Call Us Today 630.320.9676

Ice Damming Leads to a Structural Surprise at Orchard Gate

When a townhome community weathers a heavy snowstorm and a polar vortex, and then reports icicles 8-10 feet long stretching from roof to ground, the association has a plethora of issues to deal with at once. At Orchard Gate HOA in Westmont, Illinois, severe weather in December 2018 led to just those conditions. FirstService Residential brought in a team including experts from Hammerbrush Painting & Construction and FirstService Project Management (FSPM) to mitigate the problems.

Orchard Gate was built in the mid-1980s as a homeowner’s association of 33 buildings containing 182 townhomes. Before the severe weather in 2018, another roofing contractor had recently replaced the roofs of the buildings using proper ice and water shield material to reduce the risk of ice dams. However, the ice dams occurred again, despite the new roofs, and the dams were made much worse by the volume of snow atop the roofs.

Diagnosing the Problem

Work crews began chipping the ice away and removing the long icicles from the facia, gutters and downspouts. Underneath, ice dams had caused water infiltration that re­quired residents to file insurance claims. Some residents in end units experienced frozen granite countertops and windowsills, issues they had been bothered by for some time. But as the teams continued analyzing the roof and exterior, they were shocked at what they found. The homes were built with insufficient, low-quality insulation along with inadequate 1/8” foil backed sheathing that had begun to deteriorate.

FSPM did a pre-construction analysis to determine the scope, project phases and budget, starting with the homes that had the worst damage. Then they created a request for proposal and reviewed all submitted bids to provide the Board with their recommendation for the awarded contractor, paired with over­sight from FSPM.

The association was somewhat apprehen­sive about hiring a project management firm, but the magnitude of the problem and the rapidly increasing scope made it clear that a project leader was necessary. “On some proj­ects, when coordination and project management play such an important role, there’s only one right choice,” said Zack Dubs, project lead. “The Board and residents need a professional team working toward their best interest to ensure all details are managed properly and the phases are coordinated effectively.” This frees up the property manager to handle day-to-day business while the project is underway.

The Project Work Stages

The construction work required the following phases of work, expected to be completed over three years:

  • Removal of all siding, sheathing, insulation, shutters, trim, soffits and gutters
  • Install new insulation and ¾” OSB sheathing
  • Install new vinyl siding, shutters and LP trim
  • Remove all debris and schedule landscaping repairs
  • All trim, vinyl siding, board and batten were color-matched and pre-finished to avoid unnecessary painting and maintenance

To make the project more complicated, each building chose different shutter, trim, and siding colors. FSPM had to log all product and material selections, as well as check availability and lead times for each to ensure it fit within the established schedule. Once submittals were approved and material was released, FSPM posted notices throughout the community to alert the residents of the upcoming work.

“A pilot building was done so the engineer and inspector could see the finished product and approve the means and methods to install before moving forward with the other 32 buildings,” said Jeanette Catellier, Director of Client Relations at Hammerbrush Painting & Construction.

“This pilot building was completed before the winter and FSPM received no complaints from the homeowners. Residents noted that their HVAC units were turning on less frequently and they noticed a reduction in their heating bills.”

With the approval of the project engineer and village inspector, the team was then ready to start the full-scale upgrades to all the community association buildings.

Though the original plans called for the work to be completed in three years, with the approval of the Board, FSPM worked with Hammerbrush to determine what could be done to complete the project faster to avoid additional ice damming. The decision was made to add additional manpower and modify staging so that each crew could work more efficiently. This method created a bigger footprint in the community, as they were now working on 5 buildings at a given time, but with the proper communication, the residents were accepting of the team’s new approach.

The increased crews and expert planning allowed them to complete the work in a year and a half.

“This acceleration gave the community many benefits,” said Dubs. “Residents spent less time navigating around dumpsters and material while getting to enjoy energy savings sooner. Reducing our time on site also minimized the disruption to the overall community that a project of this nature inevitably brings. We were able to work within our budget while keeping up with the debris removal and housekeeping tasks that can be the downfall of a community wide capital project such as this.”

Success Factors Abound

There were several success factors that led to efficient, quicker than expected resolution. Most notably, the Board members and Hammerbrush crew leaders raved about the effective communication from FSPM. The project leader held weekly meeting with the association board members, contractors, and engineer to address any issues in the field and refine their process. FSPM also kept in constant communication with residents to update them as to when they could expect work to start on their buildings. Expert detail management made sure the colors, resident needs, damages and other factors were carefully documented and addressed. This oversight was achieved by appointing a full-time superintendent to be on site each day until the work was completed.

This $3 million project was financed via a FirstService Finance and Insurance (FFI) loan in lieu of a special assessment, since the community was already under a special assessment for other necessary improvements. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget with $12,000 in unused contingency funds being returned to the association. Board members and residents alike were happy to report that the problems that had plagued their community for so many years have not returned since the project was completed.


Article featured in the April 2022 publication of Condo Lifestyles
By Angela Duea, FirstService Residential

Editorial Note
Kristin Ward, FirstService Residential
Jeanette Catellier, Hammerbrush Painting & Construction
Kristy Dalby, G3 Construction

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up to receive Hammerbrush news, project updates and special offers