Tip of the Week: Controlling winter roof damage

Staff reports

Every winter, lots of homeowners have to repair water damage caused by ice dams and snow on roofs and in gutters.

There are a number of ways for that to happen, including inadequate insulation or ventilation, and leaving debris in gutters. A roof can be corrected, but Mother Nature can’t be controlled.

Professionals say removing snow from the roof may be important, but your safety is more important. If you are unable to safely remove the ice and snow yourself, the Better Business Bureau will provide a list of local members who do ice and snow removal.

Water leaks are caused by ice and snow melting from interior heat. Water from the melting is trapped and creates an ice dam on the roof, gutters and downspouts. The water then takes the path of least resistance and travels up the roof and under the roof system, or sideways, through flashings.

Removing ice and snow may cause damage to the roof. Talk to your insurance agent and find out if damage is covered before taking action. Be sure to keep records of all costs for repairs. Also, try to minimize your loss by safely removing personal property from any damaged area.


Short Term

-- If the interior heat can’t be eliminated, create water runoffs through the ice and snow so there is water flow off the roof. Creating the runoff may damage the roof, but it’s a trade-off and may be less severe than interior damage caused by leaking water.

-- Some contractors may suggest that rock salt or calcium chloride be used to melt the ice and snow, but that also can damage the roof. For some shingle manufacturers, it may void the manufacturer’s warranty.

-- Ice in gutters and downspouts is almost impossible to remove without damage. In many cases, the gutter system has to be removed from the roof to allow for water to discharge, and that may not eliminate ice dams caused by interior heat.

-- Flat roofs have drains that can freeze and trap water. The trapped water may accumulate to levels higher than the roof flashings, resulting in leaks. The downspout needs to be removed and the drain may have to be cleared of ice.

-- Skylights covered with ice and snow may cause leaking because of vents being covered, and internal condensation can’t escape. Remove the snow and ice from around the skylight, and make sure any contractor is aware of the skylights.

-- If inside water leaks occur and form pools of water in the ceiling, puncture a small hole in the ceiling and allow water to escape into a container. If water is running near an electrical source, shut down the circuit breaker.

-- Never use heating devices, such as torches, to melt the ice.

Long Term

To avoid ice dam leaks, create a system that keeps the roof deck cold during all weather conditions. It’s important to have proper insulation and ventilation.

Canton Repository