The wild winter weather has done it again — prepared the perfect cocktail for ice dams: a heaping portion of snow and a splash of rain mixed with ice, followed by fluctuating temperatures. Sure, we appreciate the warm-up during the day that melts the snow and ice, but when the temperature drops at night, the water refreezes to form ice dams, which can cause major damage to your home.
“Ice dams form when melted snow refreezes at roof edges and eaves, and this ridge of ice prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. Since it has nowhere to go, it can leak into your home, causing damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation,” said certified microbial investigator Robert Weitz. “You may think the leak itself is the worst part, but it’s the mold that comes after the leak that will cause the most damage to your home, and possibly your health,” he explained.
Once water gets into your home, it doesn’t take long for mold to take hold – a new 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.
Many people make the mistake of cosmetically repairing water damage without checking to see if mold has spread. That’s why when there’s water damage, it’s important to test for mold. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, don’t rely on your contractor to look for mold. Hire an independent mold inspector, instead.
Of course the best way to avoid mold is to take action if you see ice dams forming. Here’s what to do:
- Remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof with a broom or roof rake;
- Don’t try to chip away the ice – this can cause further damage to your roof and shingles;
- 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 refreezing on your roof.
If despite your best efforts water seeps in, take these important 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;
- 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.
If you have water damage this winter, an independent testing company 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. For more information, visit www.RTKEnvironmental.com.