Ice dams, panty hose and ice melt – a winter trifecta

Ice DamsIf you’ve been listening to the predictions for this Winter here in the Northeast – we’re expecting a rough one! And along with a lot of snow comes those horrid ice dams – a serious problem that will not only do damage to your home, but also is a cause for many winter insurance claims.

If you happen to be new to the North – let me fill you in on what an ice dam is: When snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and refreezing occurs. In a perfect world, the snow would melt off the roof, enter the gutters, and flow harmlessly to the ground (before it gets too cold – make sure you clean those gutters and follow these other Fall cleaning tips). Or the snow would evaporate from the action of the sun, and never really melt off unless the outside temperature rose above the freezing point. However, two key factors interact to cause problems… the outside temperature and the temperature of the inside of your attic.

The warmer your attic is, the more melt off that occurs at the roof surface. This melted snow would normally flow off the edge of the roof. Under certain conditions, though, when air temperature is very low, the water refreezes at the edge of the roof, where the interior roof surface is not being warmed by the attic. This refreezing gradually forms what is fondly known as an “ice dam”, a growing heap of ice that blocks path of the melted snow.

Once this dam forms to a certain height, the melted snow that pools up behind it can suddenly leak back under the roof shingles and into your home! On a roof with a low slope, it only takes a small ice dam to cause water backup and leakage.I can tell you from personal experience – it’s not a fun situation, especially when water is leaking from the ceiling into your living room!

Now what do you do?

Fix the issue before it’s an issue: Increase the insulation, sealing and ventilation in your attic as soon as possible.

What if you already have an ice dam? Get rid of the ice damn as quickly as possible. A great quick fix is actually an “old farmer’s cures” from This Old House’s website.

  • Using a roof rake, remove snow 3-4 feet from the edge of your roof, being careful not to damage the roof covering or to allow snow to build up around walking paths or to block emergency exits.
  • Use a calcium chloride ice melt product, which you can generally purchase from your local hardware store. Be sure not to use rock salt or sodium chloride, which can damage your roof.
  • Fill a nylon stocking with the calcium chloride ice melt.
  • Safely place and position the calcium chloride-filled nylon stocking vertically across the ice dam so that it can melt a channel through the ice.

It’s a great way to reuse and recycle some old hose that may have runs or holes and it’s a heck of a lot easier than getting up on your roof trying to break apart the ice! Have a secret quick fix to dealing with ice damns – we’d love to hear it.

Stephen Davis
Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Ice Dams Steve Davis

Fall Cleaning and Pre-Winterization

Fall Cleaning and Pre-WinterizationThe leaves begin to turn and a chill appears in the air; that’s our cue to pack up the summer gear, bust out the jackets and umbrellas, and get moving on the fall cleaning. Autumn is also the time to do some critical maintenance around the house and put some efficient (and money saving) pre-winterization measures in place. With a dedicated weekend and a solid plan, you can make the transition into the colder season a very smooth and painless one.

Here’s the plan:

I approach fall cleaning with a long-term strategy in mind. The plan is to close down summer, get ready for fall, and lay the ground work for winter. We’re not preparing for sub zero temperatures and 4 feet of snow just yet, but the coming months will bring rain, chilly days and even colder nights.  So let’s get ready for it.

First things first;

Basic Fall Cleaning

The first step in preparing for fall is cleaning up after summer. Here are some of the basic cleaning tasks that should be part of your fall cleaning routine:

  • Wash the windows (inside and out)
  • Remove and deep clean the window treatments
  • Clean walls and fixtures
  • Clean ceiling and light fixtures
  • Clean carpets as needed (muddy season is coming so it’s best to start fresh)
  • Clean baseboard heaters if you have them (soon you’ll be turning on the heat)
  • Clean the patio furniture and if you have a deck, clean it really well (we’ll talk more about the deck later)

How deep you go with your cleaning depends on what the summer handed you and how well you cleaned back in spring. If you feel the need to go deeper, you can find some great fall cleaning checklists online to get inspired. 

Once you have the cleaning done, the next step is getting your home prepped for wind, rain, and chill.

Essentials for Pre-Winterizing Your Home

It’s not the deep freeze, but it’s the big chill (along with some rain, mud, and possibly a little sleet). So in order to get ready, do some routine maintenance and periodic checks on things around the house. When the freeze hits, you’ll be happy you did so.

Here’s a list of essentials:

Clean the gutters: Leaves will be falling soon so make sure you don’t start behind the 8-ball.

Inspect the roof: While you’re up there cleaning the gutters take a look for loose or missing shingles. Also pop up in the attic during the day so you can see if any sunlight is creeping in through potential gaps or cracks in the roof.

 Replace the filter in the furnace: You want the heat to actually come on and be warm the first time you need it, so check for proper operation of the furnace and thermostat. Here are some gas furnace maintenance tips and some oil furnace maintenance tips to help you out.

Check the fireplace: Check for proper flue operation and for any obstructions in the chimney. If you used your fireplace frequently last season, call in a professional chimney sweep to get your chimney cleaned out and ready for the season.

Check your smoke and Co2 detectors: Make sure alarms are working and replace batteries as needed.

Check for drafts: Check doors and windows throughout the house for gaps that can let heat out and let in cool air in. That’s money in heating bills going literally out the window. It’s best to catch those drafts now so you have plenty of time to seal them up before it gets really cold. Here are some tips for checking the house for drafts

Clean out the clothes dryer vent: This one is often overlooked but lint regularly accumulates in the vent hose leading from the dryer to the outdoors. If the hose gets clogged it can be a fire hazard, and a clogged dryer vent can also significantly inhibit the performance of your dryer causing it to work overtime, which in turn will drive up your energy bill.

 Autumn in New England; It’s a great time to throw a log on the fire, warm up a hot cider and enjoy a good book as the leaves fall outside your living room window. Sounds beautiful, but fall is also a time that can bring clogged gutters, drafty houses, and leaky roofs. It’s kind of a buzz kill I know, but I want you to be prepared. That’s what we do at Sinclair, we think forward and we create strategies to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

Check out our Homeowners Insurance for total piece of mind coverage and in the meantime, put your fall cleaning and pre-winterization strategy in action now and you’ll be totally freed up later to sit back and enjoy the finer points of the season.

Mary McGrath
Personal Lines Manager

Fall Cleaning and Pre-Winterization