Keeping up with Curb Appeal: Preventing Ice Dams in Your Attic
While we’ve been enjoying a relatively mild winter (so far!), ice and snow are bound to make an appearance before the daffodils return. A white coating can be beautiful, covering the region in sparkle and shine, but ice build-up can pose a serious threat to your home.
When we think of ice build-up, we often think of tree branches giving way under the weight and coming down onto homes, cars and streets. But ice can also wreak havoc on roofs, gutters and other drainage systems resulting in significant damage to any home.
Specifically, ice dams can form at the edge of a roof and prevent melting snow/water and ice from draining off properly. This water backs up behind the dam and can leak into your home and cause damage to the roof, insulation, walls, ceilings, and other areas. In short, ice dams can be expensive, especially when not quickly detected.
Preventing Ice Dams
Thankfully, ice dams can be prevented rather easily. It’s all about maintaining an even temperature between the roof and the eaves. This is accomplished by paying attention to likely trouble spots, resulting in lower energy costs year-round.
The first thing to do is to check your seals. Be sure caulked areas still hold their integrity. For seal ducts around chimneys, make sure that all materials used to secure the flash are R-rated and the fire-safe.
Next, update your insulation anywhere you feel it is lacking. Older homes may have lighting fixtures, such as can lights, that generate heat, causing a fire hazard. This lighting should be replaced with sealed “IC” fixtures. It’s also likely that an attic might need additional insulation as building codes have evolved since your home was built.
Heat also escapes through the attic hatch or whole-house fan and can be covered with weatherstripped caps. Ensure that all ducts ventilate through the roof and not into soffits, a condition that can cause uneven heat distribution.
Fixing the Problem
If you discover you have an ice dam, there are some steps you can take. It may sound counter-intuitive, but a box fan positioned to blow air where water is leaking can stop the water by freezing it in place. You will mitigate additional damage.
You can also use a roof rake to pull snow off the roof while remaining safely on the ground. Another trick is to fill pantyhose with ice melt and lay it on the roof across the ice dam, and overhanging the gutter. This will create a channel for the water to flow off the roof.
Avoid chipping the ice dam with a chisel or shovel. Not only can you damage the roof, but it’s dangerous to climb a ladder in icy conditions. Be sure to engage a professional rather than risk injury or damage to your home.
It’s always easier (and cheaper!) to prevent problems before they arise. If you suspect you may have an issue, or the roof and attic haven’t been inspected in years, it may be time to call a pro. A roofing consultation may be time well spent just for peace of mind.