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Home Protection Guide: Snow and Ice

HomeProtectionGuide:Snow and Ice Storms

Introduction

As a homeowner, you take pride in maintaining your investment and protecting it from outside risks. Among these risks, winter weather presents some of the most significant challenges – challenges that may even lead to substantial property damage.Canada experiences some of the most extreme winter weather in the world, and homeowners constantly have to protect their residence from blizzards and extreme cold. The following are some of the most common sources of property damage homeowners must account for during the winter months:

  • Cold temperatures
  • Heavy snowfall
  • Ice buildups
  • Frozen pipes
  • Water leaks
  • Roof damage

In order to adequately protect their property from the elements, homeowners must assess their exposures and take the appropriate actions to help prevent winter weather-related damage. This guide provides a brief overview of the most common winter weather risks and the steps homeowners should take to avoid costly repairs following a storm. It also highlights some liability exposures to consider and ways you can reduce your risk.

First Steps Toward Protecting Your Home

Winter weather is unpredictable, and preparation is key. While specific, preventive action is the primary way to protect your home from the elements, there are some additional, up-front steps to consider:

  1. Evaluate your home and vulnerabilities – Every home is different and has its own set of unique risks. As such, it’s critical for homeowners to have a thorough inspection done to better understand the risks specific to their property. Inspections, when completed by a certified professional, can provide valuable insight into your home’s age, roof capacity and ability to withstand winter weather.
  2. Work with a qualified insurance broker – While winter weather poses a real threat to your property, many of the risks can be addressed through the proper insurance. To get a better understanding of your options, it’s important to meet with a qualified insurance broker. They can provide a wholesale review of your unique exposures and the policies available to you.
  3. Reach out to your local government – In many cases, your local government can prove invaluable when it comes to protecting your home from the elements. Government websites, public works organizations, utilities companies and building departments can all provide expertise and tips on fortifying your home.

When completing the above steps, it’s critical to take any home protection advice you receive seriously, whether it be securing additional insurance or completing an inspection to help you improve your home’s defenses. Only then can you begin taking steps toward protecting your home from specific winter weather risks.

Winter Weather Risks to Your Home

Depending on the size and location of your home, winter weather risks can vary. However, there are several concerns homeowners must account for if they are to protect their investment from the elements. Among other things, severe winter weather can lead to things like roof collapse, ice dams and frozen pipes.

Roof Collapse

Heavy snowfall, ice and freezing rain can wreck havoc on your home’s roof. In some cases, roofs can’t withstand the heavy loads brought on by extreme weather, causing them to collapse altogether. In addition, as snow and ice melt, water damage can occur if your home’s roof isn’t structurally sound.

Assessing Your Roof and Taking Action

One of the first steps you can take to protect your roof from collapse is to determine whether or not it is susceptible to snow or ice accumulation. The best way to accomplish this is to assess your roof’s slope.

If constructed properly, a sloped roof can shed heavy snow, ice or melting water. In general, the gentler the slope, the more at risk you are for roof collapse. Most builders recommend a slope that is greater than 10 centimeters (4 inches) vertically and 30 centimeters (12 inches) horizontally. In general, it’s best to have a roof with a steep pitch to promote the shedding of snow.

However, even with a sloped roof, snow and ice can still build up on flat areas or around obstructions like chimneys, skylights and dormers. As a result, it’s important for homeowners to regularly evaluate their roof, particularly after a significant storm. Specifically, homeowners should look for:

  1. New water leaks that appear to come from the roof or attic area
  2. Exterior doors that become difficult to open or close as a result of heavy loads on the roof
  3. New cracks in drywall and plaster
  4. Sagging roofs

If you notice any of the above issues following a storm, it’s important to take immediate action to clear loads from your roof and avoid a potential collapse.

However, there are some practical, do-it-yourself methods to consider:

  • Snow removal—To aid in snow removal, homeowners can purchase a long snow rake with an extendable arm. This tool allows you to clear away large accumulations of snow safely from the ground. When doing this, homeowners should remain attentive and keep their distance from falling debris.
  • Ice removal—Clearing ice from your roof can be a challenge, particularly because manual ice removal is extremely dangerous and should be avoided if possible. However, there are several safe methods to consider:
    • Use a snow rake to create a drainage path. That way, once the ice melts, water will have a means of egress from the roof, eliminating the risk of standing water and major damage.
    • Work with a contractor to install electric heating cables on your roof. This allows ice to melt and safely drain.
    • Use chemical de-icers to improve drainage.

