No, ice damming isn’t the practice of cursing at ice during the winter months (although may residents of the Northeast may beg to differ). Ice dams have ravaged Massachusetts and the surrounding areas this past winter and are wreaking havoc on roofs and interiors of homes.

Minnesota, the ice dam capital of the US, has been sending their experts to Massachusetts to help with the dilemma. “The demand in Boston right now is absurd – we’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of emails, phone calls… we just can’t keep up,” an employee with Ice Dam Company told WCVB in Boston.

Ice dams on roofs form when accumulated snow on a sloping roof melts and flows down the roof, under the insulating blanket of snow, until it reaches below freezing temperature air, typically at the edges of the roof. When the meltwater reaches the freezing air, ice accumulates, forming a dam, and snow that melts later cannot drain properly through the dam. They can also form when gutters and downspouts are clogged allowing the water to accumulate and eventually turn into an ice dam.

Ice dams may result in leaks through the roofing material, possibly resulting in damaged ceilings, walls, roof structure and insulation, damage or injury when the ice dam falls off or from attempts to remove ice dams. They can also tear of gutters, loosen shingles and cause water to back up into the house.

Ice dams and melted snow can cause significant premature roofing failure, wet insulation, soffit/fascia deterioration, paint failure on interior surfaces, mold growth, structural decay, and rot and water damage.

While the physical damage to the structure of a home or business may be covered due to ice damming, it’s the hidden mold that forms from unattended moisture the most policies don’t usually cover. Mold can grow fairly quickly and can cause serious damage to your health.

Removal of ice buildup on a roof should be completed by trained professionals that use special steam equipment to ensure quick and safe removal without causing damage to the roof. While the stalactite ice crystals may be beautiful and fun to pick off, please to not try and remove ice dams yourself as it can be very dangerous and lead to serious injury.

Existing approaches to bolster roof performance frequently favor the interior approach; adding roof ventilation, cavity insulation, or foam sheathing.  

So are you covered for ice damming and the resulting damage? I’m sorry to give you such a lawylerly answer, but it depends. Case law in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts is very sparse and relies heavily on the policy language. It depends on your specific insurance policy and what exclusions or endorsements you have. If you feel your home or business has been damaged due to an ice dam, first consult your insurance company to make a claim as soon as you think there is an issue. Many claims have been thrown out because the insurance company was not put on notice of the claim in a reasonable amount of time. If your insurance company does not pay your claim, contact a public adjuster or an attorney to help you get what you deserve.