White winters can be lovely, but they sure can cause a lot of expensive property damage. By the end of 2010, the winter months already had racked up $2.6 billion in losses during the year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
And this winter showed no sign of slowing down the charge. National home insurance carrier State Farm tallied its roof collapse claims across 11 states and arrived at a whopping 16,119 cave-ins for the month of February alone. By our estimate of an average cost of $20,000 to $30,000 per claim for all the intensive repairs, that adds up to $322 million to $483 million in claims. Yikes!
Here’s a look back at some of the costliest and craziest home repairs caused by damaging winter weather.
Unwanted house guest
It’s always bad news when a raging blizzard comes knocking, but most of us manage to keep the snow outdoors where it belongs. Iowa couple Steve and Betty Ehlers weren’t so lucky. Unfortunately, the blizzard they thought they were escaping when they went on vacation decided to let itself into their home and make itself comfy. A family member who came to check on the house found snow piled in the hallway and kitchen—and even inside some closets and cupboards. How’d it get there? Heavy winds had blown open a side door.
Culprit: Blizzard and a blown-open door. When snow floods into a home and no one’s around to clean it up right away, it has nothing to do but melt. Unfortunately for the Ehlers, this type of water damage is usually not covered by insurance.
Repairs needed: Drywall, trim, carpet and flooring, paint and wall finish, and furniture and personal items.
The bill: $5,896
*National average for water damage from flooding, Insurance Information Institute
A Springfield, Mass. man, Dan Scagliarini, got quite the wake-up call when his roof collapsed while he was counting sheep. Scagliarini was sleeping on the second floor of a multi-family house, which had he just moved into two days before, when the roof buckled under the pressure of snow at just past 7 a.m. on Feb. 3.
To hear him tell it in this video clip, the noise woke him right up and he went to investigate — finding a “big hole” in his dining room ceiling. However, the Associated Press reported firefighters who arrived on the scene found Scagliarini still asleep after the collapse and had to escort him out. Regardless of how deeply Scagliarini was sleeping, he escaped safely. But he did need to find a new place to live. The building was condemned as a result of the disaster.
Culprit: Heavy snow on a weak roof. Snow is heavy! Even just 3 inches of dry snow can weigh about 9.5 pounds per square foot. Wet snow of the same depth? Sixty-two pounds per square foot. This means that for New York, which got hit with three feet in January, that’s 744 pounds of snow per square foot! It’s no wonder we heard about so many roof cave-ins this year. What’s worse, they’re really expensive to replace.
Repairs needed: Rafters or trusses, roof sheathing, wall studs, drywall, insulation, windows, siding, carpet and flooring, furniture and personal items, wiring, lighting, and ductwork or plumbing.
The bill: Around $20,000 to $30,000 for a roof rebuild/repair.
Meltin’ down the house
Sure, dealing with ice in the wake of a storm can be a real bother—not to mention a real hazard. But most people would rather spend a few bucks on a bag of salt before risking losing their house to a fire. Most people, that is, except one Bedford, Mass., man who tried to melt ice from his back porch with a blowtorch and ended up setting his house on fire. The lesson here? Let nature take its course — the sun’s heat and salt’s ice-melting power may be slow, but they’re definitely a lot safer.
Culprit: Fire and ice. Local police reported the man was using a blow torch hooked up to a 20-pound propane cylinder. But rather than melting the ice, he burned his building’s wood frame, vinyl siding, and second- and third-story apartments.
Repairs needed: Vinyl siding, wood frame, drywall and insulation, furniture and personal items, wiring, lighting fixtures, and ductwork or plumbing.
The bill: $30,000.
Winter is hard enough without having your home beaten up by snow blowers. But that’s what happened to home owners in Brooklyn, New York, last December. The powerful machines being used to clean up subway stations in the wake of a severe storm inadvertently sent snow flying through the windows of nearby homes.
Culprit: Snow blowers. It’s good that the transportation authority has such powerful, ready, and able cleanup tools—but a little more care might have prevented the home damage residents suffered.
Repairs needed: Windows with new 3-foot-by-5-foot double hung vinyl
The bill: $1,106 per window.
Ice ice baby
When temperatures drop as quickly and as sharply as they did in the Southwest this season, water damage is not far behind. Crews in the normally balmy cities of Texoma, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico, had to scramble to repair water damage from burst frozen pipes in hundreds of homes after a drastic temperature drop.
Culprit: Flooding from frozen pipes. When a pipe bursts, a tidal wave of water pours from a wall or ceiling into the living area of the home. It’s an incredibly destructive event that a home owner needs to respond to quickly in order to contain flood damage and get the best outcome possible with the insurance company.
Repairs needed: Drywall, trim, carpet and flooring, paint and wall finish, pipe repair, wiring and fixture repair, water removal, furniture, and personal items.
The bill: $12,000 to $15,000.