The north country is a winter wonderland this time of year. You drive by and see all the beautiful homes with all the lovely icicles hanging from the homes. Aren’t they Great? NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO they aren’t.
If you have hanging from your eaves, that could mean ice dams or as we call it in the North Country, “The Dam Ice” (spelling changed to protect the innocent) and water backing up into the house. It could also mean poor ventilation in your attic. And no matter how much insulation you have in your attic, if it is poorly vented, ice will form and the damage is not far behind. This is a common type of Upstate NY winter home damage.
Ice dams are dams of ice that form on (usually) the lower edges of the roof. Snow will melt from the area of the roof from the heat of the attic. When it gets to the edge of the roof, it will freeze because it is past the heated edge of the house. The ice will just keep forming into larger and larger masses along the edge of the roof. When the snow and ice melt, it will be held back by the ice dam and then will run under the shingles. Roofing shingles are designed to shed water. They are not water proof.
How to prevent ice dams:
Vent your attic – There should be venting from the soffits (low venting) and ridge vents (high vents). Gable vents are also acceptable if they are high enough and large enough. But I have seen attics that have problems if there are both ridge and gable vents. They sometimes keep the soffit vents from working properly.
Insulation – 12″ of loose fill or fiberglass batts is the current standard.
Plug all attic air leaks – Make sure the bathroom vents do not duct into the attic. Plug all leaks around lights, wire runs, around chimneys and other places where heat from the house can escape easily into the attic. CAUTION!!!! – You cannot insulate around some light fixtures (certain recessed lights). Check with the manufacturer. If you are not sure, contact an electrician. Insulating over some fixtures can be a fire hazard.
Venting your attic will also prevent mold from growing in that area.
If you can’t achieve all of the above, you may have to resort to shoveling the roof or melting or chipping the ice off the roof. Nobody enjoys that particular job.
So the next time you are walking around your house this winter, take a look and see if you have any icicycles or dam ice, I mean ice dams. If you do, enjoy the beauty of it, swear a little but don’t let the kids hear you and then see what you can do the fix the problem.
Enjoy the winter. My snowshoes are ready to go and the skis are tuned up. Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow.
Happy Holidays everyone.