It happens every few years: After several mild, relatively snowless winters, the Northeast has an old-fashioned winter, with excessive amounts of snow cover and bitter cold, often interspersed with thaws, rain, and sleet. A common result of such a winter is ice damming on roofs, causing water to back up and damage walls and ceilings.
Ice dams occur after a heavy snowfall, followed by several days or even weeks of very cold weather. Because of the escape of heat from the building interior through the attic, the snow on the roof starts to melt and trickle down to the eave, where a crust is formed, holding the snow in place and keeping the wind from blowing it off the roof. This process continues until a dam of ice is built up that exerts pressure at the edge of the roof and the lower tier of shingles. As this ice expands and backs up closer to the warm roofing, it melts again and finds its way under the roof shingles and underlayment and into the building.
- Proper insulation—which is to say more insulation than most contractors think
necessary—will help to keep the roof cold, but the real secret is ventilation. The roof must be as cold on its underside as the outdoor temperature. Try to get the attic as cold as possible. If the attic is partially heated, provide soffit vents and a ridge vent. Install polystyrene tunnels above the insulation, just under the roof to carry air from the soffits to the ridge vent. Insulate the attic floor or add insulation if it is already installed. Make sure there is no insulation in the overhang that could block soffit vents and cause other problems. Ensure that soffits are vented and that vents are not blocked at the gable ends. If these vents are inadequate, ice dams and leaks are almost certain.
- Snow removal—Remove snow from the roof as much as possible without ruining the shingles. Not all the snow has to be removed, but the more the better. A roof rake that will remove snow from the edge of the roof prevents ice build-up if used on a regular basis, while protecting eaves.
- Roofing material—A probable long-term cure for leaks from ice dams, though not for the ice dams themselves, is a strip of rubberized material, 3 feet wide, laid along the eave edge of the roof, under new shingles. Six feet wide provides even better protection.
If you’d like to go over your homeowners policy before the harsh winter months set in, give our independent insurance agents at Amsure a call at (518) 584-5300, or visit amsureins.com for more information about insurance services.
Source: The Andover Companies
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