Jack Frost is on his way and it’s time to get your home ready for the winter chills. One prevalent winter problem that can cause damage to your roofing is the formation of ice dams. Luckily, there are a range of precautions you can take to prevent the ice dams from damaging your shingles this winter.
What are ice dams?
During the cold winter months, small gaps in insulation can let warm indoor air out. This heats your roof which, in turn, melts snow that has gathered there. If the melted snow has nowhere to go, water can pool on the roof during the day. When temperatures drop at night that water freezes and, as it expands, it pushes up under your roof shingles. This can leads to leaks, water damage and the formation of mold and mildew.
How can ice dams be prevented?
Start by clearing your gutters of fall leaves before the first snow. This will allow melted water to drain from the roof. You can also use a shovel to remove snow from your roof, but this is extremely dangerous.
A better way to deal with this issue is to ensure that your roof never gets warm enough to melt the ice. Keeping your roof below 30F is achieved with proper insulation. This will cost a little more than cleaning out your gutters, but your investment will have a great ROI as you will save money on heating and cooling your home.
Ensure that your attic is adequately ventilated before installing new insulation. Ventilating your attic will mean that any warm air that does manage to make its way in will be able to escape before heating the roof.
Should any moisture find its way into the attic, good ventilation will allow it to evaporate before it can cause mold and mildew. Wet insulation can lose up to 1/3 of its R-value, so vented attics help to keep your home warm.
Attic ventilation should utilize a combination of eve or soffit vents with ridge ventilation. This allows air to enter at the eve or soffit and be exhausted along the ridge vents.
Check that bathroom vents, dishwashers, dryers and other appliances are vented outside and not into the attic where they can deposit moisture-laden warm air that can heat the underside of the roof.
Uninsulated attic hatches and whole-house fans can allow heat to escape. Insulate them with weather-stripped caps.
Recessed can lights allow heat into the attic and can’t be insulated as they will pose a fire hazard. Replace these with more modern “IC” fixtures which can be sealed with insulation.
Check your ducts for holes and cracks where warm air may be escaping into your attic space. Use fiber-reinforced mastic with R-5 or R-6 foil-faced fiberglass on the joints and to cover gaps and holes.