will also provide additional protection for both your hot tub and hot tub cover.
- The protective cover is made of polyethylene resin and installs over your spa cover. It will help keep debris, snow, and ice out of your hot tub.
If you keep your hot tub running throughout the winter
Cleaning the filters:
It is important to clean the filters in the fall. A dirty filter can prevent proper operation of the hot tub in the winter because if the water flow is not sufficient to operate the heater and power pack, it will shut down the hot tub (as a safeguard to prevent it from overheating).
Be sure to check the water temperature frequently to see if the heater is operating properly.
Pay attention to the water level during the winter season. If it is too low, the pumps will shut down and the water in your hot tub will cool or even turn to ice, possibly causing damage to your hot tub and plumbing system.
5. Other parts of your home
Stairs, doors and balconies
Remove snow or ice right away. Remember to be thorough—especially if they’re used as emergency exits.
Temporary carports can’t withstand excessive snow and ice buildup, so it’s important to clear them regularly. They can collapse under the weight of snow, so try to work from the outside rather than the inside when removing snow.
Oil and gas appliances
Make sure there’s adequate clearance around tanks and pipes and that they’re easily accessible and protected should snow and ice fall from the roof.
Does your home insurance cover you against snow and ice damage?
If you’re insured with us, speak to your Desjardins Agent to find out if your policy covers damage caused by the weight of ice or snow. Your agent can also give you tips on preventing problems and tell you when it’s time to think about re-roofing your home.
These tips are provided for information and prevention purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.