Brent Briggs Home Improvements

Snow Problems
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Heavy Snow Can Cause Problems


Heavy snows are infrequent in the Delaware Valley, but when they occur, they can pose serious problems for your home.  A few steps taken in time can prevent minor, or even serious, damage.

Ice Dams:  Snow can be an insulator.  When it sits on your roof, warmth from underneath causes the underlying snow to melt, and run toward the rain gutters.  Once the water meets the colder temperatures along the eaves and rain gutters, it re-freezes.  Snow melt continues to flow down and it meets the ice, causing a back-up.  If it's severe enough, water can flow underneath shingles, flashings, skylights, etc., that don't normally leak in the rain.  Ice dams are most common on homes with low-pitched roofs, poor attic ventilation and/or inadequate attic insulation.  Ice can form in gutters and clog them completely.  The greatest indication that you have ice dams is the presence of wet areas in your attic, or on your ceiling, icicles hanging from your house, and backed up gutters.  If your roof has problem areas, one or more of these steps may prove helpful:

1.  Remove the snow.  This can be dangerous, so there are devices that can help.  A "roof rake" is available from many sources; a very long-handled device that allows you to pull snow off the roof from the ground.
2.  Throw ice melt onto the roof.  As the ice melt mixes with the melting snow, it also melts the ice dam, and helps to clear gutters.
3.  Upgrade attic insulation.  Heat loss through the ceiling warms the roof, causing the snow to melt.
4.  Upgrade attic ventilation.  Air exchange in the attic is important all year round.  Your attic and roof should not be warmer than outside temperatures, so a good air flow is critical.
5.  Get qualifed help.  Note problem areas and consult a professional about repairs, re-roofing with Ice Shield, electric heating devices, etc.

Heat Pumps:  If your home is heated with a heat pump, make sure snow is not piled up around the outside unit.  For the device to operate properly, it must be able to have proper air flow.  Clear any snow or debris from around the unit and check on it after addional snows or winds, which can cause drifting.

Windows, Doors, Vents:  If snow has drifted up against windows, vents, doors, etc., clear it away.  The unavoidable heat loss through these areas cause snow to melt quickly, and ice dams can form, causing leaks.  If snow has drifted up against the wall of your home, it's a good idea to clear it away.

Melting Snow:  Right now, the ground is frozen.  Deep snow insulates the ground from the cold air.  If the air stays cold enough for long enough, that the snow sits a while, the ground beneath it could start to thaw.  If we then get temps warm enough to melt the snow quickly, there could be a lot of water running in abnormal directions.  And, if we get rain along with the melting snow, that water movement could become significant.  Inspect your sump pump now.  Make sure your gutters are running clear (ice melt, as described above) and reduce any large piles of snow around your foundation now, while it's light enough to shovel.

Mail Box:  Probably nothing around your home is more vulnerable than the mailbox.  They can take a lot of abuse, from snow plows, to neighborhood kids, to simple wear and tear.  I was driving down Rt. 202, and saw the snow from a snow plow knock several mailboxes down in a row!  There are a LOT of kits out there that are attractive and "homeowner installable," but I don't recommend most of them.  The mounting systems are flimsey, the plastic or aluminum is frail, and even if properly installed, they feel shoddy.  If you want a solid, secure and attractive mailbox and post, I can help you. 

If you have problems or questions about any issues on your home, please don't hesitate to contact me.


Brent Briggs * Kintnersville, PA 18930 Phone: (215) 262-1340

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