“Winter roars in and temperatures begin to drop, snow starts to fall, and the ice begins to form. This can create potential problems and lead to ruined carpets and water damage to your ceilings and walls from leaks caused by ice dams or bursting pipes.
An ice dam is an accumulation of ice at the lower edge of a sloped roof, usually at the gutter. When interior heat melts the snow on the roof, the water will run down and refreeze at the roof’s edge, where temperatures are much cooler. Eventually, the ice builds up and blocks water from draining off of the roof. This forces the water under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house. Once an ice dam forms, the potential damage can be serious. Taking the following steps now can avoid trouble later:
- Keep the attic well ventilated. The colder the attic, the less melting and refreezing on the roof.
- Keep the attic floors well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.
- Clean the gutters – remove leaves and other debris from the gutters either by hand, or with a scraping tool, and then give a good rinse with the garden hose so that the rain and melting snow can drain. Clogged drains can form ice dams. As gutters are being cleaned out, look for leaks and make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage.
These steps will help decrease the likelihood that ice dams will form or, at least, reduce their size.
As an extra precaution against roof leaks in case ice dams do form, install a water-repellent membrane under the roof covering. Another suggestion is to speak with your local building office about minimum code requirements for ice dam protection.
Unfortunately, ice dams may be unavoidable if your home has recessed lighting near the roof. Heat generated from these lights melts snow, which then contributes to ice dam buildup. The only sure way to avoid this problem is to eliminate recessed lighting fixtures near the roof.
Frozen water in pipes can cause water pressure build-up between the ice blockage and the closed faucet at the end of a pipe, which leads to pipes bursting at their weakest point. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to freezing in extremely cold weather, where holes in the home’s outside wall for television, cable or telephone lines allow cold air to reach them. To help prevent water in pipes from freezing, take the following steps:
- Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow the heat transfer. The more insulation the better.
- Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.
- Keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to circulate around pipes, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom.
- Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space. Or drain the water system, especially if the house will be unattended during cold periods.