It’s important to prepare your home for winter, but for homeowners in colder climates, that doesn’t necessarily mean just cleaning out the gutters or stocking up on firewood. It also means making sure the home is protected from snow damage. For example, homes that aren’t prepped for winter weather can be damaged by the weight of even a light snowfall. Snow can cover the roof of the home, causing it to collapse, or it can weigh down the siding, causing structural damage. And as the snow melts, the precipitation it leaves behind could cause leaks to develop, rotting wood and other damage.
But while you can take steps to protect your home from potential snow damage, there is always a chance that your home will still sustain damage from snow during the winter months. And if that happens, will your homeowners insurance cover snow damage? Or will you have to pay out of pocket for repairs? In this article, Bankrate explores how homeowners insurance can help you with those unexpected pitfalls of winter weather. Maybe you have a question about whether or not your policy covers damage from melting snow or if there are any limitations to what’s covered.
How snow damage may be covered by homeowners insurance
Snow damage can come in all shapes and sizes, but homeowners insurance coverage can help cover repair costs in many instances. Below are examples of the damage that snow can cause and how a standard homeowners insurance policy usually covers them:
- Ice dams: These can develop when snow builds up near the roof and melts from the heat inside the home, causing it to form a ridge. The problem is that these ridges can cause a roof leak from water backing up and leaking into your home from the top down, which is where ice dams get their name. Ice dam damage to your roof and interior walls are likely covered under your Coverage A, dwelling coverage.
- Broken branches: Branches can break during high winds or from heavy snow and risk damaging your roof or other parts of your home. Falling objects are considered a covered peril, and your homeowners insurance policy would likely provide coverage if your property were damaged from falling branches. If the branch falls on your car, your auto insurance policy may cover these repair costs if your policy has comprehensive coverage.
- Roof collapses: Although rare, heavy snow may cause a roof collapse if the roof isn’t strong enough to sustain the weight of snow for extended periods. In rare cases like these, your dwelling coverage would once again likely cover the repairs.
Preventing damage caused by frozen pipes is something else to be prepared for when winter weather arrives. While pipes don’t necessarily freeze from snow per se, cold weather leads to freezing water, even the water within your plumbing. Your homeowners insurance policy should help cover the damage to your plumbing if a frozen pipe were to burst. The best way to prepare yourself for this winter is to understand what’s covered by your homeowners insurance policy so that you have peace of mind throughout the season.
How snow damage is not covered by homeowners insurance
While your homeowners insurance policy typically covers the damage caused by snow, water damage caused by large pools of water — from melting snow, for example — would be considered flood damage. Flood is a peril that is excluded from a standard homeowners insurance policy. If you want to obtain flood coverage, you will likely need to purchase this coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or a private insurance company that offers this policy type. While rare, a few private insurers might offer flood coverage as an endorsement on your standard homeowners insurance policy.
Another scenario that will likely not be covered by your homeowners insurance policy is if you leave your window open and melted snow damages your window sill, drywall or floor. Cases like this are considered preventable by the homeowner. Therefore, your property insurer will likely deny this type of claim.
Frequently asked questions
Does homeowners insurance cover removing snow from my property?
Homeowners insurance is there to help financially protect you and your family from costly claims from your home receiving a substantial amount of damage. It does not typically cover any maintenance costs associated with your home, as these expenses are the responsibility of the homeowner. As such, standard homeowners insurance policies generally do not cover the removal of snow and ice from your home, such as removing snow from sidewalks or driveways to prevent pileups. However, if someone were to slip and seriously injure themself on your property because of ice or snow, then your homeowners insurance policy will likely cover the medical bills related to injuries sustained from the fall.
What are some limitations of my homeowners insurance coverage for snow damage?
There are some limitations when it comes to “wear and tear” on your home caused by snow damage. For example, rusting metal roofs caused by repeated exposure to snow is usually not a covered type of loss. If the wood on your porch begins to rot over time due to its repeated exposure to weather conditions, your homeowners insurance won’t likely cover the repair bills.