Ice Dams

January 29, 2019

In January of 2018 , the Mpls-St. Paul airport closed all of its runways due to heavy snowfall. As much as seventeen inches of snow fell between Forest Lake and Rochester. Four days later, daytime temperatures are expected to reach close to 40 degrees before falling into the 20 degree range at night. This temperature swing is a recipe for ice dams which could cause serious damage to your home. Taking preventative steps now may reduce your chances of loss due to ice dams.

Ice Dams: An ice dam is the common term used to describe the layers of ice on the eaves of many houses. Heat from an attic or roof causes existing snow to melt and drain towards the lowest and coldest part of the roof – the eaves. Later in the day, the cooling temperature causes the resulting water to freeze on the eaves and create a dam. With no place to drain, the remaining water may seep under the shingles and potentially into the house. The resulting damage can be significant. There are a few practical steps you can take to help prevent ice dams. In the winter, a very common approach is to remove the snow from the edges of the roof. This allows the water to drain off the roof and prevent the creation of a dam. The summer months are an ideal time to examine the insulation and air circulation in the attic.

Is damage from an ice dam an “accident” per the terms of an insurance policy or the result of inadequate maintenance? Taking steps to prevent ice dams virtually eliminates both questions. Those questions aside, is damage resulting from an ice dam covered by your home owners’ policy? The answer depends, in large part, on the type of insurance policy you own. Before reviewing policies, it is important to understand the term peril. A peril is defined as the cause of a loss. Examples of a peril include fire, lightening, explosion, etc. Now to a quick explanation of two common insurance policies.

A “special perils” policy – one of the broadest in the industry – provides coverage for all perils unless specifically excluded. So, if ice dams are not excluded in a special perils policy, there may be coverage related to ice dams. We have seen at least one insurance company provide coverage via this interpretation of the policy.

Another common type of property policy is a “named perils” policy. With a Named Perils policy, coverage is provided only if the loss is caused by a described peril. As ice dams are not typically listed as a covered peril, no coverage is afforded.

Taking steps now to avoid ice dams minimizes your exposure to loss and having to review your insurance policy.

We created a short video regarding ice dams to help you better visualize an ice dam and common approaches to avoid them. Go to and search Aspire Insurance-Ice Dams or simply go to our website at Whatever you do, never use a ladder such as the one in the video! It has since been replaced to avoid a health insurance claim. More on health insurance in the months ahead.

My best wishes for a safe and healthy 2019.

John Shega is the owner of Aspire Insurance agency located in Gilbert, MN. He writes and speaks frequently regarding insurance issues as a public service to the community. He can be reached at 218-741-0000 or Please contact John if you would have suggestions for future articles.

Our Featured Insurance Partners