Ice dams: 'Worst I've ever seen'
FINGER LAKES--Knapp and Schlappi co-owner Steve Perry said this year has been the worst year he has seen when it comes to homes with ice dams. An ice dam is an ice build-up on a roof, usually in the gutters, that builds up over the duration of a winter. Ice dams are usually caused when the snow on a roof melts and freezes after flowing down to the gutters or eaves, causing water to back up under the shingles and leak into a house.
"This is the worst year I've ever seen," Perry said. "I've been around in the building material industry since the mid-1980s and I've never seen anything like this. If they have a leak, basically they have got to get it off their roof any way they can, because if you get it off, the leak is going to stop."
Perry said the snow usually melts as a result of poor roof insulation that causes heat leaks. Sunny winter days are also known to cause roof snow to melt, which then refreezes during the night.
"The biggest thing is the attics have to be properly insulated, and [have] proper venting from the eave to the peak," Perry said. "Those are the two biggest things.[...] When you see a two-story house and it is coming off the gutters or on the eaves, that is a heat loss."
Perry said ice dams can cause the melted water tom back up behind it, flowing underneath the shingles which can cause water leaks into the insulation in one's attic. He said if an ice dam breaks free, it can pull the gutters down.
"When you have a leak, it is normally going to be on a nicer day," Perry said. "Like [last] week, you are going to hear about a lot of people having leaks in their ceilings. That is when it is going to start trying to melt, and it doesn't have anywhere to go, so it goes back up the roof."
Perry said having a rubber membrane installed before the shingles are put down on a roof can keep the water and ice from backing up. However, he said the most important thing a person can do who is currently suffering from an ice dam is to get the snow and ice off the roof as soon as possible.
"The biggest thing that we have seen is when they do start having a problem, they still have a lot of snow on their roof," Perry said. "They have to get that snow off so it doesn't make more ice, so we sold a lot of roof rakes to pull the snow off. A lot of people will hire a roofing contractor to go up there and shovel it off. The more snow, if they still have a foot or so of snow on their roof and they still have ice under it, they need to get that snow off now so that when it does start melting, the water has somewhere to go."
Perry said a lot of contractors are removing ice and snow right now, adding if someone wanted to safely remove the ice and snow themselves, they have to make sure they do not fall off the roof. He said ice is often removed with picks, while snow is removed by shovel or rake, adding homeowners can even use "salt pucks" or a safer magnesium to melt the snow and ice on a roof. However, Perry added once the snow and ice melts, it is important to then get the salt back off the roof before it can cause damage.
"You would have to actually chop that ice off somehow," Perry said. "You see the contractors up there with these picks, and you have got to be careful with that to make sure you do not go through the ice and damage the roof. The more snow you can get off the roof so the sun can melt the ice, eventually it will come out of there."