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Leak-proof the roof

Mitch Sander pulls down a block of snow and ice from Bill Szevecyk's home on Cherry Street Monday. Szevecyk, who is Sander's father-in-law, says that they clear the roof three or four times per winter. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Mitch Sander takes a break from helping his father-in-law, Bill Szevecyk, clear snow from the roof of the Szevecyk home on Cherry Street Monday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

The snow is melting, and spring may finally be here. But while you’re enjoying the warmer weather, your roof may be on the verge of leaking.

Experts say there are a couple of common roof problems that can be caused by the impending spring snow melt — and both problems point to poor insulation or ventilation.

When roofs aren’t properly insulated, the heat can be unevenly distributed on the roof, causing snow to melt faster in some spots and slower in others, said Willie Huot, North Dakota State University extension agent for Grand Forks County.

“Water will build up by the eave (at the edge of the roof) and can get under the shingles,” Huot said. If that water then freezes again, maybe if the temperature dips down below freezing at night, it can create an ice dam, which is a large chunk of ice built up at the end of the roof.

Water can then be trapped by the ice dam, creating a puddle, which can leak though the roof, into your home.

“If our nights don’t get really cold again, I think we’re going to be fine,” Huot said, because if the water doesn’t freeze, it won’t create an ice dam.

But the problem roofers have been seeing more of this season is frost building up inside attics, and then melting, causing a leak.

“You see (both problems) everywhere,” said Jeff Heath, owner of A&L Siding and Home Improvement Center in Grand Forks. But, “more often than not, it’s the frost in the attic.”

If your attic has poor ventilation or insulation, frost can build up inside. Then, when that frost melts, it can leak into the home.

Don Williams, of Don Williams Roofing in Thompson, said he’s also seen more cases of frost in attics than ice dams this season.

“Most (roofs) don’t have much snow left on them,” to cause ice dams, Williams said.

Preventing leaks

There is still time to try to prevent ice dams by scraping or shoveling snow off of roofs, Huot said.

Local hardware stores sell “snow rakes,” which can be used to reach up onto your roof while standing on the ground to scrape some snow off, Huot said. Snow rakes are made to not damage shingles, he said.

But a snow rake will probably only work well for a one-story home, Huot said. He doesn’t recommend someone getting onto their roof and shoveling the snow off, because it could be icy and slippery, he said.

The owner of a two-story home may want to call a professional to remove the snow, Huot said.

The long-term solution for ice dams or frost in attics is to have a professional install better ventilation or insulation, Heath said.

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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