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Monthly Archives: February 2014

What homeowners should know about ice dams

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What is an ice dam?

Ice dams form when snow on warm patches of the roof repeatedly melt, flow downhill and freeze over the cold parts of the roof and gutters. Eventually a large mass of ice forms beneath the shingles or tiles. Water backs up behind these dams and sit in a big puddles on the roof, damaging it and causing leaks.

How can it be fixed?

The problem starts with uneven temperatures on the roof caused by heat loss from the buildings interior, a problem that may require extra insulation to solve. Gaps around plumbing vents and electrical wiring act like chimneys, siphoning heated interior air into the attic. A warm attic heats the roof, melting snow from the top of the roof down.

Spray-foam insulation is a simple and easy way to seal these gaps. Even if there are no gaps visible, additional insulation may be needed to prevent warm air from rising into the attic.

Specialty heat tapes are available to prevent ice build-up in gutters. If gutters fill with ice, they may start to sag from the weight and even break loose from their mountings.  Heat tapes are a good idea for the roof, too. Low-temperature tapes provide constant heat to break the snowmelt and freeze cycles.


Ice Melt Dos & Don’ts

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Ice Melt Do’s and Don’ts

Some of the leading ice melt manufacturers have shared their top five mistakes they’ve seen users make with their products — and they have valuable advice to offer on how to get it right.


Mistake #1:  Not using it
Whether it is in an effort to save money or save time, some homeowners opt not to use ice melt on slippery sidewalks and entryways. Unfortunately, this could be an expensive mistake.

When a storm dumps snow, you may not see a need to put down ice melt as long as the driveway and sidewalks have been shoveled. Underneath that snow, however, is typically a thin but dangerous layer of ice that would be obsolete if ice melt was used. Conversely, some people only use ice melt after a major weather event, however, even a light dusting of snow can lead to slippery conditions if the snow melts and refreezes as the day wears on.

Mistake #2:  Using too much
Too often, it is believed that if a little ice melt does a good, than a lot must do a better job. In fact, according to manufacturers, less is usually more when it comes to ice melt. Overusing ice melt can lead to the product being unnecessarily tracked inside. It may also burn the vegetation beneath or around where the product is used.

Manufacturers recommend applying ice melt using a handheld fertilizer spreader for small areas or a walk-behind spreader for large areas. Scoops and shovels almost always cause overuse, whereas a spreader ensures the product is applied evenly. To make application even easier, colored ice melts are now available to help users see if they are over applying.

Generally there is a perception that you need to cover the entire sidewalk with ice melt for it to work, but ice melt dissolves in liquid and spreads out with normal use.


Mistake #3: Applying it wrong
Product packaging will warn against using ice melt on a roof, and that rock salt spread on a parking lot will eventually find its way into the water system.

Instructions for use will also emphasize that putting deicer on a 10-inch pile of snow simply doesn’t work. Ice melt must be applied on the ground for it to be effective. Ideally, this should happen in anticipation of a storm. This isn’t always feasible, of course, so the product should be spread before precipitation freezes or as soon as possible thereafter, or immediately after snow has been cleared.

Pre-application is ideal as an initial deterrent before the snow falls, though it is often difficult to predict necessity.  If you are certain a storm is coming, getting the ice melt down first can have a huge impact on the ice and snow removal and ice melt application cycle.

Some materials, such as brick, are especially porous and should not be treated with ice melt. Cleaners with these types of surfaces should contact their distributor or manufacturer for appropriate treatment options.


Mistake #4: Not cleaning it up
Tracked-in ice melt is unattractive and has the potential to damage floors. Rock salt leaves a white powdery residue that, if allowed to sit on the floor too long, can dull the finish.

The best way to prevent ice melt damage is to prevent it from being tracked into the building. Use track mats both outside and inside all entrances and clean them with a mop or vacuum frequently.

Once the product has been tracked in, however, it needs to be cleaned up in a timely manner. Use a vacuum or a mop to clean up. Carpets damaged by tracked-in residue will typically require professional cleaning.

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