Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ice Dam-it!

Snow days four and five will forever be known as The Days Our House Could Take It No Longer.  The evil repetition of endless snow storms, followed by freezing cold weather, and gray skies which covered the sun for days on end, resulted in ice-clogged drains, ice and snow-covered roofs, icicle drenched dormers and no end in site.  As the furnace chugged out heat to keep us all from freezing, it also melted the ice layer closest to the ceilings and the walls and the resulting water decided to come inside, where it was warm and cozy and there were people to entertain it. 

In other words, we have ice dams.

Early Wednesday morning, I awoke to the sound of a leaky faucet.  Drip.  Drip.  Drip.  Drip.  It was 4:55 in the morning, and I don't function at that hour, so I sent Gordy to investigate.  This is what he found:

Water.  Water dripping from our light-fixture.  Water soaking through the ceiling, and dripping out of the recessed light and into the bathtub below.

In the general scheme of things (especially at the un-Godly time of 4:55am), not so bad, right?

That's until further investigation found water pouring out of a speaker in the living room...

And water soaking through the plaster of the dining room ceiling.  The situation was getting bad. 

We called a professional gutter guy to help.  He arrived around 9:30 with a tall ladder and an ice pick.  But after about twenty minutes, he had given up.  The ice was way too thick and besides, it was now pouring rain outside, making conditions more wretched than ever and incredibly unsafe for any ladder-based activities.  We thanked him, wrote a check for his service and sent him on his way.

That's when I noticed that my blown-glass dining room chandelier had turned into a fountain.

The water was pouring down the chain and ending up in the glass bowl that holds all the electrical wiring and mechanics.  I'd pour the water out into the pyrex dish on the table, only to have the chandelier fill back up with water in mere seconds. 

We were starting to run out of bowls and were forced to dump out lego bins and other toy containers just to catch the flow.

It was while we were searching for receptacles, that we noticed the water flowing out of Georgia's bedroom window and on to the floor.

And the water, flowing from the door jams and windows of our office.

It was obvious that we needed to call in the experts.  We telephoned the man who built the house and within an hour, he and his carpenter son-in-law had arrived.  Together, we realized that the floor boards in the guest room were buckled with water damage, and that the walls of most of the rooms were damp.  We also observed the baseboards were pulled away from the walls in countless places and that the ceilings in the hallways were showing water marks as well.  There wasn't much the builders could do about the problem that afternoon, but they did remove the speaker from the living room ceiling, thus allowing the water to drain easier, and they were able to formulate a plan of attack for the next day.

I didn't sleep well that night.  I kept hearing the awful, repetitive sound of water drops falling into plastic buckets.  And I kept thinking about what was going to go wrong tomorrow.  I couldn't help worry that even with a team of men chiseling away at the ice all day, it wouldn't be enough and more walls and ceilings would be flooded by the next day.

And I was annoyed that, once again, we were being betrayed by a house.

You see, this isn't the first time we've lived through a water catastrophe.  Friends and relatives will probably remember the Floods of Ought One and Three.  Our town has a history of flooding and the spring after we bought our first home, I had the horrifying experience of walking down the basement stairs early one morning and finding myself knee-deep in icy cold water at the bottom.  Two years later, while playing in the his basement playroom, poor Henry found himself drenched when the basement flooded a second time.  We learned the hard way, that when New Englanders refer to the 100 Year Flood, they are not exactly referring to something that happens only once every 100 years. 

Both of these flood experiences have left me more than a tad traumatized.  Replacing wet carpeting, worrying about moldy dry wall and dealing with fans and dehumidifiers isn't my idea of good fun.

And this house is a NEW house.  And it's not a typical New House either.  While we didn't build it ourselves, the company that did worked hard to make it into a showplace.  The man and his sons-in-law (who are both carpenters with their own construction companies) built much of the house THEMSELVES.  They hired local businesses to work on any systems that they weren't experts in and I can not tell you how many companies in this town have invested interest in our home.  And when something minor has gone wrong and we've called said contractors back for repairs, the people have told us how many they enjoyed working on our house and how much love and hard work went into the project.  They all remark on how amazing the builder was to work with / for and how amazing the craftsmanship was. 

So you can imagine our distress.

Bright and early the next morning, the electrician who did all the electrical work on the house arrived.  The first order of business was to remove the chandelier before it was completely destroyed.

Now, I should take a minute to tell you how much I like our electrician.  He is one of those perpetually happy people who never thinks any project is impossible and always goes out of his way to be helpful.

After spreading out his tarps and tools, he inspected the chandelier and declared it ruined. 

It was the start of another bad day.

