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Pro Tips & How To's

How to protect your home against the damage caused by ice dams

Should You Be Worried If There Are Icicles Hanging From Your Eaves?
Perhaps you saw them around the holidays: white or blue outdoor lights that simulate trickling icicles, or greeting cards that depict houses with large icicles hanging from the gutters. While the frosty stalactites may look pretty, they may actually be a signal of trouble in your own home.

Are icicles a sign that something is amiss?
Icicles are commonly thought to be a sign of an ice dam on your roof, but are they? Possibly. The three things necessary to form icicles – snow, heat to melt the snow, and cold weather – are also necessary to form ice dams. Ice dams form when warm air from inside your home melts snow on the roof. When the melt water reaches the colder eaves (the part of the roof that extends beyond the walls), the water re-freezes and creates a build-up of ice along the edge of your roofline. So, icicles hanging from the roof edge could be a sign of an ice dam (and larger icicles would likely indicate a larger ice dam), but ice dams can even form without the presence of any large icicles.

The dangers of ice dams
The more snow and ice accumulate, and temperatures rise and fall, the larger the potential for ice dams. And ice dams can wreak havoc. They can damage and loosen shingles, rip off gutters and cause melt water to pool and seep into your attic. Once that happens, insulation can get wet, paint can peel and the structure of your home can become damp. Untreated, this may cause rotting wood, damaged drywall and even mold growth. 

How to remove snow to avoid an ice dam 
It’s best to remove snow from a heavy snowfall immediately to prevent the build-up of ice dams later. Though you might hear about people doing anything from using a snow blower to remove snow or an axe to chip away at an already-formed ice dam, both methods can damage your roof. A push broom with stiff bristles can be used to remove snow off flat and low-slope roofs, while a roof rake is the right option for sloped roofs, because you can remain on the ground and still remove snow. Of course, if you’re unable to easily reach the roof, or just unsure about your ability to do so, hire a professional to do the job.

Some tips that can help permanently prevent ice dams 
1. Replace leaking or damaged eavestroughs & downpipes. This will help prevent water dripping and ice forming on walkways around your home; it will also help prevent rainwater from your roof seeping into your basement. Ensure that your eavestroughs are sloped correctly and that downspouts are large enough to allow rainwater to run off effortlessly during a thaw. Make sure all downpipes run off a good distance into a garden or driveway, which slopes in a downhill direction and away from your home.
2. Add extra insulation in your attic floor to keep the warm air inside your home and out of the attic.
3. Relocate or remove heat sources that are installed in the attic directly under your roof.
4. Insulate attic access doors with a cover, or seal an existing hatch with weather-stripping.
5. Check the exhausts. Make sure all ducts from bathrooms, kitchens or other living areas exhaust to the outside, not the attic.
6. Check the flashing around the chimney. Over time, flashing can crack and separate from the roof, causing hot air to escape and allowing water to trickle in along the chimney. Have your chimney sweep check the flashing and, if necessary, repair or replace it.

Preventive steps like these can help preserve the health of your home by eliminating ice dams – and maybe even those icicles! 

New City of Toronto bylaw - Mandatory downspout disconnection for all Toronto home-owners 

Toronto City Council has approved a bylaw making it mandatory for property owners to disconnect their downspout(s).. Disconnecting downspout(s) from the sewer system can reduce the risk of basement flooding and releasing polluted rainwater into our local waterways. There are a few instances where disconnecting your downspout(s) is either hazardous or not technically feasible, in such instances home-owners can apply to the City for an exemption. Low-income home-owners may be eligible to be reimbursed for the costs associated with disconnecting their downspout. You can learn more by following this direct link to the City of Toronto website.

Shaun Rickard
President / Owner
Home Doctor

How to avoid being scammed by unscrupulous criminal contractors

In 2011, the wheels of justice were busy spinning against criminal renovation contractors, including eavestrough, fascia, soffit and siding contractors.

Under the Consumer Protection Act, the Ministry of Consumer Services laid 823 charges against home renovation contractors in Ontario (Toronto and the GTA for the most part). This amounted to over $421,000 in fines being issued, 33 individuals were sentenced to jail or probation, and over $377,000 was paid out in restitution to scammed victims.

