Massachusetts ice dam damage

The Ice Dam Cometh!

by Rich Vetstein on February 19, 2014

in Construction Law, Insurance, Safety

Massachusetts Ice Dam Treatment & Prevention

A little break from law stuff to talk about some important safety information. With up to a foot of snow on most Massachusetts roofs and a spring thaw on the way, there will be widespread ice dam and roof damage afflicting homeowners in the next weeks. I have a feeling it’s going to be very bad.

There are ice dams all over my roof. My son’s bedroom just sprung a leak. And I can’t get a crew out here to get on my roof until Friday at the earliest. (Sorry, but I’m not risking life or limb climbing up my ice covered roof!). I did use a roof shovel to clear a few feet of snow off the roof, but I need some professional help.

Here are some tips from my friend, George Lonergan of Lonergan Construction in Framingham (Tel:  508-875-0052) – whose roof clearing crews have been out 7 days a week. For folks closer to Boston, GF Sprague Roofing out of Needham is also good.

  1. Try to remove snow from the roof but only if it can be done safely. A roof rake or push broom can be used but may cause damage to the shingles. If it’s not possible to remove the snow safely, call a professional.
  2. Chisel grooves into the dam to allow the water behind it to drain off. This is a good emergency measure, especially if rain or a sudden thaw is coming. Be careful not to damage those shingles!
  3. Fill an old pair of your wife’s pantyhose with calcium chloride snow melt and lay it across the dam. It will help to melt the dam and also keep that area of the roof clear. DO NOT USE ROCK SALT! It may stain the roof and siding. It is best for small dams or prevention. It’s also a good idea to scrape the snow off the roof first.

To prevent ice dams in the longer term, keeping warm air from escaping into the attic is the first course of action. In addition to helping resolve ice dam issues, it will result in a more comfortable and less expensive to heat home.

Ice Dam Insurance Coverage

Very few insurance policies cover ice dam or snow removal from your roof or anywhere else on your property for that matter. However, certain cases of interior damage caused by an ice dam or roof collapse may be covered. As with any insurance claim, call the claims department immediately and take photos of the damage.

Good luck and happy raking and chiseling!


1471403_10203128432314745_4869425574151873063_nA Guest Post by George Lonergan, Owner of Lonergan Construction, Inc. a licensed Massachusetts general contracting company servicing the Metrowest Massachusetts area including Framingham, Natick, Wayland, Sudbury and Hopkinton.

This winter caused a substantial amount of ice dam damage in the Massachusetts area. The water on your roof that pools above ice dams and then seeps down onto your ceilings and between your inner and outer walls typically causes two related problems: 1) ceiling stains and 2) mold, which is a serious health risk.

Treating Ceiling Stains and Mold

If the stain is yellow, it’s dry and can be treated, but only if there’s no mold behind it. Look at the entire floor of the storage area or attic above the stained ceiling. If there’s mold, you’ll probably see it. Don’t disturb it. Spray the affected area with bleach, but don’t soak it.

Next, apply paint blocker to the stained area, let it dry, and apply a coat of white ceiling paint. (If on first inspection the ceiling stain hasn’t yellowed, it’s not dry, and there is still a leak. Find out where the water is coming in, repair the “port of entry,” wait for the stain to dry, and then refinish.

Paint the repaired area with the original color that you had left over, if it still matches the rest of the ceiling, and if you’re not working in a bathroom—where there is too much moisture, which affects wall and ceiling colors—or in a kitchen, where ceilings, due to cooking vapors, lose color more quickly over time than elsewhere in the house. If you need to repaint the entire ceiling, used painter’s tape on the wall where it meets the ceiling. And it’s always a good idea to remove the furniture, or at least move it to the center of the room and cover it with plastic, especially if you have a sand-textured ceiling, which tends to splatter paint.

Treating Mold Between Walls

Begin to determine if the ice dam leak has caused mold to form between your inner and outer walls by looking to see: 1) if there are stains on the interior wall; 2) if there is peeling paint on that wall; or 3) if there is a pool of water on the floor (formed as the ice dam melts). If you see any of these conditions, you had best look between the walls because, where there is moisture, mold usually forms.

The least invasive way to check for mold between the walls is to call in a company that uses special instruments to measure moisture. This is expensive, and won’t tell you what you want to know about mold if the moisture has dried up by the time of testing. A second way is to remove the baseboard molding where the leaking has occurred, exposing the sheetrock or blueboard (plaster) behind it, and check for mold. At the same time, check the backside of the baseboard molding.

If neither procedure provides signs of mold, a more invasive procedure is necessary. Remove the sheet rock that’s just behind the molding, usually 3-4 inches—the height of the molding—and about a foot laterally. Do you see mold?

If it’s determined you have mold between the walls, hire the contractor to perform mold remediation, which includes: 1) removal of the baseboard molding, sheetrock or plaster wall, and insulation; 2) treatment of the exposed studs (whether wood or metal); 3) reconstruction of the wall; and 4) application of a finish to match the color of the rest of the wall.

Never paint over mold in an attempt to mask it! If you do, it will continue to grow and spread. Mold must be removed in order to eliminate the health risk.

Health note: Mold above the ceiling is usually in full view, so you don’t have to disturb it to find it. But the invasive procedures needed to deal with mold between walls means that you have to “encapsulate” the work area, because any mold you encounter, once disturbed, will become airborne and pose a health risk. That’s why you also have to wear a filtering facemask. Mold can cause illness not only in the person doing the work, but also to the rest of the household, whether or not any of them suffer from pre-existing respiratory problems. So it’s best to bring in a qualified contractor to check for mold and take a sample for a controlled test. He’ll identify the strain of mold, too, which is important to know if any of the residents suffer from respiratory problems.

Lonergan Construction, a licensed Massachusetts corporation, builds new homes and remodels existing ones. We offer design and architectural services as well as work in concrete, general construction and demolition, plumbing and electrical systems, heating-ventilation-air conditioning (HVAC), septic systems, roofing, painting, cabinetry, and flooring (wood and ceramic), as well as residential (home) and commercial (office) repairs and remodeling.

Our business comes almost exclusively through referrals, and our only advertising is word of mouth.

Lonergan Construction


{ 1 comment }