snowmelt (copy)

Snow on roof. Photo: Getty Images Alexey Smolaynyy

Dear Ken: We’re close to the foothills and had about 2 feet of snow on the roof of my 30-year-old, two-story home during that last blizzard. It turned out OK, but I was wondering if it’s a good idea to pull heavy, wet snow off the roof in the future. Your thoughts on if most homes can handle this much snow? — Kevin

Answer: I think you’re OK. Most modern engineered truss roof systems can handle pretty much anything that Mother Nature throws at them. Virtually all homes built in the past 65 years or so have included trusses in their roof designs. How about older homes? Many of those, of course, are built with ordinary rafters with little are no engineering. But they have longevity on their side, as they been undergoing and tolerating Colorado winters for many more decades.

Regardless of the kind of roof, they never fail — except in extremely rare instances. They almost always “telegraph” overstress by first cracking the drywall below the overloaded area. So, if there are no stress cracks visible on your bedroom ceilings, you’re fine.

A more significant worry after these large storms are ice dams, which usually accumulate along the north edges of the roof. As the snow along the gutter line undergoes daily freeze/thaw cycles, there can be a layered buildup of ice. So yes, it’s a good idea to pull snow off these edges with a snow rake. These come with 20- or even 30-foot extension handles so you get to stay safely on the ground.

Once the roof is clear you can pretty much eliminate ice dam formation by zigzagging heat cable along the bottom edge of the roof.

Dear Ken: In our shower about half the water comes out of the spout and half from the shower head. Any suggestions? — Tammy

Answer: Obviously, the seal in that little lift button is shot. It’s supposed to divert water away from the spout and up into the shower head. Sometimes they can be repaired, but the easiest and most foolproof answer is to replace the tub spout itself.

Cut away the bead of caulk sealing it to the tile surface and then, using your channel lock (large plumber’s) pliers, turn it counterclockwise to unscrew it. Carry it down to the hardware store for an exact match. After you replace it, don’t forget to use a little tub and tile caulk on the end of a finger to replace that seal around the spout, because it’s vital to keep water out of the wall cavity!

Dear Ken: I painted my deck twice over the last five years. Now it’s turned into a mess. What now? — David

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Answer: You really do need to start over. Paint doesn’t do well on these exposed horizontal surfaces. Redwood has resins that reject paint, and eventually water accumulates between the layers. Power wash and/or sand whatever is left of the coatings. Then apply a good deck stain — one even and uniform coat only. I used to prefer oil-based products, but lately I have come to appreciate water-based stains. They are incredibly easy when it comes to clean up after the job is done. And they seem to stand up to our high-elevation sunshine and harsh weather as well as their oil-based cousins. At my house they provide at least two seasons’ worth of protection. One brand I like that you might check out is Olympic Maximum.

And don’t forget the underside; every second or third time you stain the top, it’s important to treat the underlying joists and boards with the same material applied with a pump sprayer.

Dear Ken: I was just up in the attic checking some wiring. I find I only have about 4 or 5 inches of insulation up there. Can I do this myself using the roll-out type? — James

Answer: The blown stuff is better. It gets in all the little crevices and corners of the attic and so helps keep drafts out. Cellulose or fiberglass is available; the former takes less to achieve a given R value, but it does settle more readily than fiberglass over time. Your goal: about 15 inches total, including the old material. That will provide an R-45+ vs. the R-15 or so you have now. Insulation is so cost effective that it will pay for itself in less than two heating seasons.

Dear Ken: My wife wants me to build her a planter this year. It will be made of landscaping-type concrete blocks and will sit next to the house. What precautions do I need to take? — Billy

Answer: The main one is to protect your home’s foundation. Water is the last thing we want to leak down the concrete walls and get underneath the structure. It can cause swelling and heaving and other mayhem that you won’t want to deal with. Prepare the site with TWO layers of black, 6-mil plastic sheeting. Seal it to the vertical wall with some roof cement in a caulking tube. Overlap the joints at least 6 inches and glue those also. The sheeting should run continuously down the wall and under the planter (on a slight slope) — and extended at least 4 feet away from the foundation. This will catch water that wants to “weep” out of the bottom. Then encourage your better half to use lower water-demanding plants — no tomatoes or large annuals, please.

Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His call-in radio show airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com

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