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Ice dams causing major damage to Morris homes

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST
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(Heidi Litchfield – hlitchfield@shawmedia.com)
Ice dams are common in the area because of the unusually cold temperatures causing the water to freeze in the gutter giving melting snow and ice no where to go.

MORRIS – As temperatures rise many homeowners will soon find themselves faced with damage from the historic snow falls and freezing temperatures this year.

Scott Dunn from Steffes Seamless Gutters in Morris said his company’s phones already are ringing as homeowners in the area are finding damage to their homes.

“While the phone is ringing off the hook, there is not a lot we can do yet,” Dunn said.

The damage started earlier this winter when snow would melt off the roof, drain into the gutters and freeze, causing ice dams, essentially blocking water from escaping through the gutters and causing it to overflow and freeze, forming icicles.

Dunn said ice dams have the potential to tear gutters from the fascia completely if the weight gets too high from the backed-up ice.

“The more run off and freezing, the heavier and heavier they get,” Dunn said. “The backed-up ice pushes on the front of the gutter and can tear off the gutter, damage the fascia and soffit, as well.”

Jess Alvarez, A Plus Home & Building Inspections Inc. and an ASHI certified inspector in Morris said the damage created by ice dams could be extensive and costly to repair and reach further than just damage to the gutters.

“We see from time to time, ice and water shields improperly installed, or not installed at all,” Alvarez said. “Water can back up under the shingles as it melts and into attics. By the time the homeowner notices the damage, it’s extensive.”

He said as the water backs up under the shingles and works it’s way down under the sheeting, it can ruin insulation and cause damage to ceilings and outside walls.

“Anytime you have a water issue you can get mold growth,” Alvarez said.

Just knocking off the icicles doesn’t help because the ice dam still is present in the gutters and downspouts, preventing the water from running off the roof in the way it’s designed to do.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do right now,” Alvarez said. “I wouldn’t recommend going up and chopping the ice as it can damage the shingles and create a bigger mess.”

Dunn also warned that homeowners shouldn’t try to chop the ice from the gutters and downspouts as it can damage them, creating the need to replace them.

“Unless you take off the downspouts and thaw them out and put them back up or buy new ones, there isn’t a lot that can be done,” Dunn said.

Dunn said he recently took off the downspout and thawed it out and put it back up on his own home because he knows that once it thaws, it can create flooding in his basement, so he wanted the downspout to work properly.

He warns that those with downspouts that lead into underground drains that thaw out the downspout likely won’t help.

“Drains that are underground are affected by frost in the ground, even though the snow is melting on top of the ground it can take a month or more after the snow is gone from the ground to thaw out,” Dunn said. “The water can’t get down the drain and has no where to go.”

Both Alvarez and Dunn say it is too late to do anything about the damage this year, but they said things can be done to prevent it next year.

Alvarez said lot of the damage can be prevented if the homeowner has the proper amount of insulation in their attic before winter.

“This has been an unusually cold winter, and ice dams are prevalent,” Alvarez said. “Some of the issues are created by lack of attic insulation. You should have 18 to 20 inches of insulation for this climate.”

While it’s too late for this year, Alvarez said it’s a good project for this summer before we face another winter.

Dunn recommends putting on larger downspouts if your home has the average 2 by 3 inch downspout that was common on older homes.

“A larger downspout may not freeze up as quick and could prevent some of the back up,” Dunn said.

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