© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Snow melts in front of houses along 11th Street East on Wednesday afternoon.
The melting snow that coincides with the onset of spring each year can also pose a threat to property through water damage.
In the interests of preventing such effects, SGI Canada has released a range of tips to help homeowners avoid pitfalls of the season.
“We typically we do something similar most years, and usually around this time when we do … start to see it melting … Mainly just these are tips that you can take as a homeowner just to try and prevent this kind of damage to your home,” SGI Canada media relations manager Kelley Brinkworth said.
The combination of melting snow during the day and freezing temperatures at night creates ideal condition for the formation of ice dams, which are not automatically covered by all home insurance policies.
Ice dams can form when snow on the roof melts but is unable to drain off properly.
“Let’s say the eaves are plugged,” Brinkworth said. “What happens is that it sort of just … works its way up under your shingles and then that’s when it can start dripping into your home, so it can just come in through the attic.
“It can actually do considerable damage,” she added. “We’ve seen claims where it’s just sort of exterior damage, but then we’ve had claims where you’re replacing walls and flooring and it’s damaging contents in the home as well … It can really do some extensive damage to a home.”
In order to prevent damage from ice dams, homeowners should keep the amount of snow on the roof to a minimum, ideally using a roof rake or hiring a professional to clear the snow away. Venturing up onto one’s roof alone is inadvisable for safety reasons.
To ensure a path for melting snow and ice to drain, homeowners should keep their gutters and downspouts free of snow, ice buildup and icicles.
Keeping one’s attic properly insulated and ventilated also prevents heat from inside the residence from leaking into the attic and causing snow on the roof to melt. Roofing contractors may provide this service if required.
Aside from ice dams, the spring snow melt can damage homes in a variety of other ways.
Brinkworth highlighted the risk of flooding with water sometimes seeping into window wells, but noted that basement flooding and sewer backup are frequent occurrences.
When things are melting really quickly, that’s when you can see some issues with flooding, with water seepage, with ice dams. Kelley Brinkworth
Insurance coverage for water damage can vary. While no insurance company in Saskatchewan covers flooding, sewer backup is generally offered as a form of optional coverage.
A working sump pump, in any case, is a valuable addition to basements at risk of water damage.
“Even if you do have sewer backup coverage, nobody wants to deal with a sewer backup claim, right?” Brinkworth said.
“So having the sump pump, having the sewer backwater valve, those are just things that are going to help prevent extensive damage if you do end up having a sewer backup.”
Sewer backups typically occur when the local sanitary sewer system becomes overloaded, causing excess water to leak into homes.
Homeowners can further protect against the effects of a sewer backup by installing a mainline sewer backwater valve and checking their basements regularly for signs of water.
Other tips for preventing water damage to a residence from snow melt include shovelling or removing snow from around the foundation and moving it to where it will melt and drain away from the foundation, as well as extending downspouts to discharge rain or meltwater at least two metres away from the foundation.
Brinkworth noted that the speed of melt can greatly aggravate problems with water damage.
“Ideally you would want to see a slow melt,” she said. “When things are melting really quickly, that’s when you can see some issues with flooding, with water seepage, with ice dams.
“Particularly with ice dams, it’s the melting during the day and then the freezing at night that’s causing the problem.”
In the event of water damage to a home, the owner should contact their insurance broker to determine whether they have the specific coverage to meet their needs.
Additional information on preventing home water damage is available at www.sgicanada.ca.