Ice Dams

During cold winter months, a row of icicles on your home’s eaves may be a sign that a ridge of ice is forming at the edge of the roof. This ridge, also known as an ice dam, can be the result of uneven heat loss from your home, which causes the roof to warm above freezing and melt accumulated snow. When the snow melts and then re-freezes before reaching the roof’s edge, an ice dam forms, causing water to collect behind it. This pool of water can cause extensive damage to the roof, attic, ceilings, walls and contents of your home.

You can prevent the formation of ice dams by following these tips:

  • Keep the attic well-ventilated. For suspended ceilings, fibreglass batt insulation can be installed to prevent heat loss. For drywall ceilings that are nailed directly to the joists, blown insulation in addition to fibreglass insulation can be effective.
  • Identify and remove any heat source in your attic that will heat areas on your roof.
  • Seal air leaks to prevent warm air leakage from plumbing vents, attic hatches and junction boxes.
  • Keep the attic floor well insulated (between 40 and 56 centimeters of insulation) to minimize the amount of heat rising into the attic from below.
  • Clean leaves and other debris from gutters before the first snow to help prevent ice buildup.
  • Install an ice shield under your shingles if you’re considering getting a new roof.
  • Use a roof rake to clear snow about one meter above the gutters to allow water to drain freely.
  • Consider hiring an energy specialist to evaluate the performance of your home and recommend some things you can do to minimize energy waste.
  • Consider re-roofing. During the installation process, you can install a secondary moisture barrier to help prevent heat loss. For best results, moisture barriers should be place in roof valleys where snow and ice are likely to collect during the winter.

In addition to the above tips, proper roof maintenance is crucial when it comes to preventing ice dams. Specifically, you should ensure that roof drainage systems, such as scuppers, gutters and down spouts are free of debris and working properly. Be sure to also cut back overhanging trees or vegetation, as falling debris can clog your drainage systems.

Frozen Pipes

One of the messiest and most costly home repairs is fixing a burst, frozen pipe. Water expands as it freezes and puts significant pressure on the metal or plastic pipes that hold it. If you fail to take the proper precautions, your pipes can easily fail during a cold winter.

Pipes that run along exterior walls in the home with minimal insulation also tend to freeze more easily.

Water from a burst pipe can cause damage to carpeting, short out electrical appliances and ruin furniture. Luckily, there are several ways to protect your home:

  • Keep the heat in your house at a minimum of 10° C (50° F). Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during the day and night.
  • Keep interior doors open. This allows heat from the rest of your house to spread, keeping your pipes warm.
  • Seal any cracks and holes found near your pipes. This can help keep cold air out of your home.
  • Add extra insulation to your pipes. Experts recommend fitting your pipes with foam rubber or fibreglass sleeves.
  • Wrap pipes in heat tape or thermostatically-controlled heat cables.
  • Disconnect outdoor items such as hoses and faucets.
  • Keep your garage door closed if there is a water supply in there.
  • Pay attention to weather forecasts. During bouts of extreme cold, allow faucets to drip slightly. This can alleviate pressure in the piping system.
  • Ensure your home has a backup generator. Power outages are one of the most common causes of frozen pipes. What’s more, without power, your water supply may also be shut off.
  • Consider hiring a central monitoring company. These organizations monitor the temperature of your home remotely and can provide a notification if the interior temperature of your home drops too low.
  • Do not set your thermostat lower than 15° C (55° F) when going on vacation. Ask someone to periodically check the temperature in your home while you are away.

If you turn on a faucet and no water or only a trickle comes out, your pipes may be frozen. Turn off the main water valve and keep the faucet on. Apply heat to the pipe by using an electric heating pad, hair dryer or portable space heater, or by wrapping the pipe in towels soaked in hot water. You should apply heat until you regain water pressure. If this does not solve the problem, contact a licensed plumber to inspect your pipes.

Liability Concerns to Consider

Extreme winter weather not only has the potential to damage your home, but it can also create serious liability concerns. During the winter season, walkways, stairs and driveways can become slip and trip hazards as snow falls and ice forms. Should someone injure themselves on your property, you could be held liable for medical costs as well as any other damages, particularly if you didn’t take the appropriate precautions following adverse weather.

To adequately protect yourself from such liability concerns, consider doing the following:

Shovel & De-ice

It’s very common for someone to slip on ice during the winter and injure themselves. In order to keep you and members of the public safe, ensure driveways, stairs and sidewalks around your property are clear of ice and snow. To create an adequate walkway, be sure to clear all or as much snow away as possible. Once you’ve removed snow, use anti-ice material on walkways and stairs to make them less slippery. Commonly used products include commercial-grade salt and sand. You should always shovel and remove ice after a storm in a timely manner.

