Changing temperatures cause ice dam concerns

Jason Kerr
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Recent temperature swings in Prince Albert have lead to renewed concerns about house damage caused by ice dams.

SGI says they had an unusually high amount of ice dam claims last year and they want to raise awareness about the issue before it becomes a problem again this year.

“Before last winter I didn’t even know what an ice dam was,” SGI spokeswoman Kelley Brinkworth says.  “Maybe a lot of people didn’t until, all of a sudden, they have water leaking into their home.”

Last year Saskatchewan residents filed more than 2,500 ice dam claims, with 133 of them coming in the Prince Albert area.  By comparison, only 28 were filed in the entire province in 2012.

Older houses are the most susceptible to ice dams, but not even new houses are free from the problem.

“That’s just generally how the roof structure works,” says Darwin Zurakowski, a local home inspector.  “If there’s not enough attic ventilation then the attic becomes too warm.  That actually starts melting the snow that’s on the top of the shingles.”

Zurakowski says poor insulation can also cause problems.

“A lot of times when homes don’t have enough insulation, where it’s heating up the attic, or if the attic hatch itself is not sealed properly, that’s where you’ll notice a lot of (ice dams).”

However, the weather is still the primary culprit.  Alternating between freezing and thawing means ice forms in crevices and cracks around the roof and eaves, causing massive buildups called ice dams.  These dams cause draining blockages, which can lead to leaks in walls and roofs, as well as damage to the actual roofs themselves.

“It’s pretty prevalent,” Zurakowski says.  “It’s just something in our climate, just how fast things can freeze when we go from warm temperature to cold temperature.”

For their part, SGI wants to make sure people have the right coverage.  Brinkworth says there is a lot of confusion among their customers about ice dam protection.

“It isn’t automatically included with every home insurance policy,” she says.  “Make sure that you actually have the coverage in place.”

To help people prevent ice dams from forming, homeowners should keep their eaves clean of snow, icicles, leaves and other debris.  They should also keep their roof clear of snow by using a roof rake or hiring a professional.  Of course, proper attic ventilation and heating are also important.

SGI is even holding a contest to help raise awareness about the issue.  Anyone who shares ice dam prevention tips on the company’s Facebook page, or sends them a tweet with the hashtag #damice will be entered into a draw for a roof rake.

“We’re hoping it will be better this year,” Brinkworth says.  “Winter’s not over yet.  We’re in Saskatchewan, so who knows.”

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Prince Albert

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