Record snowfall in Boston causes ice dams
Angie's List member Britt Lee says no matter where she goes in Boston, people ask the same question: What are you doing about your roof?
"This is all anyone is talking about," says Lee, who lives in the Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill.
When water stains appeared on her ceiling, she knew from past experience that ice dams were to blame. She called highly rated Marcello Roofing & General Services of Revere, Mass., to remove the snow and ice from her steeply pitched roof. “There’s no way I’m going to send my husband up there to die,” she says.
Recent record snowfall in New England is wreaking havoc overhead, collapsing commercial roofs and damaging residential roofs.
“The biggest thing we are dealing with right now is ice damming,” says Ryan Demirjian, project manager of A-rated Ranch Roofing in Arlington, Mass.
Snow and ice rarely collapse residential roofs, experts say, because home roofs are smaller and typically pitched to shed snow and ice before they overload the roof.
“I’ve never seen a pitched roof collapse,” says Mitch Kersch, president of A-rated Major Homes in Bayside, N.Y. “I’ve seen flat roofs collapse.”
Like Demirjian, he’s responding primarily to ice dams. “The first sign of an ice dam is a leak inside your house from the outside wall back about 3 feet,” Kersch says.
Dams form when water freezes on the gutters and eaves, preventing melting snow from draining. Even in subfreezing temperatures, “the heat from your house is melting the bottom of the snow,” he says. The water pools, flows under the shingles and drips into the house. The quantity and duration of this winter’s snowfall is creating problems in houses that have never had problems before, he says.
Lisa Dickerson of Boston correctly diagnosed an ice dam when she saw water flowing down an outside door of her home. Ranch Roofing removed the ice and snow from her roof at no charge because the company installed her roof in 2008 and it was her first service call.
“Typically, we charge $300 for the first hour and $150 thereafter for a two-man crew,” Demirjian says.
Major Homes charges about $200 to $300 for a two-man crew, Kersch says.
Lee paid $800 to Marcello and may need extensive roof repairs this summer, she says, because another roofing company installed her roof without a rubber membrane beneath the shingles to block pooled water from leaking into her house.
Kersch calls the oversight a sign of shoddy work. In cold climates, “it is absolutely part of any quality roofing job,” he says. “Probably 50 percent of the roofers use it, and of that a very high amount don’t know how to install it properly.”
He lays it down directly on the roof deck, extending 2 to 3 feet from the outside heated wall, so if the house has a 3-foot eave, the barrier should extend about 6 feet from the edge of the roof, he says.
Some roofers may charge more to install it on the entire roof, but he says that’s a waste of money. “It’s like putting four deadbolt locks on your house,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense.”