Ice dams causing widespread damage to homes, businesses

Ice dams causing widespread damage to homes, businesses

Last Thursday, before any further accumulating snow was set to arrive, Anthony Volante was on the roof of a building he owns at 1476 Newport Ave., Pawtucket, the home of Dot's Dairy Bar, to clear the roof of snow and ice. Snow has piled high and plagued building owners with constant thawing and freezing, creating heavy icicles and ice dams that can damage buildings. (Valley Breeze photo by Tom Ward)
Experts: Worst it's been in a long time

A long run of snowy weather and sustained cold is leading to the formation of "ice dams," resulting in water infiltration and serious damage to homes across Rhode Island.

The formation of an ice dam, where ice builds up along the gutter and prevents water from melting snow from draining from the roof, can lead to water seeping under the shingles and into the house.

Insurance professionals and disaster response specialists are reporting huge numbers of claims as regular snowstorms continue to hit Rhode Island and contribute to the formation of ice dams.

Melanie Loiselle-Mongeon, of Loiselle Insurance Agency in Pawtucket, said the number of claims this winter has far exceeded the number from several past winters combined.

"This is the worst I've seen in a long time," she said. "And it's going to get worse."

By the time many customers realize they have a problem, water is already seeping through, said Loiselle. Damage from dams is typically covered under homeowner's insurance, she said.

Loiselle said roofers are getting bombarded with calls during a time of year that's typically pretty slow for them. Many are having to turn away customers.

Loiselle and others say property owners should take steps to address the ice dams immediately, especially if they notice infiltration. Water damage left to continue can lead to mold and other issues, bringing with them much higher costs. Proper insulation can often prevent water from infiltrating, she said.

Experts recommend that homeowners either remove snow from the roof using a roof rake or hire professionals to clear the roof.

Eric Anderson, of Enviro-Clean Inc. of Smithfield, told The Breeze his company is getting a "very high volume of calls" for damage from ice dams. It becomes hard for people to keep up with clearing roofs as snow keeps falling, said Anderson, and many are also concerned about damaging their homes by doing it the wrong way.

The worst case he's seen of ice dam damage involved water on three stories of a home, said Anderson, including the finished basement. Many people are so worried about mold when water gets down behind the kitchen cabinets that they're actually gutting their kitchens and starting over, said Anderson. Costs of cleanup vary dramatically, but the price tag can reach tens of thousands of dollars.

Nate Green, of Lincoln, said water has been dripping into his home for a while now, and he's dropped buckets to catch what he can.

"It's pretty nasty," he said.

Green said he hasn't had time to deal with the situation but plans to call in a disaster specialist when he can.

With another storm hitting last weekend and more snow arriving Tuesday, officials in Smithfield were urging residents to keep an eye on their roofs as snow accumulates.

Todd Manni, the town's emergency management director, said "the amount of snow combined with frigid temperatures is not allowing for thawing. Snow that does melt refreezes quickly causing large icicles and ice dams on homes and buildings."

Ice dams, Manni added, can compromise the structural integrity of a building and cause interior damage to walls, ceilings, and electrical systems.

Fire Chief Robert Seltzer said that ice dams and the accumulation of snow are dangerous because they can lead to significant damage to buildings and homes, even causing some structures to collapse. He said that snow should be removed by a person standing the ground using a snow rake or similar device.

"Climbing onto roofs with shovels or any other equipment is extremely dangerous and highly discouraged," he said. "This is a big project and homeowners should consider the services of properly licensed professionals to prevent further damage."

Manni and Seltzer added that residents should look for signs of sagging or bowing of roofs, doors and windows that won't open or close properly, cracks in sheet rock, or water dripping down interior walls.

They should also listen for sounds of cracking or popping of wood, as signs of concern.

"These conditions are an emergency," Seltzer said. "Anyone who notices these signs should evacuate their home without delay and dial 911."

The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is reminding Rhode Islanders of the importance of removing piles of snow from roofs, both to avoid ice dams and potential structure collapses. Great care should be used in getting the snow off the roof, according to the EMA, which also recommends getting a professional to do the work.

Icicles like these on a house at Friar's Green in Cumberland are just the tip of the ice dam. Residents are reporting leaks from ice on roofs. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

Suddenly, after four storms in three weeks, getting thick snow off burdened roofs has become more important to home and business owners. Here, Jamie Leigh of Pawtucket, left, and Steven Dorgan, both of JR Home Improvements of Attleboro, were busy last Friday, before Saturday's fourth storm, shoveling off the roof at Stevie D's Bar and Grill on Manville Hill Road, Cumberland. (Valley Breeze photo by Tom Ward)
Damage from a leak caused by an ice dam at Nate Green's Lincoln home.