Posts Tagged ‘ice dam’

What can you do about Ice Dams and Roof Damage?

January 17, 2014

iceEven though we’ve had a warm spell, and the Polar Vortex seems long ago winter’s not over!  It’s still that time of year that freezing and thawing in many parts of the country means ice dams.   We have a great resource found here that will answer your questions about common household problems including ice dams.

There are some solutions to take care of them immediately but know the long term solutions are not from the outside but from the inside of your home.  It has to do with proper air sealing and insulation.

Ice on your roof may be normal, in fact sometimes it’s unavoidable. Don’t accept roof damage, dangerous icicles and roof rakes as just another fact of winter.  Have your home looked at by an energy auditor that can recommend solutions for the long term.



Ice Dams and Chainsaws or You May be Right, They May be Crazy….

January 29, 2013

Don’t try this at home!  Chain saws and snow blowers don’t belong on roofs, and I would suggest you don’t either, especially in the winter. These guys are clearly…ahem, professionals.

One obvious down side would be landing in your living room snow blower and all.  Preventative maintenance is the way to go.  What does that mean? Start with some tips in our fact sheet on ice dams. You could also check out past articles such as this one in the Wall Street Journal .  It’s that season again so be safe and be smart,  take steps this year, with a home energy assessment and make sure you air seal and insulate right to avoid the problem in the future.



Crawlspaces don’t have to be stinky!

March 21, 2011
Dead Rabbit in Crawlpace

Often a smelly crawlspace is caused mold or mildew. Sometimes, by dead animals. Occasionally, both.

While it is snowing AGAIN today in parts of the Northeast, many folks are hoping the ice-damming season is over.  (Smart folks who recognized the problem are looking ahead to prepare for next year, though.  Remember, ice damming is only one symptom of a year-round problem.) 

Meanwhile, crawlspaces in the Southeast are already ramping up to reach their full stinky potential.  I’ve been in some that literally made me sick.  And many people live in houses that are well connected to that wet, smelly, allergen producing mold farms.

Typical Poor Crawlspace Installation

If your crawlspace looks like this, it probably isn't working well

Let me state the obvious.  Moldy, stinky crawlspaces aren’t good.  But as with ice damming, the smell is a symptom.  The problem is poor moisture control and energy detailing.  Some of it stems from older building codes that got it exactly wrong and required counterproductive “ventilation”.  And a lot stems from unwise material choices and poor attention to installation.  (As Jason hinted at a couple of weeks ago, they’re building homes faster than we can fix them!)

Mold and mildew  in the crawlspace are signs that you could be in for more trouble, including rotting wood framing that can put your whole house in jeopardy, and critters including rodents and snakes, and high utility bills.  Much of this is driven by designs and construction practices that don’t control moisture.

A clean, properly sealed and insulated crawlspace can tranform your home.

Fortunately, there are good solutions, and the right folks to deliver them.  For example, the team at Energy Efficient Solutions, a GreenHomes America location in Yorktown, Virginia sees this all the time—they live in stinky crawlspace country.  But they’ve been doing an excellent job transforming people’s homes from the ground up.

A good crawlspace encapsulation, controlling water and moisture, using a strong vapor barrier on the ground, and sealing and insulating the crawlspace walls, make the crawlspace the foundation of a well-performing home as it should be, rather than a nightmare below the floorboards the plagues your home constantly.  The benefits are amazing.  You can virtually eliminate mold and mildew and the smells and the rot that accompany them, make the space less interesting for rodents, increase the comfort and livability of your home, and save money by reducing your utility bills.

If you’ve got a stinky crawlspace, cold floors in the winter, high utility bills, or musty odors in your home, you do NOT have to live with it.  Start with a good assessment of your home and let us fix the problems!


Icicle and ice damming problems–it’s déjà vu all over again!

February 2, 2011

GreenHomes; Roof IceIt’s a bit like Groundhog Day, that charming movie starring Bill Murray.  (And incidentally, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow today, and thus we’re due for an early spring—hard to believe given the weather over the last two days.)   Just like BM’s character reliving Groundhog Day again and again, we keep seeing homes with icicle and ice damming problems over and over.  And we keep seeing some short-sighted “solutions”.

