Duke Southard

Author, Educator, Lecturer

The Ice Dam

A work in progress for me is a series of short stories/vignettes about our move from New Jersey to New Hampshire in 1970. My new teaching job started in January in one of the snowiest, coldest winters and it surely was the snowiest, coldest we had ever experienced, coming from New Jersey. I called it a baptism of fire but in reality it was a baptism of ice. One of the first trials was an ice dam in an old rental house.

Here are some excerpts from that short piece. Most who have lived in central New Hampshire will recognize the issues.

“It’s an ice dam,” the landlord explained. Neither of us Jerseyites had ever heard of an ice dam on a house.  She explained how to solve the problem of water running down the wall in the same bathroom with the infamous frozen pipes. The northwest side of the house never saw the sun in the winter, thus the shed-like roof was susceptible to ice dams forming. When heat from the house escaped, which it did with disheartening regularity through the poorly insulated gaps in the eaves, the deep snow cover melted and water would run underneath the snow to the edge of the roof, where the below freezing temperatures would cause it to freeze. Eventually, this ice would build into a substantial impediment to water from melting snow running off the roof as it was supposed to. The result? A formidable dam of ice would force the water back under the shingles to find any opening into the house, and it did as surely as mice find their way into a house in the fall.

The landlord informed us that the solution was quite simple. “Just break up the dam and your water running down the wall problem is solved,” she said.

She explained where I could find the twenty-four-foot extension ladder in the barn, commenting on the generosity of supplying such special equipment with a rental.  All I had to do was carry the ladder through roughly four feet of snow to the side of house with no walkways, extend it, set it in the snow, and climb up about fifteen feet to where the troublesome ice dam lay waiting, all the while carrying a hatchet or an axe to break through the barrier—an easy fix for a vexing problem.

To be continued . . .

 

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I'm Duke Southard, author, educator, and lecturer.

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