Joel Showalter works full time in the roofing trade and, in recent days, part time as a shrink.
“Clients just want to know that their home is not going to get completely damaged, because you feel like there is a leak happening over here and all of a sudden another one starts in the back of your house,” said Showalter, an account executive with Matthews Roofing, 3737 W. North Ave. “We reassure them whether this is a one-time event or whether measures need to be taken to alleviate the water behind the ice dam.”
As gutters and roofs sag — and occasionally buckle — under the weight of the accumulated snow and ice, roofing and restoration companies are being flooded with calls from anxious homeowners.
They may have to wait.
“We’re swamped,” said Mike Evans, a foreman with Shield Roofing & Construction, 6332 S. Archer Ave.
Evans, 40, said this is the busiest season he can recall for ice dams and roof repairs.
Evans said his company has been receiving about 150 calls a day for the past week from anxious homeowners.
“It’s more work than we can handle,” Evans said.
Of the 14 roofing companies the Chicago Sun-Times called Monday, almost none answered with a live employee. “Due to the overwhelming requests for ice-dam removal services, please emails us at ...,” went one voicemail.
Calls for service run the gamut from people wanting ice and snow removed to prevent leaks into their homes to folks needing emergency repairs.
“It’s been crazy. There have been a lot of collapsed ceilings, a lot of collapsed drywall, gutters ripping off,” Evans said.
Compounding the problems for homeowners is that many roofing companies are operating with skeletal crews.
“Wintertime, we don’t keep that many guys around,” said Tony Stevens, owner of Crown Roofing and Masonry, with locations on the Northwest Side and in Arlington Heights. “Some guys are out of town. We don’t work that much in the winter.”
Showalter, who has been in the roofing business for 35 years, said Matthews is operating with about one quarter of the staff it typically has in the spring and summer.
He said Matthews is doing its best to get to clients as quickly as possible. When ice buildup is particularly bad, rather than remove it, workers cut “troughs” into it to give melting water a way to trickle off the roof. If they can’t get to a homeowner who is watching water leak through the ceiling, he recommends taking what some might view as drastic action.
“Drilling a hole through their drywall so that the water comes through one area because when [it] comes in, it usually spreads out over a large portion of the ceiling and you want to stop that from happening,” Showalter said.
Showalter said he tries to reassure clients that what’s happened this winter is a “once-in-a-30-year thing.”
“I would assume that their roof is safe and sound, and I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said. “If you made it through this without any ice or water backing up and coming into your house, you’re probably pretty safe.”