Ice dams and roof snow removal for our home


Ice dams and roof snow removal for our home

Ice dams and roof snow removal

An ice dam has the potential to cause serious damage to both your roof and the inside of your home. It is important to take the right steps to protect your home from the risks associated with heavy snow and ice.

Ice dams  and roof snow removal

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam can form when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roofline. Without roof snow removal, the ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. The water can then back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home.

Immediate steps you can take:

  • Clear downspouts. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This will make it possible for your gutters to drain when snow does melt. It will also help prevent flooding when the snow and ice melts.
  • Remove snow from your roof after every storm. Use a roof rake to clear the first three to four feet of snow from your roof immediately after each winter storm to prevent ice dams from forming. While the amount of snow and ice that your roof can h andle may vary depending on a number of factors such as the roof type, age and condition of the structure, a good rule of thumb is if there is more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice on your roof, you should try to have it removed.

Longer-term prevention:

Ultimately, the best prevention for ice dams is to eliminate the conditions that make it possible for them to form in the first place.

  • Insulate your attic. Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting- and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.
  • Install a water-repellant membrane. When replacing a roof, make sure to install a water membrane underneath the shingles. This acts as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside the building.

Removing snow from your roof

Clearing the first three to four feet of snow from your roof immediately after each winter storm can help prevent ice dams from forming.

  • If you have a flat roof that is easily reached from an interior stairway, you may want to shovel the roof. When de-icing, remember to put safety first any time you are on a roof, especially one that is covered in snow and ice. If you have any doubt, leave it to the professionals.
  • If you have a sloped roof, it may be possible to remove the snow and ice using a roof rake, a long-h andled tool designed specifically for this purpose. St and on the ground and pull as much of the snow off the eaves as you can safely reach. It is not necessary to remove all the snow; removing the first three to four feet of snow closest to the gutters will help alleviate these issues.
  • If you cannot reach the roof, many homebuilders, l andscaping and roofing contractors, and property maintenance companies will remove snow and ice from roofs. Before hiring a contractor, Travelers encourages you to check references. Always be sure your contractor is insured and bonded.

We do not recommend using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions. This can be extremely dangerous and is best left to professionals.

Removing ice dams

Just because an ice dam is present does not necessarily mean water has penetrated the roof membrane. However, it is always best to remove ice dams before they have the opportunity to cause damage. To determine if you have damage, look for water stains or moisture in the attic or around the tops of exterior walls on the top floor.

  • If you can reach the roof safely, try to knock the ice dam off with a roof rake, or cut a channel through the ice to allow st anding water to drain.
  • If you cannot reach the roof safely, consider hiring a contractor to remove it.
  • Another method is to fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it vertically across the ice dam so that it melts a channel through the dam. If you try this method, make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof, and make sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt. Rock salt will damage your roof. Also be aware that shrubbery and plantings near the gutter or downspout may be damaged.
  • Look carefully at large icicles. If the icicles are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, this does not indicate the presence of an ice dam. However, large icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off. Try to safely knock the icicles off from the ground, making sure not to st and directly beneath them. If you cannot reach them safely from the ground, consider hiring a contractor to help.

Generally speaking, property owners are responsible for the cost of preventive maintenance. However, each claim is unique, and coverage and claim decisions always require an expert analysis by a licensed Claim professional. Keep in mind that the cost of snow removal is likely to be considerably less than the cost of roof damage or interior property damage caused by water leaks.

Stay warm during severe cold weather

Stay warm during severe cold weather

Extreme cold can cause a number of health problems. Hypothermia and frostbite are just two of the health effects induced by cold weather.

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s core body temperature is lower than 95°F. The condition is considered mild if a person’s core temperature is between 90 and 95°F. Victims of mild hypothermia may show symptoms including uncontrollable shivering, loss of dexterity, pale and cool skin, and incoherence.

Severe hypothermia occurs when a person’s core body temperature falls below 90°F. At this temperature shivering stops and the victim’s blood pressure, heart rate and respiration begin dropping. Symptoms of severe hypothermia include slurred speech, confusion, shallow breathing, unusual behavior and a slow, irregular heartbeat. In extreme cases, the victim appears dead.

Treat mild hypothermia by moving the victim to a warm, dry environment. Prevent further heat loss by covering the victim’s head and neck. Provide extra clothes or blankets. Give the victim warm liquids (no caffeine or alcohol) and high-energy foods. Consult a physician as soon as possible.

Severe hypothermia dem ands immediate medical attention. Apply mild heat (comfortable to the elbow) to the victim’s head, neck, chest, armpits and groin. Attempt to keep the victim conscious. As much as possible, prevent them from moving. Movement circulates cold blood back to the heart and can cause further damage.

