The Herald Bulletin

January 18, 2014

Snow may go but roofs still leak

By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – Not only did the recent snow and ice wreak havoc with roads and schedules, they also placed a strain on the roofs of homeowners.

While their presence likely did not cause damage to the little-considered but oh-so-important feature, it did uncover already-existing issues.

“If there is a weak spot in the roof, the ice will find it and infiltrate it,” said Cory Moore, owner of CMC Construction for 18 years. “A good roof that was properly installed with an ice and water shield shouldn’t have any problems.”

If that ice and water shield is missing, as it is on many homes, then leaks appear after ice dams the gutters.

“Ice builds up at the bottom edge of the roof,” said Moore. “When the snow starts to melt, it can’t make it into the gutter and backs up under the shingles and into the house. One home had ice over one foot taller than the roof. The water couldn’t go anywhere except back into the home.”

The ice and water shield is a protective layer installed underneath the lowest three feet of shingles.

“Most of our calls are due to a lack of an ice and water shield,” said Cory Atkinson, owner of Superior Roofing for 17 years. “After the big hail storm in 2000, Anderson changed the building code to require those shields but a couple of years later they were pulled from the code. So a lot of homeowners took that to mean they don’t need them.”

Atkinson said that he gets calls every year as a result of this oversight and that almost any leak along the exterior wall of the home is an ice dam issue.

“Problems won’t occur during every snow event,” he added. “But if the snow melts during the day and water runs into the gutter and then refreezes during the night due to the lack of heat on the overhang, then an ice dam can form.”

Ice dams themselves are not an indication of a poorly installed roof or inferior shingles. No roof can keep the gutters clear.

“It has nothing to do with the newness or oldness of a building,” said Paul Shively, owner of Paul Shively Construction for 27 years. “We had a home built in 1879 and another in 1979 with exactly the same problem. A brand new roof can be put on by the best installers with the best materials, but you still need to keep that water flowing.”

Homeowners need to ensure their gutters are clog-free before inclement weather arrives. Leaves and debris will exacerbate snow and ice issues and should be cleared. Moore suggests the purchase of a roof rake to pull snow off of the bottom foot of the roof without climbing up onto icy heights. Ice melter can be added to the gutters.

Shively recommends heat tapes that can lie inside the gutters and electrically provide heat to prevent ice from forming. However, many of these tapes are not designed for the severity of weather experienced lately.

“We are working with a company in hopes of providing an industrial line of heat tape,” he said. “This kind of cold is a new phenomenon for a lot of people around here – we got down to negative 35 with the wind chill. I used to live in Alaska and we had a lot of devices for dealing with weather that cold, but there hasn’t been a need for it around here. As the weather is changing, we are trying to develop more products.”

Leaks around chimneys, skylights or pipes are often discovered during a heavy snow or ice storm, but they are not caused by the inclement weather. Some issues are caused because the wrong type of gutters were installed on a home. Atkinson reports finding many homes with drip edge metal (made for the gable edge of a roof) running the length of homes. These actually prevent water from dripping into the gutters properly.

“The best prevention is to install an ice and water shield when the roof is replaced,” said Moore. “But one can be installed to an already existing roof. The bottom three feet of shingles can be removed and an ice and water shield set in place.”

“People really need a roof inspection every four or five years,” said Moore. “A lot of people don’t think about their roofs. The best thing you can do is to be ready.”

Each week, Emma Bowen Meyer features a Madison County home. If you know of a home that should be showcased, send an e-mail to emmagoldiemeyer@yahoo.com.