 

Inspect Your Stairs

During the winter, a slip or fall on your outdoor stairs could lead to serious injuries. In addition to clearing snow and ice from your stairs, it’s important to inspect them and ensure they are in good condition and equipped with handrails. Stairs should be free of tripping hazards and cracks. Handrails should be installed by a professional to ensure they are sturdy and built to code. For additional protection, provide adequate exterior lighting around your stairs.

 

Trim Your Trees

You may not realize it, but snow and ice accumulation can cause tree branches to snap and fall. When this happens, the branches can strike passersby or property below, potentially causing significant injury or property damage. To prevent this from happening, trim your trees back, focusing on any branches that overhang your driveway, walkways or your neighbors’ property.

Keeping in mind the above tips can go a long way toward reducing your liability risks. It may also be a good idea to speck with your insurance broker, as they can provide even more tips and suggestions to reduce your exposures.

Additional Protection

Weather-related risks can affect your home unexpectedly, often leading to major property damage, costly repairs and liability concerns. While you can’t always predict when a pipe will burst or heavy snow will affect the integrity of your roof, the proper insurance can go a long way toward protecting your finances. To learn more about the specific policies available to you, it’s important to work with a qualified insurance broker.

Contact Jones & Associates Insurance today to learn more.

ASSESSING YOUR WINTER WEATHER DAMAGE RISK

In order to protect your home from the elements, it’s important to conduct a thorough review of your property. The checklist  linked below provides a list of questions to ask yourself that can help you better assess your risks and identify potential areas for improvement.  

Download the Checklist

Electronic Pink Slips Now Available in Ontario

e-Pink Slips Now Available in Ontario

As of September 5th 2019,  The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) has approved the use of electronic proof of auto insurance in Ontario.  More information about the FSRA’s announcement can be found here.

Insurers may now provide electronic insurance cards that serve as proof of auto insurance on a mobile device. Consumers have the option of keeping an electronic insurance card on their mobile device instead of, or in addition to, a paper version.

For people who prefer the paper “pink card” as their proof of auto insurance, it is not being eliminated.  Electronic proof of insurance simply provides an option for Ontario drivers who own or lease a motor vehicle, including motorcycles and trucks, to access their auto insurance card in the way that best suits their needs.

During a one-year transition period, insurers who provide an option for an electronic insurance card must continue to provide a paper version of the insurance card at no additional cost.

So, what does this mean to you as a Jones & Associates Insurance client?

Our goal is to provide services that are convenient and easy to use.  We want our clients to have choice on how and when you receive documents and communications.  E-pink slips are one way in which you can control this experience.

Pink Slip Preference

To request your pink slip preference, please fill out our online form:

Request Your Pink Slip Preference

How to protect your data when providing your electronic proof of insurance

Learn how to lock your phone when providing your electronic proof of insurance from our friends at IBAO.org

Protect your Data while using Electronic Pink Slips

View the Video

 

FAQ’s

Q) What if my phone isn’t working or I have no data?

A) Drivers must ensure they can show proof of auto insurance, regardless of potential issues with a mobile device such as poor cellular service, drained batteries or damaged screens.

Q) I am concerned about my Privacy giving my phone over to a police officer.

A) Insurance providers offering electronic insurance cards must include lock screen capability. This reduces the risk of other people getting access to personal information when viewing the electronic insurance card. However, it is still the responsibility of the driver in question to enable the screen lock function and make sure personal information is protected.

Q) Do I have to still have a pink slip?

A) It is still the law to have proof of auto insurance in the vehicle at all times, whether in paper or electronic format. Drivers are required by law to show proof of auto insurance to a police officer when asked.

Q) What about when I am driving in different provinces or the USA?

A) The requirements for showing proof of auto insurance outside of Ontario could be different. Drivers are encouraged to contact their insurance provider with any questions about proof of auto insurance before driving outside of the province.

Q) How do I add my electronic proof of insurance to my mobile phone.

A) For more information on how this e-liability slip solution works, including how to add to your phone’s digital wallet, or lock the screen, visit epinkslip.com

Q) Are there other options for accessing my policy information and e-pinkslips with my phone or mobile device?

A) Yes, visit Jones & Associates Client Access for more ways to communicate and manage your insurance with us digitally.

