Happy Winter, all! I was wondering if anyone would bother reading this article, since most of the season has been bereft of snow. And then as I sat down to compose this column, the Storm of the Year seems to have made its appearance, reared its head and walloped us!
Here is all you need to know about Ice Dams, how to prepare for them, prevent them and recover from them if they cause water intrusion/water damage in your home.
Preparing: As they say, an ounce of prevention… folks with a metal roof really have nothing to worry about when it comes to ice dams, so long as they have a properly installed roofing system, with the proper drip edge, fascia boards and overhang.
However, for those homeowners with a traditional (but poorly insulated) composite roof, ice dams are formed when interior heat escapes and warms the roof. The melting snow then runs to the colder eave, where it refreezes. This process can cause severe damage to your roof, and potentially expose your interior to water damage.
Generally, the homeowner would not notice an issue until the water backed up PAST the top edge of the ice/water shield that a roofer would have put down over the plywood to waterproof it. **If a new roof is on your to-do list for next spring, ask the roofer to add one more course of ice/water shield!**
Preventing: This is a great way to get in some cardio on a brisk winter day- Rake your roof after every snowstorm (make sure you have a quality unit)! The roof rakes available at your local hardware store are strong, lightweight and easy to assemble. As long as the handle will allow you to reach at least 2 to 3 feet up the roof, it should work fine! Just remember to be careful around any power lines.
However, this is hard, physical work! If you hire a professional to remove snow from your roof, make sure they are insured! Ask them for a certificate of insurance, then call the company listed on the certificate to make sure the policy is paid-up and current!
Removing: Once a substantial ice dam has already formed, it can be extremely difficult to remove. There are salt “pucks” which can be thrown up to melt through the dam, but they tend to concentrate the melting in a small area. Attempting to chop or chisel through an ice dam is dangerous, relatively ineffective, and can cause severe damage to the roof itself.
Ice on exterior walls: If you notice ice forming on exterior walls, beneath siding, behind the soffit, or in any other odd places an ice dam may be the culprit. As water backs up on the roof eave, it can seep in and behind surfaces and refreeze. During warmer weather, this may be visible as water stains.
Interior water damage: Ice dams can cause water to seep into your home. If you notice evidence of water damage, you should check your roof.
Gutters not draining: If your gutters aren’t draining, an ice dam might be causing a water backup on your roof. If this is not stopped, this water can work its way back into the home or refreeze and cause damage to the roofing material.
Icicle buildup on roof or gutter edge: Icicle buildup can prevent water from draining off the roof properly, and cause water to backup under roofing material.
Snow melts high on the roof, but not down low: If there is snow and ice buildup on the lower part of the roof, but the higher section of roof is clear, this may indicate an ice dam.
Should you experience an ice dam this winter, check with your insurance agent to confirm that the associated damage exceeds your deductible before filing a claim, and contact a water mitigation professional in the area. They will be able to help you find all of the damage (even where it’s not visible to the naked eye) and help you put an effective plan into place to repair it.
Stay safe and warm this Winter- remember to check on your neighbors! <
Jonathan Priest is a MetLife property and casualty specialist in Windham. Call him at 207-893-8184 for your home, auto, life or business insurance needs.