Ice dams, flooding and other post-snow home woes
Photograph by Jamie Smith Hopkins
Snowmageddon left us some lovely parting gifts.
The 40-plus inches of snow that overwhelmed the region last month is responsible for leaks in homes via ice dams -- icy ridges that cling to the edge of roofs, preventing melting snow from going anywhere ... except perhaps inside your house. I've heard complaints about that, along with complaints about roof problems from the weight of all that darn snow, of course.
The extra moisture that seeped into the ground could also cause basement flooding and termite infestations, experts warn.
One plague after another, eh?
Maryland is among the states that the National Weather Service categorizes with an "above average" chance of flooding this spring. Soils in the Mid-Atlantic are saturated, it says.
Here's what you should watch for, and what you can do to deal:
The University of Minnesota Extension has some informative photos to show you what an ice dam looks like. You can have ice and water on the same roof if the outdoor air is freezing but parts of your roof have been warmed by heat rising from inside your home.
"This water finds cracks and openings in the exterior roof covering and flows into the attic space," the extension service notes. "From the attic it could flow into exterior walls or through the ceiling insulation and stain the ceiling finish."
You're probably past the point of snow on your roof -- but if not, the extension recommends getting it off. To avoid a repeat performance, "make the ceiling air tight so no warm, moist air can flow from the house into the attic space," the extension suggests. "After sealing air leakage paths between the house and attic space, consider increasing the ceiling/roof insulation to cut down on heat loss by conduction."
Brian Impellizeri, product manager for residential waterproofing products at Grace Construction Products in Massachusetts, also suggests -- well -- residential waterproofing products. (Hey, you can't blame him.) His company sells an underlayment, which goes under roof shingles and self-adheres to the roof.
Ice-dam damage might be immediately apparent, he said, or it might be a while before you see the effects.
"You open up cracks that become entryways for moisture to come in," he said. "It can happen immediately, or it can happen as time wears on."
Warning signs -- besides the dead giveaway of gushing water, of course: off-color spots on ceilings; roof shingles blown off or curled upward; mildewy smells in your attic.
"If they have a leak coming into the house, they have a spot where water's coming in, they need to have it repaired," Impellizeri said. "I’m sure many homeowners in your region are going to have to do that now."
What about basement flooding? The city of Minneapolis, which knows a thing or two about spring melting, offers these floodproofing suggestions:
* Make sure that internal moisture sources such as clothes dryers and bathrooms are vented outside
* Use humidifiers and dehumidifiers carefully. Put humidifiers on a higher level than the basement. A dehumidifier in a moist basement may actually draw moisture into the basement.
* If your basement is moist, don't open the basement windows in the summer.
As for termites: The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture says you'll want to keep moisture and wood away from your foundation. Both are termite welcome mats.
"Water should be diverted away from the foundation with properly functioning gutters, downspouts and splash blocks," the ag college suggests.
Also, it says not to go overboard with mulch, "especially if you already have termites or other conducive conditions."