Huge icicles and large ice dams are becoming more and more common as climate change continues to alter winters in Muskoka.
Mike Vettese of GBS Contracting Services has witnessed icicles measuring ten feet hanging off the roofs of buildings, a warning sign that the roof and soffit are in trouble.
Icicles and ice dams can be caused by poor construction, inappropriate ventilation, not enough insulation or any combination of these factors.
The rollercoaster of temperatures, with below-zero days being followed by milder temperatures and consistently cold winters becoming a thing of the past, is exacerbating the issue, says Mike.
Whatever the initial cause, the end result is going to be a damaged roof – and possibly much, much worse.
“Large icicles will rip off the troughs, and they are a sure-fire sign that ice damming is occurring,” says Mike. “Icicles and damming will cause property owners to experience horrible problems throughout the winter and early spring.”
This will eventually cause moisture to infiltrate the building envelope and worse problems will arise, such as rotting walls, and mold and mildew growth. Hidden mold spores can begin to grow through the whole building and cause respiratory illness to those living there.
As well, moisture buildup on wood will begin to rot and attract insects like termites or carpenter ants – this combination will eventually lead to structural failure.
Heat can get trapped in a variety of places – including the attic and soffits – where it meets with cold surfaces and causes condensation, leading to ice damming.
If a roofing system is working properly, the air in the attic should be the same temperature as it is outside. If it’s 20 below outside, it should be 20 below in the attic; if it’s 90 degrees outside, it should be the same in the attic.
When variances occur – 20 below outside, but minus 1 inside or 90 degrees outside and 140 degrees inside – it leads to more severe issues.
“If you go into an attic and the air feels damp, you should be concerned,” says Mike. “That dampness is letting you know that condensation is taking place and there is an issue needing attention.”
Rising energy costs are also a key indicator that a building envelope isn’t doing the job: as much as 25 per cent of heat loss often occurs through roof.
As Mike notes, when the issue develops it’s best to fix it right away – letting it linger can lead to disastrous results – and lead to large financial implications. Rather than some simple repairs early on, you could be looking at a new roof, new siding, and other full renovations to make your home safe again.
“Instead of spending $5,000 or $10,000 today and let it sit for 10 or 20 years, it could be a $200,000 job or even needing to tear your whole house down,” warns Mike. “We’re here to help solve the problem, but ultimately these issues don’t go away unless you do something about it. We like to fix problems like this before they get too far.”
Mike says the best homes on the market feature good ventilation and a quality roofing system. Quality materials installed by certified professionals will eliminate heat loss and prevent issues like ice damming; thus, protecting your investment and your family.
Therefore, Mike recommends both property owners and those looking to buy a new property do inspections during the winter; the evidence of a roofing problem will be visible through ice damming, ice build-up, or large icicles on the roof. Also, be aware of water coming through the soffit, which can indicate trapped heat pockets which will cause ice and moisture issues.
For those shopping in the summer, Mike says to pay attention and look out for brown marks on the soffits and roof lines indicating rust stains which were likely caused by water issues related to ice damming.
“If you don’t notice any of these things, then you’re looking at good building.”
Trust the experts
If you do need work done, make sure to hire certified, insured and experienced professionals.
GBS Contracting Services has been in business since 1999 and are experts at roofing, siding, and other projects. Their team is fully insured, fully trained and dedicated to the business. Mike says they happily provide references to their clients. He notes that they often get called back to do additional work because the client is so happy with the first project.
“We have helped a lot of home and cottage owners with renovations and repairs,” says Mike. “Our team knows what it takes to do the job right because we live in Muskoka and understand the environmental pressures on the buildings in our communities.”
And with the climate continuing to move in new directions, making sure your home or cottage is ready for the challenge is more important than ever.
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN