Feb 17, 2011 ellen leahy Uncategorized
Let’s face it, icicles bring mixed emotions. Their proportions, distribution and chemistry are awe inspiring and beautiful, but these watery classic fractal objects also represent an element of danger.
The inverted ice spike’s precariousness is not only its shape, but also what it represents when adorning your house or building. This can be a barometer for heat loss or even tragedy in the making, if one were to dislodge and fall to the … ground, or maybe, onto you.
I for one am always admiring their beauty and feel blessed to live in a place with such magnificent icicle production. But, I am also looking up before I go under a roof, just in case one is a dangling. For example, I noticed that the icicle formation on the new firehouse looked something like great white sharks teeth.
In the face of this love, hate relationship, I thought to ask a local expert about icicles. Remembering a picture on Facebook of Dusty Pas’cal’s silhouette high up on a roof. I contacted him first. Pas’cal and family own DB Pas’cal Chimney & Roof, which is located right here in Skaneateles at 2423 Wave Way.
1. Why do some houses have icicles and some don’t?
It’s a safe bet for every home to experience some minor ice build up. As my dad would say, “That’s just the way tings woyks.” If the home had a roof that was installed properly, these ice issues are generally harmless and not problematic. But homes that tend to experience severe ice buildup and icicles the size of 1982, Navy Blue Buick are undoubtably experiencing heat loss caused by either lack of, or improperly positioned, insulation.
2. Why are some years more icicle prone than others?
Heavy snowfall followed by bitter cold temps are the two main factors. The more severe the snowfall, followed by falling temps, the more service calls our family’s company receives. Safety and prompt customer service become the gear we as a team have been raised and trained to adjust to just as fast as the weather changes day to day.
3. Are icicles dangerous? Expensive? Delicious?
Most icicles are just as afraid of you as you are of them. Although, unfortunately some icicles are just born bad. Why just last month while servicing an ice backup leak call, one got me good while I wasn’t looking. It fell from a roof above me and hit me on the head, WOW, you wanna talk painful? And yes, that one happened to be several stitches to the head expensive.
As for taste, I personally have never been a fan of the taste of frozen chicken, and I’ve heard, on three or six different occasions from five to seven different people that the two are similar.
4. Okay – what steps should a homeowner take if they are sick and tired of their icicles or if they feel they are dangerous?
If a homeowner is ready to be taken’ off the “House with the huge icicles” list, I recommend doing two things. ONE: Find a few knowledgeable and reputable professionals that you trust to examine your options. Each home is different and should be custom handled. TWO: allow our family to share our professional opinion toward one of those solutions. (God that sounded good, Wow!)
5. Have you looked at icicles from both sides now … and really don’t know icicles at all?
The truth is, if it weren’t for that one bad icicle, I wouldn’t have been able to meet all the amazing folks up to the urgent care. What a great group those folks are by the way! And sincerely, if you think about it, sometimes it takes getting clobbered on the head a few times just to be reminded what matters, and its hard to really know what matters if ya ain’t seen both sides of ‘cicles …
David Lee on Icicles
So, reacting to Dusty’s suggestion #1 to my question #4, I called David Lee – who owns and operates David B. Lee & Company, a construction business headquartered on Pork Street in Skaneateles. Along with new construction, Lee has had a lot of experience with restoration, most notably the Sherwood Inn, which often sports some pretty hefty icicles.
He said that winters such as this one with constant light fluffy snow, and with sustained snow and cold, are perfect for icicle production. If a structure is experiencing heat loss, the heat will come up and actually melt the base of the snow sitting on one’s roof, while the snow on top actually acts as insulation aiding in the whole process.
“Winters like this one,” he said, “with light fluffy snow, it melts it faster underneath.”
And it’s not necessarily whether your structure was insulated, but how it was insulated. This is called the stack effect where warm air rises -it finds its way into these gaps – so, it’s more the air flow than the insulation.
There is also ice damming. This is when the ice builds up on the roof and the water running down puddles at the eve, and can back up and come inside. This is when it is important to get that snow and ice of the roof, which unfortunately can also be a dangerous process.
Lee said that up until the last 20 years insulation practices were often poorly executed. In addition, older homes are often beyond the point of adding insulation, as it is difficult to insulate an existing structure. Today, most new homes have ventilation mechanisms that take away the heat that used to help in icicle formation.
The ultimate solution is new construction or a melt, such as with the milder weather we are experiencing this week.
“It is extremely dangerous removing icicles,” Lee said, “If there is a break in the weather they’ll reduce themselves.”
But also when you need to reroof there are steps homeowners can take at that time to prevent this kind of ice damage.