Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ice Dams

I was out looking around on the web the other day and I came across a blog that I enjoyed. There wasn't much talk, mostly photos of Saint Paul, a wide variety of things. Current Daily photos of things out and about in Saint Paul. Lucas, the author, calls it, "Picture St. Paul ".

I used to live in Saint Paul and sold real estate there for eleven years. We have since moved closer to family, but there are a lot of good memories there.

It is funny how two people can look at the same picture and see something totally different. In this blog there were a few shots of icicles -- and that's how I can tie something I enjoyed into real estate.

Lucas took some shots of Icicles that show a small Ice Dam, the kind you see in varying degrees all over older neighborhoods.

Older homes, like those in Saint Paul, were built differently than those today. It occurs to me that I have a lot of good things to say about old homes that will be the subject of my next entry.

Here is something to watch for and consider when you are looking at any home, but you will see more frequently in older homes, Ice Dams. Ice Dams form when a warm roof melts snow, the water runs down the roof until it gets to the overhang of the roof which is colder. They are more likely to occur on the south and east exposure of a home.

Ice Dams can be a problem especially in winters with heavy snow because they can cause a home with an otherwise good roof to leak. As Ice builds up water flows uphill, up the roof between the roof and the ice and up behind the shingles and into your house.

Often older homes did not have enough vents in the roof or insulation in the attic floor. Insulation in the attic floor is obvious enough, it keeps the snow melting heat out of the attic. Roof vents are counter intuitive for some though. They help get rid of heat that has escaped your home, they keep the attic cold. You want your attic space to be cold so the snow on the roof melts less.

The home in the photo is older than the 1920's and has wider eaves. Homes built in the 1940's often have a style with shorter eves. Smaller Ice dams have the potential for causing trouble on those homes. Look for signs of water leakage in closets near dormers or look for other signs that the owner has had to deal with such a problem:

Fresh paint where the wall meets the ceiling, heat tapes on gutters or eves. In the summer look for unusual wear or even damage in the valleys or on the eaves of the roof, especially south and east exposures. Notice if there is a roof rake in the garage. You wouldn't have one if you didn't need it.

Here are some ways to deal with Ice dams. The best is to insulate your attic floor and make sure there are enough vents to keep your attic cold. If you are re roofing make sure the roofer puts an extra row of ice and water shield near the eaves to be sure the area prone to ice dams has extra protection from seepage. Put heat tapes in your gutters or on your roof use them when ice starts to build up. Use a snow rake to pull snow off of problem areas, taking care not to damage the roof.

A cold roof is fragile. Don't try to pry or chop ice off the roof or you'll be sorry.

If a home occasionally gets ice dams its not the end of the world, but it is a problem you should be aware of if you live in a cold climate. It's just one more factor to consider when looking at the features of a home.

Hope this helps.

John T.

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