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Wed, Nov. 20

Ask the Contractor: Snow is beautiful, but it can cause damage

Icicles hang from a home in Sutton, N.H. Rooftop ice dams can cause leaks into a home. (Jim Cole/AP, File)

Icicles hang from a home in Sutton, N.H. Rooftop ice dams can cause leaks into a home. (Jim Cole/AP, File)

Our recent snowfall gripped our area with bone chilling cold and snow, so much snow.

We experienced slipping, sliding, howling winds, closed roads and “broke” backs from shoveling sidewalks and driveways. Snow is a lovely picturesque thing — it was so exciting to wake up Thursday 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 looking somewhat 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 passed before I was able to clearly spot the all elusive snowflake. 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, and watched falling from the sky and even melting in my hand. What beautiful perfection I experienced with the chaotic storm that blew in and stayed for days. 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 snowstorm prevention facts. A major source of storm damage associated with snowstorms 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, behind which water pools. 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, have a qualified contractor 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 on an exterior wall or ceiling where there is snow 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 as 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, because 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 end February and spring into March. We are still in the middle of winter — with approximately two-plus weeks until spring — so we need to take winter precautions. Spring will soon spout!

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