Client Service Alert – Protect your Property from Ice Dams

Icicles that form during Northwestern Ontario’s never-ending winter may look beautiful, but they could be a symptom of something sinister – ice dams.

Ice dams are thick ridges of ice that build up along a home’s eaves. They block melting ice from escaping through the eavestroughs and they can spell it huge problems for your home, including a collapsed roof.

How do ice dams form?

When heat rises in your home, poor insulation and ventilation can allow this warm air to escape and heat your roof. The snow melts and causes water to flow until it’s far enough away from the attic’s warm air to freeze. As this process repeats itself, the melted snow continues to freeze in the same area to create a buildup of ice that eventually forms an ice dam.

Are ice dams damaging?

Fresh water ice weighs about 60lbs per cubic foot. When you consider that, it makes sense that ice dams can tear off gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to back-up into your home causing peeling paint, sagging ceilings, and soggy insulation. On lower pitched roofs, even a thin ice dam can be problematic. At best, ice damming is a preventable, or at least fixable, situation. At its worst, it’s very damaging on your home and potentially dangerous.

How to prevent ice dams

The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) has published these helpful tips to keep your home free of ice dams:

  1. Check your roof once a week to monitor the snow and ice accumulation; if you can, remove the snow and ice with a roof rake before it builds up.
  2. Insure that your attic is adequately insulated
  3. From inside your home, seal any perforations in the ceiling
  4. Ensure your soffit vents are not blocked by insulation
  5. Draw more air into the attic through the gable and eave vents
  6. Keep roof vents free of snow so cold air can circulate in your attic
  7. Make sure that the ducts connected to the kitchen, bathroom, and dryer vents all lead outside through either the roof or walls, but never through the soffit.
  8. If you are installing a new roof, have the contractor provide options for an ice and water shield.

We know that ice damming can happen despite your best efforts and intentions. Luckily, your home insurance policy could help to support you through any necessary repairs. If an ice dam has formed on your roof, do not climb up to inspect it or remove it yourself – leave that to the professionals.  Instead, check your attic for leaks.

If you do find a leak, give Jones & Associates a call to chat about next steps.

Client Service Alert – Excess Snow and the Risk to Property

Large amounts of snow on a roof

Snow, those of us who live in the North have a love/hate relationship with the white stuff.  When we get dumped on with a storm, most of us either hibernate or get excited about reaching for the skis.  Often, you’ll hear your friends and neighbours moan and groan about having to shovel the walkway and stairs, the driveway, and the driveway again.   With all this attention paid to clearing away the snow to protect those walking and the vehicles parking on our properties, we often forget to look up.  Removing accumulated snow from the roofs of your home and outbuildings is an excellent way to protect the property from damage and yourself from injury.

According to the National Research Council of Canada, the minimum snow load that a roof should be able to handle is 21 pounds per square foot. (That’s about 2 to 2.5 feet of packed snow)!  As your home and roof age, the risk of damage to your home increases.   Watch for signs of impending collapse:

  • Sagging ceilings
  • Visible cracks in ceilings and interior walls
  • Leaks
  • Unusual cracking or popping sounds
  • Warped or bent utility pipes
  • Doorways that won’t close or are hard to open

You can help avoid these symptoms by always performing regular maintenance on your roof, keeping drains, gutter and downspouts clear of snow and being diligent with removing excess snow from the roof itself.   To reduce the risk of damage to shingles or injury to yourself, consult insured professionals to help you keep the surface as clear as possible of dangerous weight and ice.   

Stay Warm

Driver: You are the Wheelman

Ridesharing Insurance for URIDE, UBER & Lyft

Are you considering driving for a ridesharing company like U-Ride?

You could use a little extra cash, who doesn’t? You have access to a vehicle and you have a smartphone, so why not get paid to give people rides instead of driving friends for free, right?

Did you know that your personal auto insurance policy may not permit your vehicle to be used for ridesharing? Does your coverage stop when you log into an app waiting for a ride request? When you accept a ride request? When you pick up a passenger? If you’re not sure about these answers talk to an expert that can help you find the right type of coverage. Proactive measures can help you to avoid your insurance provider cancelling your coverage or refusing to renew your policy.

Before signing on to work with a ridesharing company, find out when and how you are covered by the company’s insurance policy and then compare it to your own to find gaps in coverage. For example, if your vehicle is in an accident will your policy cover for a rental replacement? Would you be able to use the rental to keep working?

Jones Insurance can offer options for you today…so we can book a ride with you tomorrow. Contact us today to learn more, request a quote, or book an appointment at www.jonesins.com