A Hampden man clears snow from the roof of his home in January 2017. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

This story was originally published in January 2022.

Temperature changes affect more than just your wardrobe — they can affect your home.

When temperatures swing from below zero temperatures to mild, above-freezing highs in a matter of days, homeowners should look out for different issues related to freezing and thawing. Moreover, homeowners can take preventative steps when wacky weather is on the way.

Curt Goldsberry, owner of the Town Hill Handyman in Bar Harbor, explained that buildings are made up of thousands of different materials, all of which expand at different rates at different temperatures.

“These differences cause buildings to have maintenance issues over time,” Goldsberry said. “I believe that rapid and more frequent temperature changes exacerbate this issue. In my work, I see this all the time with drywall seams opening up, cracks in tile floors, trim around doors and windows.”

Reese Perkins, owner of Perkins Home Services in Bangor, said that the “number one enemy” of any building is water — particularly during fluctuating temperatures, when the water freezes and thaws repeatedly.

“If water seeps into any cracks in the building and then freezes, it expands and begins to damage the area around the crack,” Perkins said. “If this happens repeatedly, even areas as tough as concrete can be damaged.”

Freeze and thaw cycles can also cause ice dams on roofs.

“Ice dams are caused by the repeated warming of the snow on a roof, and then freezing as it gets to the edge of the roof, which is typically cooler,” Perkins said. “As the ice develops, it may begin to push under the shingles, and then into the warmer attic space where it melts and creates a leak.”

Fluctuating temperatures can also cause condensation to build up in places such as windows and doors. When the temperature warms up and then cools off, the glass surfaces on windows and doors often cool down more rapidly than the inside air. The moisture in the interior air condenses on the surface, creating frost that can damage the caulking and trim. As that frost warms and melts, the water can cause staining and rot on the sills below.

“This also happens on the underside of the roof in the attic, although most homeowners don’t go up there and may never see it until it is too late,” Perkins said. “This condensation can cause mold and rot. A moldy attic is very expensive to fix.”

In order to prevent the freezing and thawing water from destroying your home, Perkins said to keep all areas of the exterior and roof properly flashed and sealed.  

“Always check for cracks in the fall before it gets too cold and learn to use a caulking gun,” Perkins said. “It is an easy preventative.”

Perkins said that preventing condensation on windows is best remedied by adding a storm window or replacing old windows with new double pane windows. Condensation in attics can be prevented by having good insulation and ventilation in the attic spaces and directing all vents to the exterior. Similar to attic condensation, ice dams are best prevented by installing proper insulation and ventilation in the attic.

If you are in a pinch, though, Perkins said that heat tape installation is the quickest and easiest short term solution.

“Avoid hacking away at the ice with an axe as I did once because they can damage the roof shingles,” Perkins said.  

However, if things are getting really hairy, contacting a professional is your best bet.

“The only thing [you] can do is address each issue as it comes up and then choose the material and contractors who know how to do the repair in such a way that it won’t occur again,” Goldsberry said.