Winter is a tough season. Not only for driving, but also for your home. Those same ice issues
that can cause an obstacle course of pot holes can also cause problems on your house.
are a major cause of late winter leaks in homes. Over the winter months, ice can build up in gutters, around chimneys and along roof lines where they meet house walls. The ice dams
are caused by the constant freezing and thawing of water as it runs down the roof line. As the ice continues to freeze it “grows”. Over time, it works its way under shingles, and behind siding, just waiting for the next heat wave where it can melt into your house. It may seem like there is nothing you can do to stop it, but there are actually a few simple things you can do to try and prevent ice dams
from forming (or at least from growing so big that they cause a problem).
The first suggestion is to try and pull excess show off the roof line. Keeping the gutters free of snow and water will keep the ice from being able to form. This may not be an easy task, especially if you have a two story home and cannot easily reach the roof line. Also, who are we kidding, who wants to drag an extension ladder out in the middle of winter to shovel snow from a roof?
Below are some more realistic things that you can check for:
Make sure that your attic is properly insulated. Keeping the proper insulation in your attic will prevent heat from escaping through the house and into the attic. This heat loss on the bottom side of the roof is what can cause the snow on the roof to melt. As the water runs down the roof line it freezes again at the eave and then can build up. Each municipality has its own codes regarding what is required of insulation, but a good rule is to have at least an R-30 insulation or at least 10” - 12” of blown in insulation
Make sure that your attic is properly ventilated. In a properly installed roof system, the bottom side of the roof sheathing will be the same temperature as the top. The eave vents in the soffits of your home draw in air and it escapes through the ridge vents at the top of the roof. This constant cycling of air keeps the temperature relatively consistent. When the roof is not vented properly, and the interior temperature gets too warm, again, you get a melting of the snow that will freeze as it goes down the roof line. Check your home to make sure the vents in your attic are in place and not blocked. This will ensure that air can flow freely.
Exhaust vents should be vented directly to the outside. I work on a lot of old homes doing bathroom remodels. The one constant thing that I find is that he old exhaust fans (if there even is one) are vented right into the attic. This actually causes two problems. The first is that you are blowing warm air directly into the attic (again warming the bottom side of the roof). The second problem can be mold. If the attic is not properly vented, then that warm humid air can have no place to go. When it sits in the dark attic, mold can form. You should always make sure that all exhaust vents in your home go directly to the outside.
These are just a few items that you can check to help prevent ice dams. In extremely cold winters, it can be impossible to completely stop them from happening, but hopefully these few items will help you out this winter and into the future.