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

Be neighborly this winter…you just might save a life

_JBK5366Brrrr! Thoughts of escaping to spring unscathed by a harsh New England winter evaporated President’s Day weekend when the polar vortex bled into Valentine’s Day, putting a chilly damper on a supposedly spicy night.
Winter is here, no doubt, along with its usual inconveniences. But for the elderly, pets and wildlife, and anyone on the roads in a storm, winter can be not just a cold annoyance, but a deadly force.

The staff at Sinclair Risk is making a point of doing the neighborly thing and making sure the most vulnerable around us stay safe this season. Join us and enjoy the warm glow that comes from doing good for others…no fireplace needed.

Be neighborly, check up on those around you — When snowstorms hit or the temperature drops dramatically, give your elderly neighbor a call or knock on the door. Make sure she has heat, food, water, and electricity and offer to help shovel or blow the snow from sidewalks and driveways. (Better yet, if you have one, nominate your teenager to help!) Check in periodically throughout the storm.

Remember your pets (and everybody else’s) — If it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold outside for pets. Cats that like to roam and dogs used to spending time outside need to stay inside when bad weather strikes and temps are below freezing. During walks, short-haired dogs should wear a sweater (Facebookable moment!) But seriously…Pets are sensitive to severe cold and just like us, are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. Make sure your pets and your neighbor’s pets are safe. Are there outdoor or feral cats in your area? Here’s a great article about how you can help them in winter. And here’s five ways you can help wildlife survive the winter.

iStock_000056466450LargeDrive with care — Driving with caution is always the neighborly thing to do…but especially during winter! Protect yourself and others on the road by slowing down when the white stuff is falling, when ice is on the ground, and when visibility is poor. Drive on slippery roads at reduced speed and increase following distance behind the vehicle ahead. This gives an additional space cushion for safe stopping. Anticipate stops by slowing down gradually and plan ahead for lane changes. Everything should feel like it’s in SLOW motion during winter driving.

Make sure you (and others!) are prepared for an emergency — Storms in our area feel like they are veering toward the extreme. Even a garden variety nor’easter can do significant damage to buildings, roofs, roads, and other infrastructure. A basic emergency supplies kit can help you weather the storm. After creating one for your family, consider helping an elderly neighbor get prepared.

Here are some key items to include in your kit:
• One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, a smaller amount for pets
• At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food for people AND pets
• Manual can opener for canned food
• Battery-powered radio
• Flashlight
• Plenty of batteries
• First Aid Kit
• Whistle (can signal for help)
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties
• Cell phone with car and wall chargers
• Laptop/Tablet with car and wall chargers
• Prescription medication, glasses, contact lenses
• Cash

Being neighborly can help make winter safer and more fun for everyone. Take some time to lend a hand on your street.

Steve Davis

Sinclair Risk & Financial Management