Does Homeowner's Insurance Cover Melting Snow?

December 13, 2018

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Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Melting Snow? Heavy snowfall often causes more damage than many homeowners realize, including flooding and water damage to foundations and basement walls. Snow can also lead to cracks in a home's roof, gutters, downspouts, and exterior walls. While you might enjoy seeing winter snow melt so that you can get back to your daily routine, you might not appreciate the mess and damage it leaves behind!

Melting snow that leaks into your home is typically considered a flood and not standard water damage. Unless your homeowner's insurance has a flood damage clause, your policy usually won't cover damage caused by melting snow. However, an insurance policy might cover damage caused by ice dams in gutters or along the roof, or by snow blown into the home through a broken window or another such access point.

To better understand the standard coverage provided by homeowner's insurance, and to ensure you protect your home as much as possible from potential damage caused by melting snow, note a few important considerations to discuss with your insurance agent and a water damage remediation expert as well! When it comes to homeowner's insurance, there is a difference between water damage and flooding; water that hasn’t yet touched the ground causes “water damage.” Flooding or “flood damage,” however, refers to water on the ground.

As an example of how this works with a typical homeowner's insurance policy, snow that piles onto and then cracks a home's roof or gutters, and then leaks into the house as it melts, would create water damage. Snow that blows into the home through a broken window and then melts inside the house would also cause water damage.

However, snow that reaches the ground, melts, and then leaks into the home through cracks in a home's foundation or elsewhere causes flood damage. Unless your homeowner's policy has a flood damage provision, clause, or add-on, your repair costs would not typically be reimbursed or covered through that policy. When discussing any damage to your house with an insurance agent, it's vital that you provide all the details of how that damage occurred. For example, suppose a neighbor is using a snow blower during wintertime and causes a rock to hit and break a basement window of your home. Your homeowner's insurance policy often covers this type of damage. Melting snow making its way into the house through that broken window might then be considered collateral damage; if it weren't for that broken window, the snow would not have reached your home's interior, so damage might then be covered.

Vandalism is also often covered through a homeowner's insurance policy. If someone were to purposely break a basement window, dump melting snow on your front door, or otherwise force melted snow into your house, this might also be considered collateral damage and a result of the vandalism itself. This potential protection is why it's vital to explain all details of damage to your insurance agent!

It's also important that a homeowner keep their home in reasonable condition, as neglect of needed home repairs can interfere with an insurance policy payout. For example, if your home's roof is well past its expected lifespan and you haven't made repairs to it in years, your insurance agent might argue that water leaks from melting snow are your fault, as they could have been avoided. Whatever the case, be sure that you understand your homeowner's policy entirely, and do this long before the arrival of winter.

While only your homeowner’s insurance agent can tell you if your particular policy covers damage caused by melting snow,  there are many things that you can do as a homeowner to protect your home in the first place. An essential step in protecting your home from any potential flooding or water damage is to ensure the house itself is in excellent condition. Note some tips on this:

  • Have the home's roof inspected and repaired at least annually. Replace any worn, thin, or cracked shingles and tiles, as these will cover any small cracks in the roof. New shingles are also less likely to blow away in a storm, so your roof stays secure during inclement winter weather.
  • Gutters should be cleaned thoroughly before winter. A professional power washing service removes built-up grime and other sediments, reducing the risk of clogs and resultant ice dams.
  • Inspect a home's exposed foundation for signs of cracks or leaks. Have this damage patched before wintertime, to keep out melting ice and snow and to help insulate the home's interior.
  • Add fresh caulk around basement windows as needed.

Homeowners do well to prepare for snowstorms long before winter arrives. The more prepared you are beforehand, the easier it is to manage falling snow and to protect your home from potential damage. Consider some tips on preparing for snowstorms, so you know you're doing everything possible to keep your house and your property safe from flooding:

  • Stock up on snow-clearing salt long before winter arrives; buying salt in autumn ensures that supplies won't run low, and prices are often lower as well! Keep this salt someplace convenient, where it can be accessed even if you're snowed in; for example, have a secure tin of salt in the home's front closet, so you can spread it along the exterior walkway even if snowdrifts block your garage or side door.
  • Make a plan to shovel fallen snow away from the home, rather than piling it against exterior walls. Keeping snow away from the house reduces the risk of interior floods as it melts!
  • Check the condition of your snow shovel, snow blower, and other such tools and equipment long before your area's first snowfall. Replace a rusted or otherwise damaged snow shovel and ensure a snow blower has fuel and oil and is in good working condition. Sharpen its blades as needed.
  • For larger lots and longer driveways, or for homeowners who are of a particular age or not in the best physical condition, consider hiring a snow clearing service or contractor. The small cost of a plowing service is well worth the added convenience and protection of your health and safety.

A severe snowstorm recently hit the greater Charlotte area, resulting in school closures, flight cancelations in and out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and many severe traffic hazards. Some 300,000 residents were without power throughout the snowy weekend, and some 270,000 were still without electricity by Monday mid-day.

North Carolina's governor had warned residents to stay inside and avoid driving, but traffic crews reported dozens and dozens of accidents and stuck vehicles that needed assistance on the road. One driver was also reported dead after a tree fell onto his moving car. These hazards demonstrate the importance of preparing for inclement weather before it arrives! Having emergency supplies on hand, including several days of food and water as well as needed medications, baby supplies, and the like, and staying home where it's safe is always the best course of action during any winter storm.

For those who do need to drive in a snowstorm, it's vital that you ensure your car is safe and ready for wintertime weather. Invest in high-quality snow tires and a set of chains, and be sure you know how to use them before heading out! Keep a tin of salt in your car as well, so you can use it if you should get stuck in a snowdrift. It's also good to never go out in a snowstorm without a full tank of gas; if you should get stuck, you don't want to run out of gas and have to sit in the cold while waiting for rescue. Ensure your phone is also fully charged and that you have numbers of tow trucks programmed into your contact list.

Assessing Flood and Water Damage

To protect your home from future mold growth and even structural damage, have a house assessed for flood and water damage as needed. The water damage remediation experts at 24/7 Water Damage Charlotte can ensure your home is safe and in good repair even after the worse winter weather, but note some signs that often indicate it's time to call in the flood and water damage experts!

  • Cracks that let in drafts and let out heating during wintertime can also allow in water from melting snow! If your home is always cold and drafty during winter, it's good to have the house inspected for cracks in the foundation or along windows and walls, as well as potential water leaks and structural damage.
  • Never assume that basements are just naturally damp and clammy; dampness in a basement typically means that its walls need crack repair and that the home needs water damage restoration services, as well as a check for developing mold.
  • Carpet and carpet padding often absorb floodwaters as they enter a home. When this happens, you might not see wet spots along the carpet, but might note that rugs feel "squishy" underfoot, and might also smell a musty odor coming from the home's flooring! If you notice any such unpleasant odors, call us for an immediate inspection and water damage restoration service.

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