05 March 2019

When snow piles up, don’t let the risks pile up too

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We’ve had so much snow this year, we don’t know where to put it anymore! Some people are even saying we’re going to break the records set in 2008. Even though our homes and infrastructure are designed to withstand Québec winters, snow can still cause big damage. Just think of how many roofs have sagged or caved in since the beginning of the year! Not to mention all the other problems snow can cause, like water infiltration and damage to carports and outdoor furniture.

Find out what your home insurance covers and how to prevent risks.

What home insurance covers

If you have an “all perils” home insurance policy, the following claims are covered*:

  • Roof collapses caused by heavy snow and ice
  • Property damaged by snow:  carports, heat pumps, outdoor furniture, patios, railings, etc.

“Named perils” coverage protects you against the risks specified in the contract, such as fire, theft, or vandalism. It does not necessarily cover claims related to snow buildup. Read your insurance policy carefully or ask your representative to make sure! Please note that restrictions may apply.

Additional coverage

Has the snow on your roof melted and water seeped into your ceiling? You’re not covered unless you added the “Water Damage - Above Ground Water” endorsement to your insurance policy.

There are other types of additional coverage you can get as well. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Water damage: ground water
  • Pool and hot tub

Preventing risks

Keep a close eye on your roof

When snow piles up on your roof and isn’t properly cleared, it can threaten the roof’s structural integrity and cause other problems like water infiltration during melting and, even worse, partial or total collapse of the roof. Be on the lookout!

In general, watch for the following signs that it’s time to clear your roof of snow:

The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail website explains how to safely remove snow from flat roofs and sloped roofs (in French only). We always recommend you remove snow from your roof using a telescopic rake while standing on the ground. If you’re uncomfortable doing so, especially if the roof is icy, call in a specialized contractor.

Carport and outdoor property

We recommend you clear the snow off your carport each time it snows. Stand outside the carport to do so, not under it. Make sure you clear both sides at the same time rather then clearing one side and then the other.

If possible, put your outdoor belongings, such as patio furniture, BBQs, and pool or garden items, into storage. If you don’t have room, cover them with something. 

Keep appliances clear!

When snow piles up, it can block air intakes and exhaust vents. Pay special attention to those of the following appliances:

  • Air exchanger
  • Range hood
  • Dryer
  • Bathroom fan

Be sure to remove any accumulated snow before it stops them from working properly. If you have a heat pump, keep it clear too. In addition, to properly protect the propeller and fan, it’s best to use a snow guard— a mesh cover installed on top of the unit. Snow guards are easy to get from the pump manufacturer and oh-so-handy!

The basement and elsewhere

Remove snow from in front of basement windows and between curb stones. This is important for two reasons. Why?

First, because the risk of infiltration is high when a home has openings in the foundation near the ground. Windows and other openings where heat is lost can melt snow and increase the risk of water infiltration.

You also have to think about evacuating the basement in case of an emergency. Windows can be used as emergency exits, so they must stay clear year-round. The safety of the people inside depends on it.

Taking the precautions described in this article can give you real peace of mind knowing you are better protected from the dangers of snow. Feel free to share this information with others.

* This information is subject to the definitions, conditions, limitations, and exclusions set out in your insurance policy.