We’ll likely see a lot of problems over the next week or so with all the snow that’s been dumped across the Midwest and Northeast in the last couple of days. 

And so it’s interesting to see an article in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, Homeowners Beware:  After Snow, the Ice Dam Cometh.

big icicles; roof iceReporter Gwendolyn Bounds points to some of the risks to your home from ice damage and leaks.  (And the danger from falling ice or falling off your roof if you’re foolish enough to climb up threre to try to shovel it.  Don’t get up on your snow covered roof—it’s very dangerous, and you could get seriously injured or die.)

It was interesting to see some of the solutions offered:

  • Pay someone to remove ice from your roof.  Cost $200-$300 per hour!  Perhaps $1,000 per instance.   And keep losing heat from your home.  And next big snow storm, do it again.  And so on, and so on.  I guess that’s OK, if you’ve got money to burn.
  • Pay to install electric ice melting cables.  Hmmm, send a lot of money to the utility to heat your home, create an ice problem on your roof, and then pay somebody to install electric cables so that you can send more money to the utility.  Sounds like a good idea…for the utility.  (BTW, don’t forget to turn the cables off and not let them run all summer.)
  • Or, fix the underlying problem so that you don’t get the ice build-up to begin with.  And save energy and lower your utility bills permanently.  And make your home more comfortable, cozy, with few drafts.

OK, I’m biased.  But there really only seems like one solution that makes any sense in the long term.  It’s too late for this storm.  So keep your fingers crossed that the ice doesn’t hurt anyone or lead to a roof leak.  But learn more about the real causes of big icicles and ice damming, and take the steps to have a good home energy assessment and air-seal and insulate your attic properly to avoid the problem—and save a lot of money that you currently pay the utility—in the future.


More DC-area ice dams

February 12, 2010

Here’s one from Patricia Plympton taken before the mid-week storm that added more snow.  Notice the heavy buildup of ice.  The new snow and water melting behind it spell potential trouble in the coming days.


February 24, 2009

Jay Romano wrote a great column in his New York Times home improvement series, “The Fix” last week addressing ice dam solutions. I think it only goes half way, though, since the article offers roof shoveling and heat tape as partial solutions. The truth is, only with a well-sealed and well-insulated attic can you reliably and permanently control the expensive damage wrought by ice dams and avoid unnecessarily high utility bills.

Here’s the thing about raking snow—it’s only potentially effective if you decide that you have an ice-damming problem the day of a big snowstorm.  You can do it yourself by buying a snow rake, or hire someone to do it for you each time you get a snowfall. But do you really want to add shoveling the roof to your existing shoveling chores, or add to your current snow removal bills? And just shoveling the snow off the first two or three feet of the roof isn’t going to do it: the show further up the roof can melt down and create dams.

Ditto with heat tape, which not only costs $300-600 according to Mr. Romano, but must then be installed and can be very expensive to run.  (Set an electric heater outside and then tell me about your electric bill!)  Electric heat tape requires fasteners, which penetrate the shingles to hold it in place, and can damage shingles.  And unfortunately, many people let heat tape run even when not needed – when there is no snow on the roof (or, yikes, all summer long!), for example – causing even higher bills.

The rigid foam method Tom Silva recommends, in which the attic is insulated all the way up to the peak, between the rafters, can work—but air sealing along with it is critical, and probably beyond what most homeowners can tackle solo. For twice the price of the materials, which are expensive in and of themselves, a homeowner could have closed cell polyurethane insulation installed (that is, with all labor included) to an equivalent depth, which will do the trick. But many homeowners don’t use the attic as living space. If you rarely venture up there, you can insulate just as well, if not better, for a fraction of the cost.  A well-sealed and well-insulated flat attic, with good attic ventilation—of the kind we do every day—will outperform Mr. Silva’s approach. (Again—it depends on whether and how you’re using the attic—mine is conditioned living space so the flat attic treatment was out.)

Now, go outside, and take that heat tape off!  (And then call someone to insulate and air-seal your attic!)
Stay warm,

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