Ice dams are a common threat in northern states during the colder months, and they can result in sizeable property damage claims. Homeowners and building maintenance crews continue to be the front line against this threat. Though most insurance policies don't typically cover ice dam removal, resulting interior and exterior damage may be included. Insurance professionals should be knowledgeable about the matter so that agents can provide informed coverage advice, underwriters can accurately assess risk, and adjusters can correctly evaluate claims.

What are ice dams?

As the name implies, ice dams are literal dams made of ice that form on the roofs of buildings. They typically develop in the winter when heavy snowfall is followed by a prolonged period of below-freezing temperatures.

The formation of an ice dam begins when dense snowfall accumulates on a building's roof. The warm roof melts the bottommost snow, which then flows down the roof. As the melted snow reaches a cooler portion of the roof, such as an overhang or even a section that's above a less heated room, the water refreezes into ice. This ice then creates a dam that blocks the flow of more melted snow, and the process repeats itself.

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