MOUNT VERNON — In the midst of the third snowstorm in less than two weeks, rooftops across the county are piled high with snow. However, it is the ice accumulations on the roof with which homeowners should be concerned.
“When snow starts to melt, it can freeze and the ice can really cause problems,” Geno Montoya, owner of Montoya’s Quality Roofing and Home Improvements, said between emergency calls on Monday.
Shingled roofs, he said, are at the most risk for ice damage, especially near chimneys, roof valleys and gutters.
“Any place there is a stop in the shingles can be a concern,” Montoya said. “The snow melts and goes back to the sides, where it can freeze.”
These thick accumulations of ice, referred to as ice dams, can cause damage to the shingles, flashing and gutters on the exterior, and insulation, ceilings and walls on the interior of the house.
“The ice will build up along the edge and the melting water will have no place to go, so it goes uphill,” Montoya said.
As the water spreads throughout the shingles, it freezes, forcing gaps between the shingles and the roof; these gaps often lead to leaks inside the house. In houses with poor insulation, the freezing and thawing of the ice takes place more rapidly than on a well-insulated house, Montoya said.
He said the most obvious sign of ice dams is the formation of icicles from the overhangs or gutters of a home.
“You definitely want to break them off every day,” Montoya said. “In the trees they look awesome, but you don’t want them hanging from your house.”
Montoya said the weight can often force more damage to the home’s roof structure.
“Right now, we are looking at gutter damage from heavy ice and snow buildup,” Montoya said. “The hanger used to fasten the gutter to the house is built better these days, but it’s not designed to hold really heavy snow and ice.”
If homeowners notice a leak in the interior of their home, Montoya suggests trying to clear that area of the roof of snow and ice, if manageable, and call a professional.
“It is really best to be patient, or you could end up making the situation worse,” Montoya said.
Chipping away at ice dams with claw hammers or chisels is not the proper way to clear an ice dam, he said. This action often leads to serious damage to the shingles, which leaves a roof even more vulnerable.
Contrary to popular belief, Montoya said, standing seam metal roofs, as well as flat roofs, often are the easiest to maintain in severe winter weather.
“[Snow] comes off pretty fast in bulk from metal roofs,” he said. “What you have to watch for is what it will hit when it falls. It can damage the stuff it falls on.”