As autumn turned to winter, the thoughts of most residents turned to decorating and shopping for the holidays. Mother Nature, though, had other “gifts” in mind for the season: heavy snowfalls, icy winds and bone-chilling temperatures.
The delivery of each has sent homeowners and property managers scrambling to deal with frozen pipes, ice dams, condensation and other aggravating problems — and kept contractors hopping to keep up with the flurry of desperate calls. Ceilings leaked. Basements flooded. Gutters pulled loose from fascia boards. Insurance claims skyrocketed.
As homeowners take down the holiday lights, tuck the decorations away until next winter, and settle in to await the arrival of spring, it’s a great time to think about planning repairs of trouble spots when good weather arrives.
It’s no surprise that as winter weather descends on buildings, problems start at the top: on the roof and in the attic. Leaks, condensation and those dreaded ice dams begin here — so it’s an obvious place to begin. After a harsh winter replete with blustery winds (and flying branches), shingles may be damaged, loose, or missing. Spring is a good time for a roof inspection, so that any needed repairs can be scheduled, rather than done on an emergency basis.
And under that roof lies the attic, the source of myriad winter problems. The key to a healthy attic is keeping it the same temperature as the outside air, through ventilation and insulation. Soffits and vents at eaves keep air circulating and help the humidity down. Hot, moist air is expelled through the roof ridge vent, gable vent or louvres. Fans will boost the hot air through the vents.
How can you maintain that balance? Bathroom fans should be vented outside, not into the attic. New building codes specify this change, but in older buildings, it’s not unheard-of to find those fans dumping hot, humid air into the enclosed attic space. Correcting that situation, or less-obvious vent leaks in the attic, can avert a host of problems, from stained ceilings to potentially dangerous mold build-up.
In addition to improving ventilation, bringing attic insulation up to code will keep costly heat inside the living space, and not in the attic. Proper insulation can also avert damaging ice dams, those build-ups of ice caused by melting and re-freezing snow at the edge of roof surfaces. Ice dams can send water pouring through ceilings and push gutters out of alignment, preventing them from doing their job when the ice finally melts. Add a check — and improvement — of insulation to that good-weather maintenance list.
Are those nasty winter winds driving water right into living spaces? Loose, cracked or missing clapboards or shingles, along with dried-out or missing caulking around windows and doors, can lead to mysterious leaks that soak wall insulation, damage sheetrock, blister paint, loosen wallpaper, and, again, bolster the growth of mold. One more item to add to that checklist.
Property owners who find themselves under water — literally — when snow melts and the ground thaws should give the foundation some thought, too. Where’s that water coming from? Failing gutters? Blocked downspouts? Cracks in foundation walls? Improper grading? Changes in groundwater activity due to construction? Flooding basements are more than a nuisance; they can also lead to the growth of — you guessed it — nasty mold.
When cold winds blow and snow piles higher and higher, winter may seem interminable. The good news, though, is that spring really will arrive, offering property owners an opportunity to put their buildings back in shape before the cycle begins again.