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Weight of Ice, Snow, or Sleet

What you need to know about weight of ice, snow, & sleet

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Some of the information in the article can also be found on our website under the peril “Ice Damming”. It is important not to confuse “Ice Damming” coverage with the peril of “Collapse”. There are significant differences.

Severe damage to a buildings structural components resulting from “Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet” must be reported correctly. Incorrectly filing this peril as a  “Collapse” may result in your claim being denied and require unnecessary litigation for indemnity. Please see the peril for “Collapse” on our website.

REGION & CLIMATE 

Over a period of severe winter weather where a roof is covered in snow the damages to a roof system may go unnoticed until water penetrates the buildings interior materials. In addition, damaged roofing materials may not be visible for months until a complete thaw during a spring or summer storm.

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CONSTRUCTION & MATERIALS

Buildings constructed with heavier materials, including but not limited to felt, ice shields and piano, architectural or slate style shingles afford better protection against hostile environments because of their resilient fabrication and heavier overlapping or interlocking systems.

BREAKING THE SEAL

During a windstorm your roof’s shingles can lift repeatedly causing them to become ineffective during future adverse events. Once the tabs lift they break a seal that the manufacturer incorporated into their product to prevent the elements from damaging roofing underlayments, your building’s structural components and the building’s contents. Unsealed shingles become further compromised as they flap in the wind sometimes breaking off.  An insurance company preferred roof vendor inspecting your damages may advise you that the roof tabs will reseal during hot weather, however, there are many problems associated with this theory as manufacturer’s do not subscribe to this idea and would likely void any warranty.

UNJUST DENIALS,  MAINTENANCE THEORIES & THE RULE OF THUMB

Many carrier’s deny roof claims citing; 1. a policyholder’s failure to properly maintain their roof, 2. poor or non industry construction standards, or 3. materials that are beyond a manufacturer’s life expectancy.  In many cases during catastrophic storm events insurance carriers will only offer to patch your roof using unlicensed out of state vendors.  If a substantial number of roofing materials display lifting and or splitting, the entire roofing system is likely compromised and will need replacement, which labor should be performed by a reputable locally licensed roof vendor.

DON’T GET SNOWED BY YOUR CARRIER, THEIR AGENTS OR THEIR PREFERED VENDORS!

You should never settle for spot patching your roof, nor should you subscribe to an adjusters suggestion to report your claim only after your roof begins to leak. If the roof shows signs of splitting or lifting, the materials are compromised and anyone advising you to wait for hot weather to allow the roof to flatten and reseal is giving you bad information and trying to cheat you out of your insurance benefits.

A CARRIER’S RESPONSIBILITY

It is a carrier’s responsibility to inspect your property for its insurability as a viable risk.  If a carrier denies a claim for pre existing damage and or poor material conditions, it is their responsibility to prove their case and it is your right to challenge their findings.

ROOF DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION

All properly built roofs, whether for residences or commercial applications, should be built to withstand a “design” precipitation, snow and ice load. The snow design load is based upon the expected frequency and severity of snowstorms. It also considers such factors as the type of structure, materials used for construction and the risk to human life and safety.

It should be remembered that the snow load is only a portion of the total design load, which will include wind and dead loads. Dead loads are loads that account for the weight of the roof structure itself. While the total design load may be 2 to 4 times greater than the design snow load alone, the weight of the snow, if it exceeds the design snow load, may cause structural failure. If the blueprint and construction documents for the structure are available, they should provide the correct design snow load.

Clearly, poor materials, construction and post-construction maintenance can result in a weaker structure with an actual load capacity significantly lower than the design load. Therefore, proper materials and techniques should be followed for construction. After construction, proper maintenance is vital and any damage should be repaired as soon as possible. Knowledgeable professional assistance should always be sought.

DESIGN, SNOW LOAD / DENSITY & CORRESPONDING ICE AND WATER IN INCHES

The weight of accumulated snow/ice, not the depth, is critical in assessing a roof’s vulnerability. The water content of snow may range from 3% for very dry snow to 33% for a wet, heavy snow, to nearly 100% for ice. An inch of water depth weighs 5.2 lbs. per square foot. Thus, a roof designed to carry a snow load of 20 lbs. per horizontal square foot is expected to support nearly 12 inches of wet, heavy snow. Please see the Design Snow Load & Corresponding Ice and or Water in Inches Chart below for information regarding snow and ice densities and the equivalent inches of water for various snow loads.

 

 

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Design Snow Load / Density & Corresponding Ice and or Water in Inches Chart
Design Snow Load in Pounds/Square Feet Light Dry Snow Heavy Wet Snow Ice Water
5 19.2 2.9 1.0 1.0
10 38.4 5.8 2.1 1.9
15 57.7 8.6 3.1 2.9
20 76.9 11.5 4.2 3.8
25 96.1 14.4 5.2 4.8
30 115.3 16.2 6.3 5.9
Snow Density
Light and/or Dry Snow Heavy and/or Wet Snow Ice Water
Snow Density in
Pounds/Cubic Feet
3.12 20.81 57.25 62.43
% of Weight in Water 5% 33% 92%, 100%

 

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