Winter Damage

By: Janice Clements

If your property is anything like ours, the temperamental spring melt is revealing the ravages of what was a long, cold, snowy winter.  Yards around the region have the tell-tale signs of tree damage from the ice storm and grass weighted down by many months of snow.

But Walter of Aurora has bigger concerns.  "Over the winter, icicles hung off my eavestrough and I fear it's a problem.  Is it possible it's just a clogged with leaves?"

It's good to hear you've been keeping an eye on your home's exterior over the winter Walter.  It's seasons like this past one that wreak havoc on properties, not to mention causing roads and sidewalks to heave, giving birth to an entirely new generation of potholes. 

In order to maintain what is for most people their largest investment, it's important that you take the opportunity during the warmer weather to inspect the exterior of your home, from your property, to the foundation, to the rooftop, and look for signs of problems or potential future problems.

Walter, the issue on your roof could be something called an "ice dam".  While the icicles forming on your eaves look pretty enough during the winter, they typically indicate trouble.  A snowy winter and freezing temperatures can lead to a thick build up of solid ice that can stop water from draining away from your home as is intended. 

The ice clogged eaves cause water runoff from the roof to back up under the shingles, soaking insulation not to mention the wood your roof is likely constructed from.  Moisture reduces the R-value of your insulation allowing heat to get into your attic, which warms the roof and causes more water run off.  Obviously you can imagine that moisture in your attic creates an environment primed for the growth of mold and mildew and ultimately water can migrate into the ceilings of your home.

While getting up to your roof during the winter to chip out ice can be an effective way of relieving the dam, it's too dangerous a task.  Rob Norris of Norris Roofing (norrisroofing.ca) says that ice damming is natural and difficult to stop.  Roofers can install an ice and water shield rubber membrane that goes below the shingle and overhangs the eaves trough.  Unfortunately this is not something you can do without completely replacing the shingles.  It might be worthwhile to contact a company like Norris Roofing (416-698-8900) to discuss the option of installing a heating wire into your eavestrough which can be plugged in when necessary assuming the problem is ongoing.

While doing your inspection be sure to get a good look at the part of your home's foundation that's above grade.  David Fritz of Three Little Pigs Masonry (threelittlepigsmasonry.ca) says you should keep an eye out for gravel in the concrete of your foundation.  "This gravel is like a sponge and as it absorbs more water, it slowly breaks down the integrity of the concrete." 

David also suggests you watch for warn-out spots or complete holes in the mortar joints around the brick of your home as this could be signs of problems.  That said, mortar joint holes are different from "weep vents" which are intentionally placed at the bottom of brickwork (the top of the foundation) and above of windows and doors.  In the spring it's important to ensure that these vents are not blocked to allow for proper water drainage around these areas. 

As the snow melts, I feel compelled to go out and rake our lawn to clean it up, but Aislyn Boutin of Landscape and Garden Design by Aislyn says it's still too early.  Aislyn notes that there could still be a frost in May and we don't want to risk exposing new growth to frost damage.  Our rake goes back into the garage.

I will confess to having an aversion to spending money on the less sexy elements of our home (furnace and roof to be specific) but the investor side of me knows that these areas are of greater importance than buying a new dining room table.  Rest assured, the realtor in our family reminds me of this whenever I choose to forget. 

The decorator in my brain thinks that if we're spending money on anything in our home, it should look REALLY fabulous.  The reality is, it doesn't matter how good the interior looks if things around it are leaking and falling apart.  Lipstick on a pig so to speak.




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