Frostbite is frozen and sometimes dead tissue caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, usually below freezing. The extremities of the body (ears, nose, fingers, h ands, toes, and feet) are most often affected because the body reduces blood flow to them in an effort to maintain its core temperature.

Frostbite usually causes the skin to look pale or blue. In extreme cases, the skin may turn black. The skin will generally feel cold and numb, and may be either stiff or rubbery. Severe cases of frostbite may form blisters.

Contrary to common belief, one should NEVER rub areas affected with frostbite. Rubbing actually increases the tissue damage. Move the victim to a warm, dry area. Place the affected area into warm water (100 to 104°F) until it becomes red, not until feeling returns. Consult a physician as soon as possible.

If you must be outside in cold weather, dress in layers including a hat, gloves and insulated boots. The inner layer of clothing should transfer moisture away from the skin, the middle layer should provide insulation and warmth while the outer layer prevents wind, rain and snow from getting in . Air between the layers also will provide additional warmth.

Keeping dry in cold weather is crucial to avoiding hypothermia. If a person does get wet, quickly move the individual to a warm, dry area. Remove the wet clothing and cover the individual with dry clothes or blankets.

Avoid smoking and stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol. Smoking decreases circulation to the extremities. Caffeine stimulates the heart and may cause it to circulate cold blood. Although alcohol may make a person feel warm, it actually causes the body to lose heat.

Nutrition is a critical part of combating hypothermia. Your body needs food to burn to sustain core temperature. Eat a well balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates. The dry air in cold conditions also can cause dehydration. It is important to rehydrate regularly.

Tips for unoccupied or vacant homes and properties

Tips for unoccupied or vacant homes and properties

When properties are left vacant or are unoccupied, steps should be taken to prevent or mitigate losses due to heating system, electrical system, water damage, v andalism or other causes.

Heating system/Electrical

  1. The heating system should be cleaned and inspected by a contractor to help ensure it is working properly, especially through the winter months, to reduce potential damage from fire and freezing.
  2. If LP gas, propane gas or oil heat is used, ensure the fuel levels in the tank are checked periodically to prevent running out of fuel.
  3. If the home is not to be heated, have the fuel turned off at the main shut-off valve to reduce the malfunction/ explosion potential. The valve should be checked to ensure it is working properly.
  4. The home should be checked regularly (at least once a week) to ensure the heating system is operating properly.
  5. Be sure the electric power is not shut off since this will shut down the heating system. If electrical service to the home is to remain on, inspect main electrical panel, wiring and outlets; and repair or replace any defective or deficient items.
  6. Chimneys should be inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned to ensure that they are free from obstructions such as nesting birds. Install chimney guard screen-caps to help prevent any infestation.

Water damage

  1. If the heating system is to be turned off completely, have the plumbing system drained (or properly winterized) to prevent freezing damage.
  2. If hot water heating system and/or water pipes will not be drained, have a water flow sensor and low temperature sensor installed and hooked into a centrally monitored alarm system; and keep thermostat at a consistent temperature throughout the winter months.
  3. If water will not be turned off, shut off dishwasher and washing machine hoses to prevent serious water damage losses. Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so the water supply will be less likely to freeze. Follow manufacturer’s instructions closely if heat tape is used on piping to prevent fires. Open cabinet doors to allow heat from the room to get into concealed spaces. Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets to prevent v andalism and freezing damage.
  4. If a separate hot water heater is present, inspect for leaks. If in an earthquake area, confirm it is retrofitted (e.g., strapped to the adjacent wall).
  5. Check weather-stripping, insulation, and exterior doors and windows to ensure no major deficiencies are present. Water and insects can enter through these openings.
  6. Inspect roof for any evidence of damage, leaks, missing or worn shingles/ridges; and replace or repair damaged, worn or missing shingles to help prevent wind, water damage or damage resulting from water backup of ice that forms around the edges.
  7. Inspect for ice dams on the roof that can prevent melting snow from draining off the roof, which in turn can back up and cause interior water damage.
  8. Inspect attic and basement for any evidence of water damage or mold. Fix all leaks, keep appliances clean, and increase ventilation to prevent the growth of molds and bacteria and reduce potential for invasion from unwanted insects or rodents.
  9. Gutters and downspouts should be checked and cleaned, if necessary. Clogged gutters can result in basement flooding when the snow melts in northern climates and/or water damage to interior walls in any climate as the water is no longer channeled properly. Check the downspouts and extensions to make sure water is diverted away from the house and does not pond next to the foundation.

