Roofing repair... In February... In New England...
February 10, 2014 7:24 AM   Subscribe

I was up in the attic the other day, putting away some stuff, and I noticed a delightfully large amount of mold going down either side of on section of the roof. Joy. The question now is exactly what to do, with a roof that obviously needs repair, in February, in New England.

The mold is in one section of the room, both sides of the triangle, but that's the only place it seems to be. Upon further inspection, we can tell there is dripping down the nails holding everything together and some bowing of the wood we can see in a couple places. Obviously, this is a call a roofer issue. BUT, the roof is covered in snow, and as we live just north of Boston and it is February, and we are supposed to get more winter weather this week. Which leads to my series of questions:

1. Are we going to be able to get a roofer this time of year?
2. Is it going to be insanely more expensive than other times of year?
3. And if we can't get it done now (for whatever reason), what can we do as a stop gap measure? Our attic is just storage space, but we do have two kids (4.5 and almost 2) living in the house, that I'd rather not poison with mold.
4. Is this something my homeowner's insurance is going to help out with (I have no clue if this is related to any of the storms we have had), or is that not worth the higher rates?
And finally, 5. Anyone know any good roofers in the Woburn, MA area?
posted by katers890 to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Best answer: You should be more concerned about the wood framing than the mold. Mold is not in and of itself an emergency; you (and your kids!) are surrounded by mold and you consume and inhale it daily. So unless it is toxic black mold, I wouldn't be worried, though you can remove non-toxic mold yourself with a borax solution.

Personally, I would call a couple of local roofing companies and get them to come out, make suggestions, and give you a quote. They will be able to tell you how urgent this is.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:45 AM on February 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is so super duper non-urgent, I would absolutely just get quotes and start looking for a firm you will hire after the thaw.

Bleach or borax for the mold in the meantime.
posted by jbenben at 7:58 AM on February 10, 2014

Could the dripping down the nails actually be from condensation rather than coming in from the outside? In other words, you have warm, moist air from the living area of the house getting into the attic, and condensing on the nails which are conducting the cold in from the outside? I noticed drips when I was up in my attic last month during the ridiculous cold we had.

Agree with everyone else that this is most likely not an insanely urgent issue, but would also call a couple of local roofers and see what they say. I don't have any to recommend because I haven't had to deal with that issue... yet.
posted by neilbert at 8:36 AM on February 10, 2014

You should have no problems getting quotes year-round. (Think about this: what if a roof springs a major leak in bad weather.)

There's a roofing contractor here in Maryland who is currently running ads on the radio to the effect of "No one replaces their roof in February! So I can keep my crew employed, please have your roof done and wow deep discounts." I used to live in Massachusetts, so yeah, I can attest that winters up by you are more harsh than they are here, and roofers up there may be less likely to want to work this time of year other than for emergency jobs.

I had my roof replaced when I lived in Central Mass, and I was rather happy with the work he did and his price. However, since their company name was "Worcester County Roofing Specialists," I'm not sure they service the Woburn area. Also, this was about 6-8 years ago.
posted by tckma at 10:21 AM on February 10, 2014

Homeowner's Insurance likely won't help out with this unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was ONLY related to the weather (and not "well, the roof is about 15 years old and starting to wear...")
posted by tckma at 10:25 AM on February 10, 2014

Best answer: If the roof is covered with snow, the most likely culprit is ice dams. Other possibilities are just plain old leaking or condensation from inside the house (unlikely if this is only one section, unless other section has insulation and this doesn't).

If you post some pictures, people may be able to help you better.

Step one is to remove the snow and ice from the roof so that the leaking stops, especially if ice dams are the issue. Ask around if you don't want to do it yourself; there is always someone who offers this service.

Ice dams happen when the bottom of the snowpack on top of your roof melts (due to heat from the house going through the roof). Then that water runs down the roof until it reaches the eaves, where it once again freezes (no more heat from the house once you reach the eaves). The snow continues melting, but there is nowhere for the water to go because the ice dam blocks the path downwards - and so water is forced through the roof.

Then you can give yourselves some breathing room. Remove the mold, let the framing dry out, and start getting some quotes to fix the roof. If you don't have insulation and ventilation above the insulation to prevent this, now is the time to look into that as well.
posted by ssg at 12:49 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

1. Are we going to be able to get a roofer this time of year?
2. Is it going to be insanely more expensive than other times of year?
Not insanely but it will be more expensive considering the snow and that composition roofing is difficult to work with in cold weather and "lays" better in warm weather. I would delay major repairs here.
3. And if we can't get it done now (for whatever reason), what can we do as a stop gap measure? Our attic is just storage.
As others have said pictures would be helpful here. Are your ceiling joist bays insulated? If so airflow is the enemy of mold and condensation its friend so I would check the ventilation. In any case I wouldn't be apprehensive at this point.

Also I, along with a lot of people, worked gutting and rebuilding houses in post-Katrina Louisiana. Mold isn't necessarily toxic, though some people are allergic, and spores are utterly ubiquitous.
posted by vapidave at 8:04 PM on February 10, 2014

Response by poster: So we have some small ice dams, but nothing that is specifically localized to where we saw the mold/buckling. We should get these cleaned off, but we don't have the implements to do it from the ground yet and haven't been motivated enough to actually walk around up on the roof to clear it off.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, I haven't trudged up with a camera to take any. All the insulation is actually on the "floor" of the attic. It's that sheets of stuff you roll out. The ceiling is just beams/joists and roofing underlay wood. It's this plywood (I think I haven't investigated exactly what the wood under the roof really is) that's got the mold on it. The roof has the top ventilation (at the peak and the big vents on the ends) but doesn't have the small vents along the overhang. But there is nothing actually up against the moldy wood to prevent the airflow, and the attic is rather large and mostly sparsely populated with crap.

But it sounds like getting rid of the snow/ice at least in the area of this, and using bleach/borax to kill what we have up there is the plan for now. And then to look into getting roofers out for quotes and then repair once the spring comes.

Thanks all!
posted by katers890 at 8:13 AM on February 11, 2014

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