Plugging a Roof Leak
In the Nick of Time
An adhesive underlayment, sometimes called a snow and ice shield, can be applied under shingles at the time the roof is installed to minimize leakage from ice dams.
A Fine Mess
Do not chop ice off shingles or use a blowtorch to remove an ice dam. Doing so could cause more damage to your roof.
If you live in a cold, snowy area, an ice dam might be causing the leak. Ice dams happen when snow on a roof melts from sunlight or heat from the house. The meltedsnow runs off the roof down into the gutter, which may be at below-freezing temper-atures, where it freezes. The ice builds up and works its way under the tarpaper underthe shingles where it can again melt and enter the house.
Ice dams usually form on the north side of the house or on a sheltered side and canbecome several feet thick, building back from the gutter. Many houses at high elevations (where this is common) lack gutters to prevent the formation of ice dams.
Ice dams don't necessarily make holes in your roof, although they can loosen shingles. They prevent the water caused by melting snow and ice from going where it should—off the roof and into gutters or onto the ground. Instead, the water goes under the roofing material andseeps into your home. If an ice dam is causing the leak, follow the measures outlined in the previous sectionfor water that's coming inside your home. Outside, try the following:
Remove snow with a snow roof rake. This is a long-handled tool with a rectangular head, specially designed for the job it does. Many come with telescoping attachments for reaching high, out-of-the-way spots. You'll find them in just about any hardware, home supply, or building products store.
Call a professional to thaw and remove ice dams using steam equipment.
Melt a channel through the ice by pouring hot water on it. This will let the water flow off the roof before it freezes. This typically involves climbing up on a ladder, and can be a bit risky. It's also usually very temporary. If the temperature of the gutter isn't above freezing, the hot water will quickly freeze in the gutter.
There is one more emergency fix you can try on an ice dam. Opinions vary on it, as it uses a chemical that can damage your roof and nearby vegetation, but it's one that a lot of people use. And if it looks like the ice dam is going to cause significant damage in your house, it probably can't hurt.
Cut one leg off an old pair of panty hose. Tie a knot in one end of the leg, and fill it with calcium chloride or another ice-melting substance. Lay it vertically across the ice dam. You might need a roofrake or another long-handled implement for this. The chemical inside the stocking will cut through the ice and open a channel through which the backed-up water can flow.
More on: Home Improvements
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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