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Ask the Remodeler: Rubber roofs, ice dams, and antique homes

Ask the Expert Home Improvement
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Q. When ice dams form, we have a leak that comes down off the edge of the roof and into the kitchen above a small window. The pitch of the roof is “shallow-ish,’’ which may be a part of the problem. A few years ago, we had someone install rubber flashing under a new shingle roof, but the problem persists. A roofer is now telling us that we need to install a plain rubber roof, something that makes me shudder. Our house is a beautiful 1787 Cape, and I think a rubber roof would look awful. Is this truly our only alternative?

S.L.A., Scituate

A. You are right. A rubber roof would look horrible on what sounds like a beautiful vintage home! Please don’t do that.

It sounds like they used an ice and water shield under the roof shingles, which can help. Guessing from your description, if the roof is that shallow, ice dams have a much easier time traveling backward up the roof and probably right past the ice and water shield.

I would go after the root of all ice dams, heat loss. The key to stopping ice dams from forming is to keep the heat in your home and not let it escape through the eave space and melt the snow on your roof. A great way to start is to have an energy audit done on the house. A qualified company can pinpoint heat loss very accurately using an infrared camera. Armed with that information, you would then have an insulation company make recommendations on how best to insulate the area between the ceiling and the roof. Capes are tricky because they don’t have attics, and getting access to those tight areas is hard. If at all possible, spray-foam insulation placed in the eave areas where ice dams form would get you the most bang for your buck. The rest of the roof area toward the middle of the house could get away with blown-in insulation.

 

Q. We have new white oak wood floors with a natural seal, and they look incredible. One of our cats stained an area in the bedroom. It is now a very dark black. Is there a way to fix this round black spot without sanding? The flooring has four coats of sealer.

P.B.

A. Before sanding, you can try using small amounts of hydrogen peroxide and a clean cloth to work out the stain. Other remedies include vinegar and water and even baking soda and water. The trouble is that the staining probably goes deeper, so you never get it all out. At that point, light sanding and spot finishing will almost certainly be required. Sometimes adding a little stain will help the sanded patch match the floor around it.

Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter @globehomes.