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Ice Dams and Turkish Coffee

I have heard of ice dams and I know the potential damage that they can cause, but until recently I had yet to see one in real life. I received a call after hours from a customer that was very concerned about his home office.

He had found the carpet was wet and saw some sagging in the drywall near the ceiling. There was also a closet in the room and the entry door jamb seemed to be split. According to the customer, the area had leaked in the past and the contractor had repaired the soffit on the other side of the wall that was underneath a dormer that covered the entry to the home.

ice damHe was concerned about the structural integrity of the home, and feared the worst. We scheduled an inspection for early the next morning.

I arrived at the home the following morning around 7 am. The home owner showed me to the affected room and I began my inspection.

I soon realized that the scope of the job was much less severe than the customer had thought it might be. He had concerns about the integrity of the wall and its load bearing status, but we were able to determine very quickly that the casing around the door had swollen from the water in the wall and the paint was the only thing that had cracked. As for the ceiling I found that there was a small area about the size of a notebook that was moderately wet and the wall below, from floor to ceiling in a foot wide swath, was wet as well.

After inspecting the room below, I found no signs of damage. I began to think about the source that had yet to be determined. The homeowner showed me the area of the soffit that had been repaired by the contractor. I didn’t see any real evidence of water entering from that spot.

Often the most logical source is the area closest to the affected area, but this doesn’t always turn out to be the case. Water follows the path of least resistance and many times it will travel long distances before it manifests into a noticeable area inside the home. This can be one of the most frustrating and challenging parts of a water damage inspection.

Without a definitive entry point, I was left with nothing but speculation. This is a disheartening development for homeowners who expect us as professionals to have solutions to their problems. I could sense the fear of the unknown was weighing heavily on the homeowner’s mind and he was beginning to fear the worst again.

At this point I began explaining possible scenarios, none of which were, mildly invasive. There was discussion of possible roof inspections, of possibly removing soffit, and maybe removing siding as well. This was all just to locate the source, and who knows what type of damage that might reveal.

Up to this point we hadn’t even began to discuss whether this would be a covered loss or an out of pocket expense. The homeowner didn’t have the answers he needed yet to feel confident that his home was secure, and I working hard to come up with a solution.

I decided to concentrate on the affected room and then go back to the problem of locating the source. The homeowner went about his morning while I began to get equipment and supplies from the truck.

As I approached the home with an armload of tools something caught my eye. From this fresh vantage point I could see a build-up of ice in the valley next to the dormer directly above the affected room.

I was able to retrieve a ladder to take a closer look. Tucked up against the dormer was a sheet of ice three inches thick that extended down the valley and around the corner where it was draining into the gutter. This little area was tucked under an overhang on the north slope of the roof and it was obvious that it didn’t receive much sunlight, especially in January. There was lichen growing on the surface of the shingles, which indicated that this area was prone to being wet. I chipped away the ice dam to reveal that the J channel at the bottom edge of the dormer wall was also covered in lichen and the ice dame was allowing the build-up of water to enter through the siding and then down the wall into the room below.

I described my findings to the homeowner who waited below, and climbed down to show him the photos I had taken. It was then that the fear of the unknown disappeared and I could see the burden begin to lift from his shoulders.

I had found a definitive source and gained the confidence of the customer. Now I could eliminate the majority of questions and begin to give him real solutions. I explained the full scope of the job and what it would look like start to finish.

This job that had begun with a customer concerned about the structural integrity of his home and turned in to a loss that would eventually only require one air mover and two days of drying before the repairs could begin. Even then the repairs were going to consist of replacing a little carpet pad and re-stretching the carpet, as well as, a little touch up paint.

Needless to say the homeowner was relieved.

I still had equipment to set up and some paperwork to complete so I got back to work. Since it was just after seven in the morning he was making himself a cup of coffee and he asked if I would like one as well. I accepted the offer, and he asked excitedly if I was a fan of coffee. I told him that I was, and he said that he had a treat form me. He hurried to the kitchen while I finished the work that needed done.

After completing the work I entered the kitchen where he presented me with a small ornate cup and saucer, like you would see on a travel documentary about the Far East. He explained that he had once been to Turkey for business and had been exposed to this traditional form of coffee drinking. Without going into too much detail, I enjoyed one of the most unique and exotic cups of coffee I have ever had.

Over the course of an hour I had completely turned the tide for a customer, and experienced a few firsts.

My first ice dam and my first cup of Turkish Coffee… not a bad start to my Saturday.