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Death by Icicles

Didn't your grandmother warn that you could lose an eye or be killed by falling icicles if you weren't careful? I can remember looking at those magnificent sun-catchers when our winters were much more wintery than they are these days. Often in a mix of awe and terror thinking of my grandmother's words. Thank goodness I was so super careful and am alive to write this article for you today!

I now know icicles are typically created by an effect called ice damming. This phenomenon can lead to incredibly serious issues for homes and their homeowners. If not remedied in a timely fashion, mold could begin to grow in the walls, attic and insulation. However, it is a fairly simple fix and so worth it in the end.

First, what exactly is ice damming? This happens when the air in the attic space of your house is not ventilated properly. The air in the attic is warmed from the heat escaping the interior of the house through improperly installed venting. Dig deep into the recesses of your brain to remember that hot air is lighter than cold air and rises. If there is not enough insulation to keep the warm air inside the living area of the home, it escapes through the ceiling. If this air does not have a proper path for escaping the attic, it heats up the roof, causing snow to melt. The melt flows down to the edge of the roof which is NOT heated by the trapped air in the attic and refreezes. Thus, forming an ice dam. This dam begins to collect more water as it melts, creating a large 'dam' of ice and water. Water can seep into the interior of the home as it pools on the roof.

As I said earlier, this can be a simple fix, though it will require a little elbow grease and some sweat. Once in your attic, make sure the soffit vents have not been blocked by insulation. If they are, pull back the insulation. The air is drawn in through the soffit vents up to the roof vents. There are different types of roof vents for different regions of the country - box vents, ridge vents, turbine vents, gable vents, and O'Hagin vents, to name a few. There are even solar powered roof vents, for the environmentally conscientious.

This is a great time to install baffles if your attic doesn't already have them. If you are claustrophobic at all, you may want to consult a friend or a roofing company to perform these tasks. Baffles help the cool air flow from the soffit vents through the roof vents. This air flow keeps the air in the attic at a temperature as near the outside air as possible.

Aside from proper ventilation and insulation in the attic, keeping your gutters free of debris and adding self-heating cables to your roof edge can keep your home safe and you from being shanked by an icicle this winter.


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