Here we go again. If you've spotted a new water stain in the ceiling since the snow and ice earlier this month, it probably was caused by ice damming.
Almost unheard of in these parts 10 years ago — actually, until the winter of 2006-07 — ice damming has become almost as common in late fall and winter in Oklahoma as deer season.
Transplanted Northerners might wonder what the hubbub is about. Ice damming is as common as snow shovels in northern climes. (Come to think of it, snow shovels, too, have popped up in stores around here with every snowstorm for several years now. Is Oklahoma drifting north?)
Ice damming is when ice builds up along the edges of roofs and backs up under shingles and flashing. When it melts, it damages roofs and causes leaks, usually along walls. On-and-off-again melting is the worst.
Around here, damming seems to take a combination of ice and snow, or sleet and snow. Blowing snow alone doesn't accumulate, or cause damming.
It looks like damming can occur even when the air temperature doesn't rise above freezing. The sun on a freezing but clear day causes enough melting, especially on a dark roof, to let water run — then freeze again and back up at nightfall, then melt again sometime after sunrise, and cause damage.
Damming damage usually occurs along exterior walls or where walls meet, even where flashing is meant to waterproof those areas.
Got it covered?
Homeowners insurance policies generally cover damage from ice damming — but considering insurance pullouts and pullbacks because of the particularly damaging hail storms the past several years, assume nothing.
And if you file a claim, realize that it's a water claim.
Insurance companies hate water claims, even if the adjuster smiles and is friendly, and the people on the phone are polite, and your agent still mails you a Christmas card and new calendar. It takes about two claims in just a few years to cause your policy not to be renewed.
Damming can sometimes be avoided.
One, keep your gutters cleaned and trees trimmed back away from the roof. Two, once the snow-ice storm passes, if you can do it safely, get it off your roof.
But sometimes it can't. If you're not home when the storm hits, say, traveling for the holidays, you're just going to be dammed.