In part two of this series, we answer some of your questions about long terms damage to your home and health concerns. Ice dams wreak havoc with roofs, and then the mold that follows wreaks havoc with your health. I don’t see anything wrong, so my roof isn’t leaking, right?
A certified microbial investigator can check behind walls without damaging them to see if mold has developed.
We wish this was true, but it’s not. Ice dams can cause seepage in places the naked eye can’t see, whether behind walls or under floors – wherever the water finds a path to travel. The slightest leak can cause mold to grow, which can have detrimental consequences, both to your home and health. If you think the ice dams on the eaves of your house or gutters are causing indoor leaks, the safest thing to do is hire an independent contractor to test for mold. A certified microbial investigator can use a moisture meter to test for mold and moisture behind walls, as well as take air samples to see if there is a problem. If you decide to wait and see, be diligent about checking attics, basements, and other less frequented places in your home for visible mold or musty odors, which are tell tale signs of hidden mold. At that point, you need to have your home tested by an independent mold inspector – one that does only testing, and not remediation, as this is a conflict of interest.
What should I do about the icicles and chunks of ice in my gutters? (Helpful hint: Put away the chainsaw)
This is a real Catch 22 for many people. Your first instinct is to get the ice out through brut force, but that is easier said than done. Not only is it dangerous to get up on a ladder that is set on snow and ice, but also swinging an axe, crowbar, or chainsaw on an unstable ladder can cause you bodily harm, let alone mess up your roof and shingles. We’ve heard it all – from blowtorches to steam cleaners, pantyhose to heating pads. We give you credit for creativity, but to be safe and not cause further damage to your roof, remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof with a broom or roof rake. This will help additional snow from melting into the existing ice dams, and will lessen the weight of the melting snow on your roof and gutters.
Can damage from ice dams affect anywhere in my home or just my attic?
Depending on how and where your ice dams form, the water can go anywhere. We just had a call from a family in Connecticut that discovered water pouring into the basement. The cause turned out to be one ice dam that grew so large, that water traveled to the deck, pooled, then leaked into the basement. If ice dams travel down your downspouts, water may be pooling near your foundation with nowhere to escape.
What is the most common mistake made in dealing with ice dams?
Many people make the mistake of cosmetically repairing water damage without checking to see if water leaks have caused mold to grow. That’s why when there’s water damage, it’s important to test for mold. Hire an independent mold inspector, one who does not do remediation, for that would be a conflict of interest. An independent testing company can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold – even if it cannot be seen by the naked eye.
For more information, visit www.RTKEnvironmental.com.
Will homeowners insurance cover damage from ice dams?
According to the National Association of Realtors®, most homeowners insurance policies cover conditions such as damage caused by ice dams, when water can’t drain into the gutters and instead seeps into the house. But, if the water from an ice dam enters the home from the ground, homeowners insurance generally won’t cover mold remediation. You would need flood insurance for that.
How can I prevent ice dams in the future?
There are a number of options to help you prevent future ice dams, depending on your situation and construction of your home or business. Here are a few tips:
Ensure adequate ventilation.
In order to make sure that your attic and roof is properly ventilated, they need to be vented both at the eaves/soffits and at the peak. You need to have a space for cold air to flow above the insulation to keep the roof cold and prevent the snow from melting. If you have a finished attic, it is a little more complicated, but it can be done. House Logic shares some additional tips here.
Properly insulate your home.
Proper insulation of the attic is another solution, as is a tight vapor barrier to prevent moisture from passing from the living areas into and through the insulation. If air from your home finds its way to the underside of the roof sheathing, the heated air raises the temperature of the roof, causing snow to melt, then refreezes when the temperature drops again. Another important thing: make sure you have enough insulation. Under-insulated homes are more likely to be victims of ice dams. To find out how much insulation your home should have (based on location and age), refer to this chart on the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association webpage.
Protect your gutters.
Whether it’s a snow and ice shield or electric gutters, there are several products that will prevent water from working its way into the home. A snow and ice shield consists of a membrane that seals the roof, forming a continuous barrier to water.
If you are experiencing damage from ice dams and melting snow, call us to discuss your options and figure out a plan to keep your home and family safe at (800) 392-6468.