Icicles on a cape cod style house


Lisa asks a good question about icicles on the north side of her cape–but not on the south.  How could this be.  Well, it’s not possible to say for sure without visiting the house and pulling out some of our diagnostic equipment, but it’s not suprising.  Cape cod style homes look simple, but they actually have some tricky details when the attic space gets finished.  Usually there are what we call “side attics” out toward to eaves of the house, formed by that triangle (when looking at a cross section) of hard to use space.  They are difficult to insulate and air-seal properly, and as a result, they are frequently not sealed well.  This can lead to comfort and other issues.

In Lisa’s case, the icicles are forming more on the north side.  This raises a flag for me that the problem is indeed probably heat loss from inside the house.   The section of Lisa’s attic may look something like this.

Cross-section of a cape attic

Cross-section of a cape attic

The blue triangles represent typical attic space, generally not conditioned.  We see three fairly distinct attic spaces, and that’s why we might find three different patterns.  In the side attic (triangle) on the north side, we might find ducts, heating pipes, bathroom venting issues, or just plain air-leaks and insulation defects that cause heat to get into that triangle and warm the north side of the roof.

The good news is that these problems are generally fixable, and we can greatly reduce the heat loss through this part of the house (and elsewhere while we’re at it!).


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