Winter weather has been pummeling the northeast. With more snow and ice in the forecast, it’s time to take a hard look at the problems these cold-weather plagues cause to homes and other buildings.
Pretty icicles hanging from the gutter? Danger ahead! Icicles hanging from gutters and eaves are the first signs of ice dams. Ice dams can cause leaks, and those can lead to structural damage and mold infestation.
“When melted snow refreezes at roof edges and eaves, it forms an ice dam, which is a ridge of ice that prevents the melting snow from draining off the roof,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group. “When the water has nowhere to go, it is forced back up under the shingles, and often into the ceilings or walls inside the home. And then the trouble begins.”
In addition to roof and water damage, ice dams can cause mold and mildew to form in attics, ceilings, insulation, and on wall surfaces, he explains. “The leak itself is certainly a headache, but it’s the mold that follows after the leak that will cause the most damage to your home, and possibly your health,” he warns.
A mold colony can be established in less than 24 hours. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic headaches, allergies, fatigue, skin rashes, wheezing, throat and eye irritations, and many respiratory problems including asthma – especially in children.
So what can you do if you see ice dams forming?
- Remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof with a broom or roof rake. This will help prevent new ice dams from forming when the snow and ice melt;
- Don’t try to chip away the ice inside the gutter, as this can cause further damage;
- Turn down the heat inside your home. Make sure your attic is well insulated and ventilated to minimize the amount of heat rising from the house. A colder attic will reduce melting and cause refreezing on your roof;
- If ice dams are a chronic problem, you may want to consider a roof or gutter heating system;
- If ice dams are severe and have started pushing water back into your home, call in a professional roofer. He can cut channels into the ice so water drips down and over it, and can strategically place ice-melting agents to assist;
If you’ve had a leak or water intrusion, test your home for mold. It’s best to select an independent testing company, like RTK Environmental Group. They can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold; and determine if the health of your family is at risk.