Hate to bring bad news, but after a slow start to the snowy season, above normal amounts of snow are expected across the Northeast for the second half of the winter season, according to Harris-Mann Climatology, the leading long-range weather forecasters in the United States. Normal snowfall for southern Connecticut and New York is 7.2 inches; Harris-Mann is predicting 8.3 inches.

What a perfect time for a refresher course on ice dams!

Ice dams are ridges of ice on the edge of a sloping roof that prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. Ice builds up, and the water formed by melting snow has no place to go, except inside homes.

Assuming you can spot the leak, simply catching the dripping water with pails and bowls, and moping it up, are just the first steps and the start of your troubles. Water damages your home’s structure — walls, ceilings, insulation — in addition to your carpets, furniture and drapes. Once that happens, in less than 24 hours, toxic mold can take hold, affecting your health. There are more than 100,000 different types of mold, that when inhaled, can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems, including asthma.

In our last post, we discussed ice dams — ridges of ice on the edge of a sloping roof that prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. Ice builds up, and the water formed by melting snow has no place to go, except inside homes.

When this happens, immediate action, both indoors and out, is required since water can cause structural damage, and the resulting mold affects your health.

Indoors:

  • Take a picture 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.
  • Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately. This includes food, cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
  • 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.
  • Snow melts on the warmer parts of the roof, but as it travels down the roof toward the eaves, it begins freezing instead of draining, which causes ice dams to form. To avoid this, keep attic air temperature below freezing when the outside temperatures are in the 20s. To do this, seal any air leaks in the ceiling below your attic floor, making it as airtight as possible to keep warm, moist air flowing from the house into the attic. Once sealing is complete, you can also increase the insulation on the attic floor.

Outdoors:

  • Unfortunately, it’s easy to cause damage to your roof shingles, so it’s wise not to routinely remove snow from the roof. And never chip away the ice from an ice dam.
  • Have a contractor remove snow from the roof. But be warned that some tools, such as roof rakes, can cause damage to the roofing materials. If you do it yourself, choose a rake with wheels.
  • If water is leaking into your home, hire a contractor to make channels through the ice dam.
  • Be sure gutters are clean and free of leaves. Clean gutters will not prevent ice dams, but they offer a place for the water to go.

If you have water damage this winter, a company which tests for mold, such as RTK Environmental Group, sponsors of this blog, 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, or to contact RTK, visit www.RTKEnvironmental.com, or call 800.392.6468.