Central New York Alert – Look up for falling icebergs!
Central New York has officially opened the ice dam season. For anyone who has been lucky enough to not know what an “ice dam” is, it’s a block of ice that builds up on the eve edges of your roof because of insulation and construction issues in your home. Believe it or not, it could be as late as June when some of the damage ice dams cause is fully realized by the home owner and steps are taken to correct and repair.
First, what causes ice dams? Typically, an ice dam is a result of heat warming the roof from underneath where there is attic space, causing snow to melt and begin running off the roof. As the water travels to the edges that may be an eve or overhang, that area of the roof is cold and the water refreezes, building up on the edge of the roof.
Why is this a bad thing? Several reasons, first, an ice dam can be a very large iceberg sitting on the edge of the roof, if it comes loose it could kill anyone below it. Second, water backs up on the roof and under the ice and gets into the ceilings and walls, anytime there is water in the ceiling and walls, it’s not good. Third, when the ice does come down, it can take shingles and gutters with it, and break windows on its way to the ground. Long term water damage from ice dams will cause mold to grow on the roof decking, causing it to rot, and cause mold to grow in walls as well. You may not see the effects of the damage for months after the ice is gone.
What can you do about it? The most important step you can take is to understand how effective your attic insulation and ventilation is working. Prevention is all about managing the heat that is entering and exiting the attic. Enlist the help of a licensed home inspection company to evaluate the attic and offer solutions. An experienced home inspector will use thermal imaging as part of the evaluation to “see” where heat is entering and leaving the attic. He will also be able to calculate the ventilation rates and the R-value of the insulation to determine what needs to be done.
If you already are unfortunate enough to have an ice dam forming on your roof, the most important thing to do is take steps to “mitigate” the damage and keep people safe from falling ice. It’s your responsibility to keep further damage from occurring when you experience property damage, if left uncorrected, water damage to roofs, ceilings, and walls will occur, followed by mold growth. Call a roofing contractor to remove the built-up ice and repair the roof if it was damaged. Because you may not know how much water leaked into your walls, call an indoor environmental inspector who is state licensed to evaluate mold to do a damage assessment, you may need to dry out the wall cavities and take some mold prevention steps with the help of a water damage contracting company.
Ultimately, you may have to perform extensive corrective measures to prevent future ice dams from happening. Consider your options carefully, when it comes time to sell your home, a buyer’s inspection at that time will reveal past water damage and could derail the deal.
This article was written by Joe Battisto, Founder and President of Haven Environmental LLC. Haven Environmental provides comprehensive home buyer, seller and agent inspection support for all types of property issues in Upstate New York. Mr. Battisto advises property damage contractors in best practices for water and mold damage restoration, and is currently working with the IICRC to develop a new global standard for maintenance of the commercial built environment. He can be contacted though the company website: www.havenenvironmental.com