V andalism

  1. Notify the police department that the property will be vacant, and provide emergency notification phone numbers.
  2. Clear snow from driveways, sidewalks, hatch covers and dryer vent openings to reduce slip- and-fall liability losses, reduce the potential for the home becoming a target for v andals by appearing to be unoccupied or vacant, and prevent melting snow from leaking into the home and causing damage.
  3. In temperate climates, make sure lawn is mowed and maintained regularly (e.g., free of debris or garbage).
  4. Promptly repair any significant hazards (e.g., missing or broken railing or steps, broken windows, etc.) to increase the appearance the home is regularly occupied.
  5. Have mail and newspapers forwarded to appropriate address or picked up on a regular basis. Even if all mail is stopped, the home should be checked at least weekly to ensure unread mail, flyers, leaflets, etc., do not build up and add to the vacant/unoccupied appearance of the property.
  6. Secure external doors and windows with high-quality deadbolt locks, security-type hinges, and sturdy door frames that cannot be spread apart. Slide locks or other equivalent security locks should be installed on sliding glass doors or French doors.
  7. Install variable light timers to increase the appearance the home is regularly occupied, and ensure the lights do not turn on and off at the same time every day.


  1. Remove dead trees or overhanging large tree limbs from the property that could cause damage.
  2. In higher wind-exposed or coastal areas, install storm shutters (or other mitigation measures, such as 5/8” marine plywood) to secure windows ahead of a potentially damaging storm. Anchor fuel tanks and other storage tanks.
  3. Install smoke detectors on at least every floor (preferably tied into a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will automatically be notified in case of an alarm), and confirm that the sensors and system are tested regularly. Install carbon monoxide detectors and test them monthly, especially if the home will be shown to prospective buyers periodically.
  4. Have the home tested for radon and lead. If the level of either is unacceptable, take appropriate steps to correct the problem (e.g., install a radon reduction system, encapsulate lead paint, etc.).

Winterize your home and property

Winterize your home and property

Ice, snow and wind can have devastating consequences on your home. The time to winterize is when the leaves begin to turn and not when the snow begins to fall.

Homeowners should take the following precautions:

  • Maintain gutters

    Remove leaves, acorns, sticks and other debris from gutters so melting snow and ice can flow freely. You may also consider installing gutter guards. Available in most hardware and home stores, gutter guards are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and direct the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.

  • Trim trees and remove dead branches

    Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break, damaging your home or car or injuring someone walking on your property.

  • Check insulation

    Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. The water re-freezes causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof, and can contribute to ice damming. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing.

  • Maintain pipes

    Wrap pipes with heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages that frequently have exposed pipes. Also, check for cracks and leaks. Have minor pipe damage fixed immediately to prevent much costlier repairs in the future.

  • Keep the house warm

    The temperature in your house should be at least 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes from freezing.

  • Check heating systems

    The proper use and maintenance of furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves can prevent fire and smoke damage. Have furnaces, boilers and chimneys serviced at least once a year. Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly and consider installing a carbon monoxide detector.

  • Maintain steps and h andrails

    Broken stairs and banisters can become dangerous when covered with snow and ice. Make repairs now to prevent someone from falling and seriously being injured.

  • Get to know your plumbing

    Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent the pipes from bursting.

  • Hire a licensed contractor

    Have a professional survey your home for any structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired immediately so further damage will not occur during the winter. Also, find out about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump-pumps and other methods can prevent damage to your home and belongings.

  • Plan for being away

    If you are not going to be in your home this winter for an extended period of time, have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting. Also, have someone check on your home on a regular basis. If there is a problem, it can be fixed quickly, thus lessening any damage. Activity at your home will also reduce the likelihood that it will be burglarized.

    Damage to homes caused by flooding is usually excluded from most st andard homeowner policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program ( ). Ask your insurance professional about flood insurance, as well as specific advice about winter-proofing your home.

Winter maintenance tips

Winter maintenance tips

Keep the chill out and safely enjoy the season.

Winter means rosy cheeks, but it also means harsh weather and frigid temperatures. Make sure you’re prepared for the snow and sleet by following the winter maintenance tips below.

  • Check your outlets and all electrical holiday decorations for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose connections. Do not overload the outlets, extension cords or surge protectors.
  • Check and clean your heating system to make sure it is in good working condition for the winter months. This is generally a job best performed by a professional.
  • Keep adequate fuel reserves on h and because fuel carriers might not be able to refuel for several days during severe weather.
  • Close off and lower the temperature in rooms that are not in use. Make sure there is sufficient heat to prevent the freezing of water pipes.
  • Insulate pipes that pass through unheated areas. Your home’s crawlspace and attic are two such areas.
  • Clean or replace your furnace filter before the heating season begins.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. This prevents lint from accumulating and reduces the risk of fire.
  • Service snow removal equipment, and keep ice melting compound on h and to melt ice on walkways.
  • Set the heat in your home no lower than 55 degrees.
  • Remove screens from windows, and install storm windows.
  • Protect your roof against heavy snow and ice loads. Keep gutters clean and roof drains open.
  • Inspect washing machine hoses periodically, and replace hoses that show signs of wear or leakage.