Monday, May 28, 2018
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Icy eaves can result in costly damages

Gorgeous fingers and arms of ice dangle down from Dan Mouch's Maumee office and home.

Mr. Mouch sells homeowners' insurance for a living and he knows well the damage icy eaves can cause, especially once temperatures rise above freezing.

“I just look out the window and hope they'll go away,” he said. “It's caked up there, I can see it hanging. If I had the gumption, I'd be out there chipping it away.”

Mr. Mouch will wait, hope, and pray, he said, like hundreds of other area homeowners.

Scott Homan, a meteorologist at AccuWeather, a forecasting agency in State College, Pa., said local temperatures will hover around the freezing mark through the weekend, with an expected high of 34 degrees Sunday.

As snow melts and warmth from furnaces escapes through roofs, melting snow runs down shingles toward the gutters, seeking a path to the ground. But what happens when the gutter is overflowing with ice?

“That's what we call an ice dam,” said George Starkweather, a Toledo area roofer. “That water will pool there, and then back up beneath the shingles. Then it goes inside, through the insulation, down onto your drywall, your walls. ... I've seen it take ceilings down, ruin paint. I've gotten several calls this week and last week. We expect a lot more, really soon.”

Repeated freeze-thaw cycles don't help. A dip in the mercury may stop the drips for a while, but the water may return once the sun comes out again.

Mr. Mouch said he recently handled a homeowner ice-dam claim of about $2,000. Damage included walls, a ceiling, and carpeting, he said. Most policies cover damage to structures, personal property, and furniture. Insurance usually will pay a contractor to climb a ladder and break up the ice dam, he said. But it will only pay once.

“You have to do what needs to be done to prevent further damage,” he said. “Rental insurance will cover your property, but the landlord's insurance will only cover the building structure, not your belongings.”

Al Poisson of Brothers Roofing said ice damage in this region is minimal compared to what he's been seeing in Michigan.

“Up there, it's unbelievable, from Flint down to Dundee. There's two feet of ice in the eaves troughs. We've been getting 40 or 50 calls a day,” he said.

Every house is different, he said.

“So much depends on temperature fluctuations, your insulation, and how much overhang and angle there is to the roof,” he said. “Flat roofs, parapets, dormers, roofs with valleys and skylights, we're seeing some real problems.”

Yesterday, a family awoke in its new North Toledo house to find water running across a bedroom floor from a dormer window, he said. Outside, where three roof sections joined, snow was piled three feet deep, with “ice as thick as your hand” lying beneath, he said.

“You just had to get out on the roof and shovel it out,” Mr. Poisson said. “It's risky business, walking on an icy roof.”

Once the ice is there, solutions are few, he said.

“You want to take the ice and snow off, without damaging the roof or gutters. We've been in the business 50 years, so we've tried it all - hatchets, copper sulfate ice-melter. ... It's all just making the best of a bad situation,” Mr. Poisson said

Roy Carroll, a handyman from Perrysburg Township, said he used to handle such jobs, but they're just too cold and dangerous. ``You need to call a professional to do that,” he warned.

So what's a homeowner to do?

“Prevention is the way to go,” Mr. Starkweather said. A three-foot wide strip of rubberized “Ice Guard” material is installed along the eaves and valleys of every roof his firm builds, he said. It seals nail holes and prevents all but the worst ice dam problems. Existing roofs may benefit from heat tape, an inexpensive item available at hardware stores.

“Run it along the gutter and in the downspouts. Plug it into the wall current. It keeps a flow in the gutter,” he said. “And insulate the roof, up under the eaves, to keep heat from escaping and melting the snow on the roof.''

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