Icicles now can mean roof damage later
By Donna Vickroy firstname.lastname@example.org February 12, 2014 5:58PM
Updated: March 14, 2014 8:46AM
Joanne Mars has lived in America for 42 years and never seen a winter like this.
“So much snow, so much cold,” she said, standing on the porch of her Palos Hills ranch house. Above her, icicles form a perimeter of daggers around her roof. The pointy spires are both beautiful, as they sparkle against the winter sky, and terrifying, as she imagines one coming down on someone’s head.
“I listen to them crack and pop all day,” she said. “I try to knock them down with a broom but I can’t get to them all.”
Now more than ever, the native of Greece wishes she were back in her home country.
“I’m worried about the gutters. I’m worried about the roof. I’m worried about everything,” she said.
With good reason.
Kevin Bumstead, owner of Stan’s Roofing in Orland Park, said while the ice drippings look pretty, they can be a sign of trouble to come.
“They usually mean improper insulation in the attic,” he said. “Heat gets up there, hits the cold air and causes the freeze-thaw cycle to happen during the day.”
The hotter the attic, he said, the more icicles you’ll see hanging from the structure.
“If you see icicles going over the gutters, that means ice is also backing up somewhere under the roof, either getting under the soffits or into the living area,” Bumstead said.
Though this winter has been one for the books, Bumstead said the winter of 2001 also caused some serious ice damming, enough to lead to new building codes, requiring ice and water shields to be installed. He expects there will be lots of calls for roof repairs or replacements this spring.
So does Dennis Gardner, a roofing sales associate with ABC Supply in Alsip.
“We gauge by the condition of asphalt roads,” he said. As we already know, this has been a banner year for potholes. While asphalt roofs don’t have to contend with trucks and cars driving over them, this year’s repeated freeze-thaw cycles can do considerable damage.
When heavy snow starts to melt at the peak of a roof, either because the temperature drops or the sun is shining or too much heat is escaping through the top of a poorly insulated home, the water runs down toward gutters that typically are packed with ice and snow. It then spills over the sides of the house. If the temperature drops again, say at night, icicles will form along the edges of the building.
When water freezes it expands and backs up onto the roof, often lifting shingles and exposing the wood deck beneath. Then, when that ice melts again it can cause considerable water damage especially to roofs decked with plywood or OSB board. Both of those kinds of decks can become delaminated by water, which can lead to rotting and leaks, he said.
Gardner said he can drive through a neighborhood and tell which homes are well insulated and which ones are not. Well insulated homes will have less heat escaping through the roof, causing less snow to melt and trickle down. Therefore, they will have fewer icicles.
“Homes with insulation problems will have roof damage down the road,” he said.
So what’s a homeowner to do? Not much, he said.
Other than areas above doorways, he said he wouldn’t bother trying to knock the icicles down.
“Actually, if you beat on them you could potentially knock the gutters loose,” he said. “Plus it’s dangerous.”
You can however, apply a windshield wiper fluid or Ice Melt in a spray applicator to remove icicles that seem potentially dangerous.
“I stood on my porch and squirted the ones overhea,d and they came right loose,” he said.
For now, he said, marvel at the beauty. Signs of trouble — gutter damage and water seepage — will begin to show once we’ve had a few days of above-freezing temperatures.
Serious damage caused by ice damming should be covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy, said John Ghilardi, Allstate Insurance agent in Tinley Park.
But, Ghilardi advises, don’t file a claim if the repair costs less than your deductible. Minor damage, he said, can often be fixed for less than it would cost to go through your insurance company.
“But if water is leaking into the house, obviously, you have to have a professional look at it,” he said.
To get an estimate of repair costs, he suggests having a roofer look at the problem before you contact your insurance agent.