Look at the pretty icicles!  If they are hanging from your home, they spell TROUBLE! Most icicles are caused by roof top snow melting and re-freezing.  Ice dams occur when the snow on your roof is melted by heat from the house.  As the water drains towards the edge, ice dams form as the water touches aluminum at the drip edge or gutter surface.  So what’s the big deal? Damage to your beautiful home, that’s the big deal!  Ice dams can possibly rip off your gutters, loosen your shingles or send water down on your ceiling or walls.  The most extreme risk is that falling ice can kill!  All of these problems can of course be fixed, but as they say, an ounce of prevention with worth a pound of cure!

In this two part series we will be covering what can be done to prevent damage from ice dams.

  1. Proper attic ventilation.  Many times we see ice dams forming due to improper insulation installation.  If your insulation goes all the way to the edge maybe your roof vents aren’t doing their job.  Insulation up against the underside of the roof will prevent airflow.  A ridge vent, combined with soffit vents keep the air flowing under the roof sheathing.  This is important in summer as well as winter.  In the summer, a roof shingle will last much longer if the heat is not allowed to build up underneath it.  In the winter, you want the underside of the roof to be cold, so the snow doesn’t melt.  Proper proportioning of the size of the ridge vent to the soffit vents is also key to keep the air moving.  Tip- If possible, check to see if the underside of your roof deck is clear from insulation or other obstructions. You may even see daylight coming through the soffit vent, which confirms there are no obstructions.
  2. Make sure you don’t have warm air escaping to the attic area.  This is a classic way to cut your heating bills as well.  Many times, your access point to the unheated attic is the culprit.  This can be a door to a stairwell, or a pull-down staircase, or just a panel you remove to climb through.  New weather stripping can cut down on a lot of heat loss.  Another source, not as common, but even more problematic are whole house fans.  If you have a whole house fan, make sure it is covered with some form of insulation. Tip- look at your access to the attic with the same critical eye you would have for an outside door that was leaking air, your attic may also be under-insulated.
  3. Other common sources of heat to the attic: Do you have any canister lights?  Old style lights can put out a lot of heat, and even if you have some insulation over them a lot of heat escapes.  Switching over to LED lights can greatly cut down on the heat and your electric bills.   Where do your bath vents route to? They should go outside, through an insulated duct.  More than once we have found a lazy original builder who just dumped the hot wet air into the attic causing black mold and other problems, or maybe they did run the duct up to a vent in the roof but didn’t bother to insulate that duct.  Tip-if you have the space, more insulation is always good, but especially over hot canister lights (make sure they are rated I.C. first) and around vent ducts.

If you need any advice, inspections or help, with ice dams or other projects, don’t hesitate to contact Jeff Tallon Enterprises.  What can we do for you?