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Not a great night - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
Not a great night
So a few days ago, I was talking on the phone to a friend, when I heard a loud crash from somewhere in my house. Really loud. I asked her to hold on, and I hurried around looking for the source. I found it in my spare bedroom: the closet door (a folding door) had spontaneously fallen off its track. It took out a table lamp and smashed a glass oil lamp on its way down.

This evening, I came home late from a work event to find water coming from my ceiling. It made me slightly nostalgic for the days when my only problem was closet doors falling off. The light fixture in my den, directly over my desktop computer, was dripping water. The desk was covered in water, and there were big puddles on the floor.

First of all I tiptoed through the mess and yanked out my power strip, killing all the electronics under the leak. Then I put a plastic trash bucket under the leak, grabbed lots of towels, and mopped up the puddles. Then I went upstairs to change out of my work clothes and take a look in the attic to see if I could see what was going on.

I was standing in the closet, still wearing my sweater, with my pants already off, when I heard a loud knock on my door. It was 11:30pm. Somehow in my disoriented brain, I decided it must be my next-door neighbor. He's a good guy, he often appears when there are problems in our houses. Somehow I concocted the idea that we probably both had ice dams and he was coming over to see if mine was causing any damage. It made sense in my sleepy, scrambling, and still-in-denial head.

I threw on a pair of jeans and hurried downstairs to answer the door. When I opened the door, I found two police officers on my porch. The one explained that my across-the-street neighbor had seen somebody on my porch with a flashlight, that didn't look like me, so she had called the police. I found myself feeling slightly nostalgic for the time when my only problems were a closet door falling off and my office ceiling leaking.

Even more distraught and disoriented, I told them that I had only just gotten home 30 minutes ago, and I had not used a flashlight when I let myself in. I went on to explain that it was all a little surreal, because I had a leak in the back of the house and was just going to get a flashlight and check it out, but I hadn't actually found one yet.

They asked me if my door had been locked securely when I let myself in. I realized that I'd used my key to open the door, but didn't actually know if it had been locked before I put the key in. They asked me if I wanted them to check anything out. I asked if they'd looked in my backyard, and they assured me they'd looked all around my house and hadn't seen anything suspicious. I said that I'd already been wandering inside my house, dealing with the leak, and I was comfortable that there wasn't anybody else inside.

They asked if I rented or owned, if I lived alone, and they checked my ID. Upon verifying it, they left. I closed the door and breathed, listening to the water dripping into the plastic can in the back room, and wondering how the night had suddenly gotten to be such a mess. A few minutes later, it occurred to me to fasten all of my deadbolts and close all the shades -- which I did, so the only intruder was water. I verified all my cats were fine -- which they were.

I then successfully found my good flashlight, but it needed to be charged. I put it on the charger and spent some time clearing out the closet that holds the door to the attic area. When I was through, I got my flashlight and looked around up there. Everything looks dry. I'm not sure if that's a good sign or not. My guess is that an ice dam on my roof is causing water to creep in through the walls? I don't know, but I'm quite sure it's a bad thing.

Tomorrow I'll have to stay home from work and figure out what to do about this. The extra-obnoxious thing is that I'm supposed to go to Colorado for a week-long vacation saturday.... maybe for a short-term solution getting somebody out to remove the ice dams would be sufficient? I have no idea. I'm also not sure who to call. My insurance company, I guess. I could call the handyman who fixed my porch steps. I don't really know what's wrong, how much damage there is, nor how such an issue would be fixed.

My current dire prediction is that sometime in the night I'll be awoken by the sound of my ceiling fan/light fixture (the place from which the water is currently dripping) spontaneously falling out of the weakened ceiling. Leaving me somewhat nostalgic for the days when my only problems were a closet door falling off, a leak in the den, and police on the front porch. Well I don't really think that will happen, but wouldn't it be funny? Not in a truly amusing sort of way, but in a "you just gotta laugh" sort of way.

Maybe not though. Maybe the worst is over, and I can get this resolved enough tomorrow so that I can enjoy the first half of ConFusion tomorrow night, and then leave for Colorado saturday night without worrying about my house falling apart while I'm gone. Maybe. It's possible, right?

When I went to write this post, I found that on top of everything, my wireless network was down. I got frustrated, but then I remembered unplugging all the electronics in my office, including the cable modem and wi-fi router. At first I thought I'd need to write this up on my Centro. But things are looking up: I discovered that the cable is long enough that I could stretch it to a power outlet in a dry area, and hook them both up again! Here's hoping that the rest of the house stays dry....

[Edited to add a helpful illustration (which could have been sketched from my backyard yesterday) and website]


read 18 comments | talk to me!
nishar From: nishar Date: January 23rd, 2009 07:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I hope you can get all that fixed with out ruining your trip.
From: writerwench Date: January 23rd, 2009 11:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Owie! Gosh, that sounds scary and nasty! I hope it all gets sorted out. Ice dams? As in ice in your gutters, preventing water from flowing down and away? Hmmmm... not good. Must be a way of preventing that.

Sending you good wishes for an effective solution to that problem, and well before you depart for Colorado, honey.
devnul From: devnul Date: January 23rd, 2009 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ice dams are nasty. The snow at the end of the roof becomes saturated with water as it melts (either from ambient warmth or sneaking heat out your roof) and refreezes. Often there are huge icicles involved. If the ice extends far enough up it will cause water to back up under the lips of the roof shingles, and from there it will wander. Often it will come down the wall, find an inner ceiling and follow that to a low point. Sometimes it even goes back out through the outside wall and makes new icicles coming right through the siding.

