Now that we are in the throes of winter and have had our share of snow-I think there is at least 12-14" of snow in our own yard, there is always that chance of warm-up which can create a multitude of problems from flooding to ice dams. I was in our local service station just yesterday and another customer was telling us how her roof leaked into her home down through the walls and it is a huge mess. Why did this happen? Because of an ice dam.
Remember when you were a child and you thought that all those long, shiny icicles were the coolest things you ever saw hanging down from everyone's roof? Well, as an adult, although they may have some semblance of beauty, they can represent a real problem. Some icicles can be so heavy and so large that they actually tear a hole in your roof or severely damage your gutters.
Why do ice dams and icicles form? Because as the weather goes from consistent weeks of snow and freezing temperatures to melt down during the day and then freezing again at night, ice forms at the edge of the roof and blocks the melting snow. So, what can you do about all of this? Be prepared-as we all know, winter continues to show up each and every year.
First, make sure the temperature in your attic remains as close to the outside air temperature as possible, or the snow will continue to melt. All that water cannot escape any other way then finding other paths which usually end up inside rather than outside your home. Make sure your attic is well-insulated and there are no leaks which could cause warmer air to infiltrate the attic. Also make sure any type of fan is vented through the roof and not into the attic-this is cause for concern not just for ice dams, but mold and mildew as well. Also ensure the soffits are not blocked with insulation so proper air flow occurs. Make sure the insulation in your attic is the proper amount and proper rating for your area
I have had several transactions over the past several years with extensive mold issues in the attic. Moreover, the mold was discovered for the first time by the home inspector as part of the transaction - not the place you want to be as a buyer or seller. Having a qualified roofer inspect your roof from inside your attic every few years to ensure that rodents haven't setup shop, leaks are not occurring, insulation is in good working order, proper air flow is occurring, and signs of mold are not appearing - all this can go a long way to avoiding costly mitigation if a problem is uncovered after the fact.
Secondly, after Fall is finally over and the last leaf has been released from the trees, have your gutters cleaned out. This is such an easy thing to do, but yet easily forgotten by homeowners. You are surely asking for trouble if you start the winter off with gutters full of leaves. Even though you may like long, cool-looking icicles, you really don't want them! You also don't want damaged gutters or water coming through your walls-CLEAN THE GUTTERS!
Lastly, when the snow starts piling up, make sure you keep it away from the roof edge and gutters. I have heard there are actually roof rakes for this purpose, although I have never seen one. What I definitely know works, are the snow guards that are commonly seen on homes with slate roofs. We had a home with a slate roof and never had a problem with ice dams or icicles forming. Unfortunately, shingle roofs do not include these and YOU need to be the "guard."
Buyers: If you are viewing homes in the winter, you may not be able to see the roof as it may be covered with snow. However, you can look at walls, ceilings in various places in the upper level of the home and look for tell-tale signs of moisture intrusion. Do you see any patch work that has been done? Recent re-painting? While this MUST be disclosed on the four-page State of Ohio Residential Property Disclosure Form, and should be discovered by a competent home inspector, doing your own due diligence if you find that you are interested in a particular home can give you a clue as to how the sellers have cared for their property.
Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Don't wait for something to happen and then cry me a river, which is exactly what will be flowing from your roof into your home! Be prepared and be proactive!
Content and photo copyrighted by Chris Olsen and protected by CopyScape.