The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 31, 2014

Don't let ice, snow damage your home

WASHINGTON — Does anyone have a roof rake I can borrow?

The recent frigid weather has brought homeowners a host of problems. Many friends and neighbors (including me) have come home in freezing temperatures to an ice-jammed gutter or the dreaded sound of dripping water because of a burst pipe. And then there is the feeling of panic when you turn on your faucet and nothing comes out.

We called an expert to ask the home maintenance questions that are on everyone's chapped lips these days. Alan Beal, president of Mid-Atlantic Inspection Services, took our questions last week in between calls from his own clients desperate for some cold-weather smarts.

Q: Does this bitter cold wave, with many days below freezing, require special care of a house?

A: Yes. A lot of times, people ignore the general recommendations of what you should do to winterize your house. Some years, you can get away with not doing some of the things, but when it gets to subfreezing temperatures . . . you can have some serious problems if you have not shut off the valves for the exterior hose connection or had your gutters cleaned.

Q: What is the definition of ice damming?

A:
Ice damming is when snow melts off the roof and then refreezes because the gutters are either clogged with leaves or blocked with snow and ice or both. The melted water has nowhere to drain, so it pools and starts to back up. If you see icicles, it's a clue that this is happening. The water comes over the gutters and drips down to form icicles. So if you see them, you are at risk.

Q: Should you try and knock the icicles down?

A:
Well, if they are large, they could start to pull your gutters down, and you don't want anyone to be hit by a falling icicle. So you might knock them down carefully to reduce the load on the gutter. But it won't really change your susceptibility to moisture intrusion due to ice damming. The reason you are getting them is that the water isn't draining properly.

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