With some of the coldest temperatures in the world, winter in Canada can be extreme. Most areas of the country experience temperatures as low as -40oC during winter months, while snow and ice storms can have devastating effects across the country. The ferocious ice storm of 1998 – which left 4 million people in Ontario and Quebec without power and cost $5.2 billion to recover from – still sends a chill down the spine of countless Canadians.
For homeowners, this can be a very trying season, as properties around the country fall victim to winter’s wrath. However, with the right kind of home insurance, you can sleep easy, safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens, you’re covered.
Weight of Ice and Snow Home Insurance
While the sight of snowcapped roofs may spark fantasies of winter wonderlands, too much of a good thing can have undesirable repercussions. Snow and ice weigh heavily when they build up and can cause your roof to collapse. Without the correct insurance, this could be a costly accident.
While many home insurance policies include Weight of Ice and Snow Insurance as standard, it’s a good idea to double check with your insurer or broker to be sure. They can also advise as to what exactly the policy will cover and explain any exceptions.
Who Needs It?
There are many factors that can lead to the collapse of your roof as a result of a buildup of snow and ice. Anyone living in areas that experience heavy snowfall throughout winter should ensure their home insurance covers the weight of ice and snow. A buildup of more than 60cm of snow can cause a roof to collapse, especially in older properties.
What Does It Cover?
Generally, this type of insurance will only cover you if your roof has completely collapsed. Sagging and other relatively more minor structural issues are generally not covered. Insurance providers will also be less inclined to accept your claim if they feel the damage was due to neglect or a lack of maintenance. Likewise, a roof approaching the end of its life expectancy may result in a limited settlement should it collapse.
Always double check that your policy also covers your contents and possessions. When your roof comes down, it’s likely that some of your possessions will be damaged or destroyed in the process. Typically, these policies will cover the cost of interior repairs as well as the cost of replacing any lost possessions.
Finally, check your Additional Living Expenses (ALE) Insurance to ensure it covers your moving out as a result of a collapsed roof. If you’re unable to stay at home while repairs are being carried out, your insurance provider is likely to cover any additional living expenses, such as hotel bills, eating out, etc.
How It Works
Provided you meet the criteria previously mentioned, in the event of your roof collapsing due to a buildup of snow and ice, your insurance provider will cover the cost of replacing your roof. On top of that, interior repairs and the cost of replacing possessions will also be covered. If you have to move out while your roof is being repaired, your ALE insurance will cover hotel bills and additional expenses.
Often, insurers will limit the cost they will cover to the depreciated value of your roof, not the cost of replacing it entirely. This is important to note, and it pays to regularly maintain your roof. Prevention and maintenance are the best forms of insurance in the long run.
Best practice dictates that you have your roof inspected at least once a year, replacing any damaged tiles or structural elements. This will certainly prolong the life of your roof, and by proving you’ve maintained it to the best of your ability, your insurer is more likely to pay out in the event of a collapse.
During fall, it’s a good idea to have all your gutters and pipes cleared, and check your attic is properly insulated. Doing this helps prevent ice and snow from building up excessively, and stops ice dams from forming. When the snow does fall, seek the services of professional ice and snow clearers. Clearing your roof can be a dangerous task – hiring experienced contractors is the safest option.
Be aware of the telltale signs that suggest your roof is under a lot of stress. These include:
- Water leaking from the attic
- Interior doors become stiff and difficult to open
- New cracks appearing on plaster walls
- Visible sagging of the ridgeline (the top edge) of your roof.
If you encounter any of these after a heavy fall of snow, ice or sleet or a storm, it’s essential that you have your roof cleared immediately.
Regular maintenance of your roof and attic will help prevent disaster in most cases. However, Canadian winter is extreme and unpredictable, and sometimes accidents happen no matter how prepared you are. It’s well worth ensuring your home insurance policy covers you for anything Mother Nature throws at you over winter. See other hidden costs when buying a home.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be deemed as legal, financial or investment advice or solicitation of any kind. Before purchasing real estate or insurance, always consult with a licensed attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent and real estate broker.