The short-term solution is to get several kettles going, boiling up water. Go up on a ladder (gods be careful!) and use the boiling water to carve some channels in the ice so that water can't pond up behind the ice but will flow out. One every foot or so through the "bad area" should be enough.

The long-term solution is to put up ice dam melter cable. It's just a heat wire, goes along the roof in a zig-zag, and hopefully you have an outdoor outlet for it. They don't melt completely through the ice, but they do carve channels under it, which allow the water to flow freely instead of backing up.

I believe you do want to talk to your insurance company about the water damage, unless you want to just take entirely care of it yourself.

Whoops, reply instead of new post. Ah, well, you'll see it anyway. :)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: January 23rd, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yikes, thanks for the info. The other thing I read is raking all the snow off your roof, then there's nothing to melt and collect. Think I'll ask my neighbor if he has anything for that.

I'm also thinking that turning down my heat could help? Then less can escape. Of course I can't have the house below freezing, but I can make it 60 or so while I'm gone.... the kitties can use the down comforter.
devnul From: devnul Date: January 23rd, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, raking right after a snowstorm is a great option. Water will still come down from the snow higher up on the roof, but with luck it will just run off the side of the house. Having the bottom foot or two of your roof be a huge strip of flashing is another option, though neither of us live in areas where that major a step should be necessary.

As for the heat, well, I don't know. It seems like it should make a difference, but in the rental house where we had huge problems, we didn't even heat the two rooms on the top floor on the side of the house (north) where the dams formed, so I can't promise anything.

The kitties will be fine with 60. We take the current house down to 58 at night and during the workday and both cats and the dog are fine, just a lot furrier than in the summer. :)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: January 23rd, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I added a handy illustration, now that I've done some research. Thanks for the good wishes!
bwittig From: bwittig Date: January 23rd, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
We use an Ace hardware Roof rake, which came with a 20+ feet of extension handles.

I wouldn't mess with the hot water, get some ice melter--calcium chloride I think--which will not kill your lawn/plants and put it in a old pantyhose leg. (Yes, lots of ice melter.) Then put the leg(s) on the roof so that they will melt channels and allow the water to run free.

This may cost a bit more, but is much cheaper than running up and down a ladder with hot water. (And it will keep working even after you leave for Colorado.)
(Deleted comment)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: January 23rd, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. *hugs back because they always help*
pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: January 23rd, 2009 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
it's obviously A Sign. You should sell your house and move in with wossisname.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: January 23rd, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Those were definitely my thoughts last night, "I don't want this stupid house anymore!" I hate my house less in the light of the new day at least. (:
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 23rd, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Only practical/cheap advice I have is that you should buy/borrow/make a "Snow Rake" to pull the remaining snow off of your roof. That, and to buy a new extra extra large garbage can and put it under the main leak.

Remember the Animaniacs? I'm pretty sure it was the character "Dot" who would wander by some dire situation, take a look and then skip away saying:
"Good luck with that!..."

onemorethanten From: onemorethanten Date: January 23rd, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Darn, forgot to logon again...
renniekins From: renniekins Date: January 23rd, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
You keep skipping that part!
renniekins From: renniekins Date: January 23rd, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
heehee - thanks!
geekjul From: geekjul Date: January 23rd, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor thing! I know that "house falling down around me" feeling and it suuuucks. Hope you can get it solved quickly (and cheaply!)
magentablue From: magentablue Date: January 23rd, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry you have to deal with all of this, it really blows. You might consider putting a dehumidifyer in the room to help dry it out before mold starts growing.
retepsnave From: retepsnave Date: January 23rd, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

opps.... sorry for the long answer...

devnul and others are right... removing the snow build up is your cheapest most intimidate bet to avoid the issue - a snow rake or other such device is best. removing the ice that is currently on the roof will help stop the water backing up into the house... melting channels to allow water run off is good, some careful shovel work to break and chip the ice off (with out damaging the shingles, roof or yourself) is another time-tested method.
for permanent fixes review what is causing the issue and remedy those problems. yes you could easily add the electric heat tape which will work, but more importantly review attic venting and the amount of insulation (and placement) in the attic space (adding more helps lower heating bills too!)
be careful not to put the insulation directly against the underside of the roof - leave space for an air flow, also adding soffit vents and roof ridge vents will help with air flow. Ideally the vents allow cold outdoor air to flow directly next to the underside of the roof, while all the insulation keeps the heat inside the living space. this keeps the roof at the same temperature as the outside, minimizing icing. Also - the metal ice shields on the lower part of the roof are a good idea (stuff slides right off them) depending on your local building code (in our area it is required by code) your roof should have 'ice and water barrier' on the lower 3ft of the roof. this ice and water barrier is a roll of rubber that has a sticky backing, it is stuck directly to the wood roof and shingles are put over it. the idea is the rubber is 'self-healing' and will seal around any nails making a truly water-proof seal - verses the shingles which as you now know work when water flows DOWN them, not when it backs-up and works up underneath. if you have a new roof then check to be sure they installed this (if not and it is code requirement, they were negligent) if you need to replace the roof shingles soon than this is a more permanent fix to ice daming and is something to consider.
retepsnave From: retepsnave Date: January 23rd, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: opps.... sorry for the long answer...

oh, and good luck... you know well, that it is not the end of the house (or the end of issue with said house)
it'll work out (and the water damage can get fixed, painted over)!
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