Sunday, March 2, 2014

Damn The Ice Dam

Photo by C. Capozzi

I was in the den when I first heard the drip-drip.  It was a curious sound, one you don't expect to hear, but there it was.  The funny thing was, I couldn't find it. Then I heard more drip-drips. My heart sank.  They seemed to be coming from the ceiling around the window.  Then I spotted them...coming from the space just behind the windows. My stomach turned. I knew what was causing the drips, something I had absolutely no control over: ice damming.

The Winter it happened, we had had a ton of snow and even though we had had the gutters cleaned in the Fall, they had filled up with ice. Then the water runoff from the roof got trapped and with nowhere else to go, it backed up and got under the shingles, finally leaking into the house. I tearfully called my roofer who explained that until the ice and snow melted, there was nothing he could do. Maybe that was true, but in the meantime I couldn't let the water ruin my house! Now let me, once again, say that I am NO expert in roofing, gutters, mold or anything. But, as a homeowner, I did a few things which I really believe mitigated the amount of damage we experienced when this happened a few years ago. Here's what I did, what worked and failed:

  1. The first thing I did was panic.  How can you NOT? Water was dripping in all along the windows in my den, with no end in site. And my beloved roofer said he couldn't do ANYTHING to help me?! Argh!!! Panicking didn't do anything constructive, but once I got passed it, I felt better.

  2. Then I grabbed containers and towels. I used pots and pans from the stove, but in hindsight, those one-use aluminum pans used for cakes and lasagna are better for dealing with leaks. They can be squished into tight spaces and you don't have to worry about disinfecting them when you're done. I used towels so I wouldn't hear the constant sound of dripping water. Later on, I added some vinegar to the water in the pans to reduce the smell coming from the water and, hopefully, lessen the amount of mold in the air.

  3. Where I saw water pooling on the ceiling, I drilled a tiny hole. This was actually recommended by the roofer. Water, obviously, spreads when it has nowhere else to go; giving it a channel minimizes staining and damage.

  4. Since there was a good amount of water on the carpet, I blotted it up and ripped up the edge of the carpet to expose the padding. Now I had been in the carpet padding business for many years before I had kids, so when I purchased padding, I KNEW to stay away from foam padding which gets smelly when exposed to water. The padding I'd had put down contained a vinyl barrier to repel moisture, so I pulled up a bit of the padding as well and put a shoe in there to keep it up off the floor underneath. Then I fished out a fan from the basement and set it up in the area of the leaks. My thought was that circulating air would help dry the area up and lessen or stop mold from growing.

  5. While it was snowing and raining outside, I would periodically swab the leaks and the area with a bleach solution to, again, keep the area as clean as possible.  I don't know if that did do anything, but swabbing gave me something to do and that control made me feel better.

Mother Nature eventually stopped pooping on us and we all went outside to see what was going on with the roof. Since I knew that chipping away at the ice would be dangerous and could hurt the roof and gutters, I nixed that. I attached a hockey stick to the tree trimmer we had (the photo at the right looks something like our tree trimmer) using duct tape and then my husband gently took some snow off the area near the gutter.

We still had a mess of ice up there, so I did a quick Web search and found a great idea off the site I filled a bunch of knee-high panty hose with calcium chloride ice melter and hubby positioned the hose every 6 inches or so in the gutter. The calcium chloride melted through the ice and allowed the water to flow down into the gutters and off the roof (here's the link explaining this method:,,211604,00.html). It didn't stop the leaks completely, but definitely slowed them down. Oh, and I took pictures of all the damage just in case we needed to submit proof to the insurance company if we decided to file a claim (we did not because our deductible is so bloody high, it just didn't make sense to). 

When enough of the snow melted, eventually our roofer did come and replaced some of the shingles in the area of the leaks. He also repositioned the gutters. The result? Even with the mess Mother Nature is inflicting on us this year, no leaks!

For more information on ice damming, click on these links:

We're getting another 6” tonight, so excuse me while I go get milk and bread at the store. We don't really need it, but it seems to be the thing to do around here just before another storm.

Please check back in with me in a day or so. I'm going to invade my son's iPad and I'll be writing about some fun apps for adults at this site and a few child-friendly apps for


Bye!  Come back soon!

UPDATE:  3/3/14 - 11:58AM - We had, probably a hamster's paw full of snow.  My sympathies to you south of me, who got the brunt of the storm. 

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