After the snow, homeowners with serious problems like a collapsed roof like Jennifer Eller (see what happened to her garage), know how big their repair challenge they face. Many other homeowners may have serious damage and not realize it right away. One important clue is whether you ever had a large number of icicles hanging off the roof.
So after the snow, every homeowner has three important tasks to complete. Yes, you'll have to make repairs whether you're able to collect from your insurance company. Equally important are enhancements you can and should make, to avoid having the same problem happen again.
Yes there's a lot of stress living through any type of emergency. That's why we're providing you with this simple checklist to follow, to help you work through the multiple tasks that are important to complete now, this year and before you're facing next year's winter storms.
After the Snow Step #1 – Assess Damage & Need to File an Insurance Claim
Dealing with major problems can be overwhelming, so before you do the wrong thing first, write out a list of things and sort them into the right sequence. Don't guess about what's covered or not. Take out your policy and talk to your insurance agent if you're not sure how to interpret something. Most damage caused by weather issues or ice dams, are covered.
- Take photos of the damage right away. Safety should always be your top priority so avoid risk from unsafe structures and problems with gas or power lines. Find before before photos to help when talking to your insurance adjuster and prospective contractors.
- Make temporary repairs to prevent additional damage. For example, close up openings that could let the elements penetrate your home and get rid of water or moisture, to avoid mold growing. Make sure to save all receipts for reimbursement.
- Get estimates from several contractors to make sure you identify all the damage. Use these meetings to prepare for your meeting with the insurance adjuster. Having one or two written estimates to show the adjuster can be helpful.
- Wait before making pricey repairs. You want the insurance adjuster to see as much damage as possible. You also need time to look for solutions that will prevent the same problem from happening again.
After the Snow Step #2 – Research Solutions to Prevent Problems
After the snow stops falling, you start to see the damage and want to fix everything right away. That's good because life happens, and a month from now you'll be focusing on something else. At the same time, it's important to fix the source of a problem before making repairs. If you don't correct the problem at it's source, you might find yourself making similar repairs in a matter of months, or maybe next winter.
Preventing ice dams in principle, should be fairly easy. You just need to keep the area under the roof, the same temperature as the eaves where the ice dams occur. It sounds simple but it's not because a lot of factors affect the roof temperature, and they have to work together so fixing just one, probably won't solve the problem.
- Adequate ventilation – so warm air that escapes from the house (heated) into the attic, is quickly exchanged with cold air from outside. This involves soffit vents below the eaves and ridge vents at the top of the roof, or in older homes, gable vents You also need baffles to make sure the insulation doesn't block air flow from the soffits.
- Enough insulation – to keep the warm air where it belongs, and not allow it to escape into the attic. The amount of insulation you need depends on where you live so a bit of research is needed. (Read: Insulation 101 for Savvy Homeowners)
- Seal the gaps into your attic and through your roof – to minimize how much warm air from your house is getting to the attic/roof. This includes around the hatch used for attic stairs, older recessed ceiling lights under the attic floor, duct work used heating and cooling, along with vents for kitchen/bathroom fans, the dryer vent plus openings used for electrical wiring and plumbing pipes.
- Ice melting solutions you can put on the roof – when you can't prevent warm air from reaching the roof, a common problem with older homes across the US and Canada. (Read: Learn About the Damage Ice Dams Can Cause)
Step #3 After the Snow – Combining Repairs & Preventive Solutions to Prevent Future Problems
You've done your research. You know how much money you're getting from your insurance company. Now you can plan out both repairs and upgrades to prevent problems like ice dams from reoccuring. You'll want to play an active role in managing all repairs and home improvements. If you pick one company or general contractor for everything, they'll handle most of the scheduling. You should stay involved though, to make sure everything on your list gets completed.
While most winter storm damage is covered by standard homeowner policies, they may not cover one hundred percent. For example, they may prorate their reimbursement for a new roof based on the age of your roof. You should negotiation, but not expect the insurance money to cover everything you need to do. Then you should factor in the stress and time you're spending dealing with the damage, and you'll realize that an investment today is worth peace of mind next winter.
Also understand that insurance companies won't cover repairs for the same problem over and over. Our neighbor in New Hampshire had the fire sprinkler pipes freeze, burst and flood three floors. Last week was the second occurrence and he'll be lucky if his insurance company covers all the repairs this time. He had better get the right repairs done this time, as I can't imagine why they would cover the same problem a third time.