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Sun, July 21

Ask the Contractor: Hunting for snowflakes, and protecting the roof

Home owners should be aware that a long stretch of cold weather and snow can lead to ice dams on their roof. Removing them requires great care because roofs can be more brittle in cold weather. (Metro Creative Services)

Home owners should be aware that a long stretch of cold weather and snow can lead to ice dams on their roof. Removing them requires great care because roofs can be more brittle in cold weather. (Metro Creative Services)

Our recent snow fall gripped our area with bone chilling cold. We experienced slipping, sliding, howling winds, closed roads and “broke” our backs from shoveling sidewalks and driveways. Snow is a lovely picturesque thing — it was so exciting to wake up Christmas morning to find our hills, mountains and trees covered in such a pure clean untainted innocent snow.

So what did I do when the monster size flakes started to fall? I went snowflake watching in search of the perfect snowflake. I was flabbergasted and surprised at what came falling from the sky. Hunting for the perfect snowflake with my very inexpensive magnifier and somewhat looking like Sherlock Holmes, off I trudged, slipped, slid and walked wearily through the yard, seeking, looking, on patio chairs, tree branches, sidewalks and rocks, only to discover that it is difficult to find perfect ice crystals.

I kept walking, searching, sometimes even crawling, and looking at my sleeves, boots and even grabbing at fresh falling snow. It seemed like hours had past before I was able to clearly spot the all elusive snow flake. I discovered simple prism shapes, millions of dendrites, columns, needles, stars and radiating dendrites.

It is true, snowflakes come in all shapes, sizes and types and I will forever remember the beautiful crystals that I saw, touched, watched falling from the sky and even melted in my hand. What beautiful perfection I experience with the chaotic storm that blew in and just as quickly blew out. I can only hope you took the time to hunt snowflakes that fell to the earth, dancing, flirting and blowing through the air.

Keep reading, below are some snow storm prevention facts . A major source of storm damage associated with snow storms and cold in our climate are ice dams. Ice dams sometimes occur on sloping roofs when temperatures are freezing. When the temperature in your attic is above freezing, it causes snow on the roof to melt and run down the roof. When snowmelt runs down the roof and hits the colder eaves, it refreezes.

If this cycle is repeated over several days, the freezing snowmelt builds up and forms a dam of ice, behinds which water ponds. The ponding water can back up under the roof covering and leak into the attic or along exterior walls.

We had the right weather conditions with this recent storm for ice dams to develop. When the outside air temperatures are in the low 20s for several days with several inches of snow on the roof, ice dams will occur.

In order to avoid ice dams in the future, a qualified contractor should assess the amount of attic insulation and attic ventilation (especially around where ice dams are formed), and look for holes in the air barrier between the living spaces and the attic. If you see water staining at an exterior wall or ceiling where there is now on the roof above it, act quickly to avoid extensive damage.

Call a quality contractor to carefully remove most of the snow from the roof above the ice dam.

Above all, be careful to avoid touching the roof with removal equipment or even walking on the roof because cold roofs are more prone to damage because they are more brittle than they are in the summer.

One or two grooves in the ice dam should be created to allow the ponding water to drain. These grooves should not be taken down to the roofing as this may damage the roof. Do not attempt to chip away at the ice dam, shingle damage can occur. Do not use salt or calcium chloride to melt snow on a roof. These chemicals are very corrosive and can shorten the life of metal gutters, downspouts and flashings. Keep your gutters clean of leaves, this will keep help prevent the occurrence of ice dams.

Oh the snow, the beautiful snow — the beauty and the glee of pure snow. What a joyful and a beautiful way the snow was to bring in Christmas. We are still in the middle of winter — with approximately two plus months until spring — so we need to take winter precautions.

Spring will soon spout!

Sandy Griffis is executive director of the Yavapai County Contractors Association. Email your questions to her at or call 928-778-0040.


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