The big melt is starting, and we have been getting inquiries round the clock with great questions about the melting snow and ice on our roofs wreaking havoc on our homes, creating more drips inside than your toddler eating ice cream. Certified microbial investigator Robert Weitz of RTK Environmental answers some of the most frequently asked questions. Here’s what you need to know.
What is an ice dam and why should I care?
The icicles hanging from the eaves may look pretty, but they spell big trouble. During the day, sun melts the snow. When the temperature drops at night, the water refreezes to form ice dams, which prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. Since the water has nowhere to go, it can leak into your home or office, causing damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and floors. Once that happens, mold is sure to follow. A new mold colony can be established in less than 24 hours. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma – especially in children. The bottom line: ice dams can cause structural damage as well as health issues.
How can ice dams damage my home?
Damage from ice dams – outdoors and indoors, doesn’t occur all at once. Outside, ice dams can rip off gutters and downspouts, loosen shingles, and damage roofs. Inside, the damage can be much worse. Water leaking into your home can destroy walls, ceilings, wallboard, floors, insulation, and more. Once wet, insulation will lose its ability to insulate well, and you will lose heat. Luckily, that damage usually can be seen easily. What you may not be able to see is mold infestation behind your walls.
Water is leaking into my home – what should I do?
The most important thing is to act fast. You can call your insurance company, but don’t wait for them to respond before you take action. Here are the first steps:
· Take pictures of the damage, and remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to call you back. Waiting — even for a few hours — could accentuate your water and mold damage;
· Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials from the area;
· If you have an ice dam, try to create a channel for the water caused by melting snow to drain off your roof. One recommendation from This Old House is to fill the leg of discarded pair of panty hose with a calcium chloride ice melter. Lay the hose onto the roof so it crosses the ice dam and overhangs the gutter. The calcium chloride will eventually melt through the snow and ice and create a channel for water to flow down into the gutters or off the roof.
· Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier, fans or ventilation. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible;
· If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be tossed. Unfortunately, this list includes mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard;
· Put aluminum foil under the legs of furniture to avoid staining floors;
· Have your home tested for mold.
Want more? Click here to read Part Two of this series. We answer additional questions including:
· I don’t see anything wrong, so my roof isn’t leaking, right?
· What should I do about the icicles and chunks of ice in my gutters? (Helpful hint: Put away the chainsaw)
· Can damage from ice dams affect anywhere in my home or just my attic?
· What is the most common mistake made in dealing with ice dams?
· How can I prevent ice dams in the future?