- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Home contractors began working yesterday to fix leaky roofs, damaged gutters and exploded pipes resulting from the weekend's winter wallop.
Calls for home repairs rose sharply after as much as 2 feet of snow fell on the region, contractors said. They expect the problems to worsen as the snow melts and refreezes into ice during the next several days.
"Once this stuff starts melting … that's when the calls will really start coming in," said Jeff Willis, president of Integrated Building Contractors, a roofing specialist in Annandale.
Roofers and other contractors posted a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in business after the 1996 snowstorm.
After several roofs collapsed around the region yesterday, including those of the B&O; Railroad Museum in Baltimore and the Montgomery Donuts in Rockville, residents started calling contractors to ask whether they should remove snow from the top of their homes.
Most contractors said it is unnecessary and that most houses with sloped roofs would be safe, though in some cases it might be necessary to remove snow from the downwind side of those roofs, to prevent accumulation.
Larger, older homes with flat roofs could be threatened, particularly if the roofs were not built soundly.
"When you're dealing with a flat roof of a vast size, you could have problems," Mr. Willis said. "When you [add] water in with the snow weight, it increases in volume and gets pretty heavy."
A much bigger concern is ice buildup in gutters and along roof edges.
"Ice damming" can occur when snow melts and freezes in gutters and at roof edges, preventing it from draining.
As much as six inches of water can accumulate on a roof when that happens, causing major leaks. Additionally, gutters can break under the weight of ice, contractors said.
Tom Petrilli, a roofer with Lyons Contracting in Alexandria, spent most of yesterday ripping off and replacing gutters at houses in Arlington and Falls Church, while fielding more than 40 new calls. He said homeowners can try to loosen ice forming on gutters, but he advised against climbing on ladders and rooftops.
"It's wise to call a contractor to do anything," Mr. Petrilli said. "Leave it up to someone who's done it a hundred times."
Contractors suggest buying special guards that stop ice formation and keeping attic temperatures as close to the outside air as possible to prevent buildup of snow and ice. Warm air from attics can cause snow on the roof to melt, leading water to run down and freeze at the edges of the roof, which typically are colder than the top.
If a roof does leak, contractors said homeowners can prevent some damage by hanging a string from the spot where the leak enters the house. Water will travel down the string rather than spreading down a rafter or wall, and can be caught in a bucket placed on the attic floor.
Homeowners also should move snow away from the foundation of the house to avoid water leaks, especially into basements, a common problem after a heavy snow, insurance companies said. The owners also must ensure that sump pumps are working properly.
"Once it starts to melt, it can cause water damage," said Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group representing the industry. "And in most homeowner's policies, flooding is not covered."
The continued cold temperatures also have caused water pipes to rupture, posing another major problem yesterday.
"We're getting quite a few calls for busted outdoor hose lines," said Stanley Davis, service manager with Flood Plumbing and Heating in the District.
He said that he fielded about 20 calls yesterday, nearly eight of which came from people with damaged outside pipes.
The insurance industry processed more than $1 billion in claims relating to ruptured pipes last year, Ms. Worters said.
Mr. Davis advised homeowners to shut off water to all outdoor areas if they have not already done so.
"It should be a part of human nature, but it's not," he said. "People's minds are preoccupied."
The shut-off valve is most often found in the basement, about three feet to the right or left of the entrance to the house. Homeowners who can't locate the valve and who have busted pipe should call their local fire department as a last resort.


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