The chandelier is extremely heavy and made of blown-glass and so doesn't rest on the ground easily.  The electrician decided that after he removed it, he would hang it from the rafters in the electrical room in the basement to dry.

Doesn't my chandelier look beautiful?  I think it really adds ambiance to the smelly, hockey-bag-filled room.

Next to arrive, were the builder's team and their many ladders.  All day long, they hacked at the ice dams with chisels and hammers and pushed snow off the roof with roof rakes and by late afternoon, the front half of my home was relatively dry.

Please note that I said "the front half" because when we returned home from the children's activities that afternoon, I found a huge pond in my rear-facing kitchen.

Water was pouring out of the air conditioning vent and a recessed light.

Gordy took the vent cover off when he got home, which helped with the draining.

And I dumped out another toy bin which quickly filled up with cold, brown water.

Just to be safe, we did a more thorough inspection of the house and we discovered more water leaking into the office, the guest room, Josie's room and our bedroom. 

You could say that this was the exact moment when I lost it. 

The builder's crew came back the next day and worked on the back of the house.  Last night was the first night in three that we didn't have any visible water entering the house, although the walls and ceilings are still damp and we wouldn't be surprised if the some water was still coming inside that we can't see. 

The next official step is to try to figure out what went wrong.  Was it a structural problem?  An architectural problem?  A force of nature resulting from the perfect storm?  Is there a problem with the gutters?  With the roof?  With the water proof membrane?  Luckily for us, the builder has promised to figure it out.

We will also have to get dry wall and molding replaced and the hardwood floors in our guest room, bedroom and Josie & Georgia's bedrooms will have to be repaired or replaced.

Today was a warmer day.  The temperatures actually rose above 32 degrees and the sun came out. 

Gordy went up on a ladder to try to chip away more ice from the gutters on the side of the house the sun never reaches.

Here is a picture of the ice outside of Georgia's window.  It's still impressively large even after the builder's crew hacked at it for five hours.  Frankly, if it were covered with ladders, I think it could double as the ice falls at the base of Mt. Everest.

The aftermath is not pretty.  My living room is under tarps...

Josie's kitchen is pulled away from the soaking wet wall...

Her baseboards are completely ruined...

My dining room chairs are camped out in one of the only dry spaces:  the front entry way.

Here's a picture of the convex floors in our guest room.

We have removed all art work from our walls (for fear that they would absorb moisture), most of our towels are draped over window sills and door jams, and our kitchen lights are no longer working. 

Gordy and I are exhausted and more than a little overwhelmed.  
I was making an inventory this morning of water-logged items that would need repair, when I glanced out the window and saw the girls playing in the snow.

They were using the construction crew's ladders to make an enormous play area and had gotten out the sand buckets and shovels.

There was a sled full of snow resting on the ladders and snow castles were being made.

I stopped working for a moment to watch them enjoy themselves.  Things always seem better when the sun is out.

They are predicting another 20-inch snow storm on Thursday and there is talk of the schools cancelling April vacation to make up for the lost snow days. 

Tomorrow, I guess I should buy some more tarps and some extra bins.  But today, I'm going to enjoy the sun while it lasts.


Aaron said...

This post made me sick to my stomach. Especially when I look at all of the ice on my roof here in Chicago. I am glad the builder has been so supportive, but I can only imagine how you feel.

Martha said...

Thank you. It's been a bad winter. A friend said we all have Post Storm Stress Syndrome and she's totally right. I also have Phantom Drip Syndrome and Seasonal Depression all rolled into one. Our builder left a voice mail today saying that they are "researching solutions." If they come up with anything good, I'll let you know.

Penelope Dingee said...

What a big mess! It's really frustrating when water leaks mess up our beautiful home. Good thing you have a good handy men to help you out on this. I think the only good side of this was your kids had fun in playing in the snow. Anyway, it's been 2 years, I hope your builder already has a solution to prevent this from happening again.

Penelope Dingee

Martha said...

Hello Penelope,

You are right - it was a big mess. But you are also correct, we did fix the problem. We added insulation to our attic and heated panels to our roof and I'm happy to say that we survived the snowy winter, leak-free.

Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment.

Soo Eaton said...

Ice sure looks good on houses, especially when they start to make formations. But when it starts to melt, it's not good anymore. This happening can be prevented. One way is installing proper insulation. It helps you keep the temperature from both inside and outside of the house. This way you would have more time to remove the ice before it all melts and the water starts to get inside your house starting from the roof. Or if you want, call professionals to help you deal with this snow problems causing too much damage in your house. Keep safe!

Willi Roofing

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