Unless you happen to make your home in the Sunbelt, winter is tough, period. The sun goes down at 4 p.m., sidewalk salt ruins your boots, and we all tend to stay home and eat too many carbs.
And while we’re all struggling on the street, hardest hit are the buildings we call home, suffering more wear-and-tear in winter than any other time of year. Snow, ice and frigid temperatures can wreak havoc, causing costly damage and—if that damage isn't remedied ASAP—potential disaster. While chilly days might seem far away now, building and HOA managers, superintendents and engineers and board members can and should be looking for trouble spots now so they can prevent problems later.
From the Top Down
A building’s roof is an easy target for a host of issues, the most common being ice damming. Ice dams are formed when heat—both from inside the building and from the sun overhead—melts snow on the roof. The melted snow then runs into the cold gutters and eaves, where it pools and refreezes. The continual thaw-and-refreeze process creates ice dams, and when an ice dam gets big enough, melted water backs up behind it and seeps underneath the shingles. Eventually, water can drip into the building’s insulation, down into ceilings and exterior walls—potentially ruining sheetrock and paint. If and when the ice dam breaks free, it can take shingles and gutters with it and, if the roof stays wet, mildew can form and rot can begin. Who knew a little snow and ice could be so toxic!
If the ice damming is happening on a new roof, and the problem is because the roof wasn’t designed correctly, it’s the engineer’s fault, says John Tsampas, owner of Skyline Restoration in Long Island City. If the roof was designed correctly, the problem could be the contractor’s fault for not installing the roof properly. But if the roof is an old one on an old building, the ice damming could be a result of the design and nobody’s fault—but, nonetheless, a flaw in need of a remedy.
If that kind of damage occurs, it is easy to play the blame game, but as Spiro Markatos, vice president of Accura Restoration & Waterproofing in Long Island City points out, “It’s Mother Nature’s fault! So, owners should winterize their roofs before the weather gets bad and make sure the roof edge is in the clear.”