To avoid ice dams, plug the leaks.
The winter of 2011 was nearly as cold and long as the winter of 1917. As a matter of fact, some say 2011 was the 100 year mark for ice damming – a perfect storm, if you will. How did it happen? First there was a heavy blanket of wet snow fall in early December 2010 that was followed by one of the longest and coldest spells in recent memory.
The difference between 1917 and 2011 was that in 1917 there wasn’t a lot of excess heat escaping from the houses and consequently the ice dams were not nearly as bad – not that I go that far back, but history has it anyway…
Now why did we have such ice dams this last winter? We are now heating our whole house to a comfortable degree (pun intended), typically 65-67 degrees. So, when it is cold outside the warm air in our house rises to the top of the house and increases the pressure near the ceiling. In the attic there is no corresponding pressure increase, so if there are any holes between the up-stair ceiling and the attic, air, warm moist air will flow. And guess what? There are lots of holes. Take a look. 1” holes for ½” wire. There are gaps between the drywall and the top plate. Plumbing is 4” the hole is 6”. And so on.
What do you do? Launch a campaign against air leakage this fall. Make a through inspection of your attic, move the insulation, and caulk every crack. See below for the article I wrote back in the day for “American How-to” (Jan/Feb 2000) for a little more guidance and a few instructional pictures. Good luck, and remember – BE THOROUGH!
Tom Blandy is a retired architect. He and his wife Sue continue to serve the Troy community.