As staggering as these statistics are, the actual true number of home-owners who were scammed is much higher as most people swallow the loss and do not even report it. Plus these statistics only reflect claims that actually resulted in full prosecution.

The scary reality is; scamming is big business, and for unscrupulous eavestrough and siding contractors it’s no different. It’s easy money for a criminal contractor because they simply disappear once you lay down a hefty deposit, or they do a poor job, pocket the final payment and are never to be seen again.

The only defence against being scammed is YOU. It’s your responsibility to find a reputable and trustworthy contractor. Luckily for you, scammers leave a trail of red flags that mark their criminal intentions. Here are the Top 10 Warning Signs of a criminal contractor:

1. Lack of Proper Identification

A professional contractor is, well, professional. They have business cards, valid contracts, proper identification, uniforms, an actual business address, appropriate insurance certificates, and a master business license. Be wary of any contractor that lacks these qualities. If you don’t know exactly who they are, how can you verify their reputation? How can you find them if something goes wrong in the future? This is a common red flag of a criminal who works a neighbourhood then disappears never to be seen again.

2. “I Was Just In the Neighbourhood

If a contractor knocks on your door with this line: Watch out! They’ll usually say they have materials left over from another job and are willing to give you a great discount on some work they say your home needs. Professional contractors only purchase what they need for each job. Even if you do need work soon, it should be assessed on its own anyway.

3. Scare Tactics

If a contractor tries to scare you into spending your money, walk away. They’ll usually come up with some story like, “Your eavestroughs or siding are leaking and will cause damage your home or will rot the wood in your walls if you don’t fix it immediately.”  Reputable contractors, even if it’s urgent, will not pressure you with fear.

4. One Day Deal

Bad contractors will pressure you into a sale by saying their quote is only good if you sign right away. This is done to prevent you from shopping around. If a contractor is legitimate and stands behind their business, their price will be honoured for up to 30 days.

5. Big Job – Fast Quote

A large eavestrough, fascia, soffit or siding project requires a thorough inspection to come to an accurate and detailed estimate. A scammer will glance around quickly and come up with an “attractive” price verbally or on a scrap piece of paper. Their intention is to convince you and secure a deposit, which you may never see again.

6. Large Cash Deposits Up Front 

A request for an unusually large amount of money before work starts is a big warning sign. A normal amount is 20-30% up front.   Any more than that is unnecessary. Don’t be fooled by excuses like, “We need to purchase materials first.” Chances are that will be the last you ever see of them. However, if your project is large, then deposits can also be common. But only after you have verified their reputation and have a written contract should you hand over any money.

7. Will Not Provide References

Legitimate contractors will always provide recent references because they have nothing to hide. Plus a happy client is good for business. If a contractor says they don’t reveal past customers due to “privacy” it’s because they very likely have something dirty to hide.

8. No Written Guarantee

A contractor’s word is not a guarantee. No matter how much they promise to stand behind their work, demand a contract and guarantee on paper. Every professional contractor will put their reputation in writing. If they refuse, walk away!

9. Cash Deals

“I’ll give you a great deal if you pay cash.” Cash deals, while cheap, come at a high price. A contractor who works under the table won’t have liability insurance, no license, is not paying taxes and will provide no contract or written guarantee. When a problem occurs you’ll be left out in the expensive cold.

10. Won’t Show You Insurance

A lot can go wrong during a renovation. Property can be damaged and people can get hurt. That’s why professionals carry and proudly display their General Liability Insurance and Workplace Compensation coverage. Any excuse or refusal to disclose insurance coverage is a red flag.

Despite all the warning signs outlined above, the best way to really protect yourself from becoming a victim is to hire a reputable contractor. A professional contractor will not pressure you into a sale and will be able to provide all of the checks above that a criminal will go to great lengths to hide.

Shaun Rickard
President / Owner
Home Doctor


Home Doctor supplies and installs vinyl and aluminum siding, vinyl shakes, siding insulation, seamless aluminum & copper eavestroughs, downpipes, fascia, soffits, capping and custom aluminum trim work in these areas of Toronto and the GTA: East York, Markham, Thornhill, Richmond Hill, Uxbridge, Stouffville, Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Brooklin, and Oshawa.