Prevent Water Damage

An Ice Dam Emergency Story

According to the insurance agents we work with, the type of insurance claim they see the most is water damage - especially in cold weather. We thought this story might be helpful to illustrate what one homeowner went through, why it happened, and how it was handled so it wouldn't happen again.

This is the 4th note in a series on the effects of water damage and its prevention.

The call came at 3:00 pm on a Friday, “Help! I have water coming in everywhere!” It was a few days before Christmas, and all the decorations had been carefully placed in this 4 year old, $400,000 home. Team arrived 30 minutes later to find water streaming down several interior walls, pooling on the beautiful wood floors and soaking into the living room carpet. Older homes commonly have winter leaks but a leak this dramatic is unusual for a home that is so new. Team went immediately to work, and careful analysis revealed the following problems:

Problem #1 – Architecture Invites Ice Dam
Certain architecturally pleasing designs are not well suited to the unpredictable Michigan weather – such as roof valleys that run into walls, other valleys, or other obstructions – or roof areas that are difficult or nearly impossible to ventilate properly. This complex roof combined with the right conditions created ice dams that melted into the home. (see Team Note “What is an Ice Dam? (It’s a Sign to Think Ahead.)” 10/20/2009).

Problem #2 – Substandard Construction Methods
Team’s investigation uncovered substandard methods that were used in the roof’s original construction. The neglect of fundamental construction practices became exposed because of the heavy snowfall that month. No ice or water shield was applied to the roof valleys. Roof felt, a protective material was cut short, exposing the sheathing ( or, roof boards) to leakage and damage. Flashing, usually a type of metal attached to protect the space where the roof and walls meet, was not applied. When the ice dam formed, water had no place to go other than through these gaps where it destroyed drywall, insulation and interior paint.

The Solution in 3 Visits
1st Visit: We immediately stopped the water flow into the house by removing the snow, ice dams and extra water from the roof. Removing the ice dam allowed water to flow naturally down the roof and away from the home.

2nd Visit: Next, we protected the house from future damage. Since these long term repairs were not covered in their insurance policy, Team worked directly with the home owners. We restored the roof to watertight conditions with an ice and water membrane. We used heavier roofing felt in the exposed areas and aluminum step flashing to protect the space where the roof and walls meet. We removed wet insulation and drywall to air the walls and prevent mold and mildew. We replaced damaged shingles with matching ones to restore the roof to its original look.

3rd Visit: After the claim had been approved by the insurance adjuster, we replaced the drywall and insulation where needed, then primed and painted the walls to look like new.

It is always best to have an expert do a winter check on your home to try to prevent water damage and its loss as much as possible. Of course, it isn't always possible, so if water does enter your home, call an expert immediately. It only takes 24-48 hours for dangerous mold to form. The contractor's job is to find the source(s) of the problem, stop the water from entering the building, repair both interior and exterior damage and make repairs with the your long term investment in mind.
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