De-Ice, De-Ice Baby - From the Carson & Dunlop January 2015 Newsletter
The holidays are officially over, and with more than two months of winter left, everyone can agree: it's cold. Winter is a harsh season and it's important to protect yourself as well as your home.
With temperatures well below freezing, the winter wonderland of December has become January's slippery slope. Ice is everywhere, hanging from gutters and covering driveways, walkways, and sidewalks. Although it can be beautiful, it's also very dangerous, so we'd like to encourage you to take the appropriate precautions. The de-icing guide below will help keep you and your property ice-free this season.
Ice damming happens when snow and ice collect, usually at the eaves.
Heat escapes from the interior of the home, melting the snow on the roof above. The melted snow, runs down the roof until it encounters unmelted snow on the unheated eaves. There, it refreezes. This process continues until an ice dam is formed. If the dam is large enough, water will back up under the shingles and leak into the eaves, exterior walls, and building interior.
Some roofs are more prone to ice damming than others. Ice dams are most commonly formed on roofs with low slopes or roofs that change from a steep slope down to a low slope. The largest dams form over unheated areas, such as eaves, porches, and attached garages. Ice dams are also common above party walls and below skylights.
Ice damming doesn't necessarily happen every winter. Ice dams normally form after periods of heavy snowfall when daytime temperatures are at, or slightly above, freezing, and night time temperatures are below freezing.
The trick is to keep the attic, and therefore the roof surface, cold enough that the snow does not melt. There are three easy ways to do that:
1. Adding attic insulation
This helps where insulation levels are low; less than R-40. However, some attics have lots of warm air leaks - which is why you should also consider the second approach.
2. Sealing the air leaks
Common air leakage paths include attic access hatches, ceiling light fixtures (especially potlights), and plumbing stacks. These can often be sealed with caulking. In many cases, with proper sealing tools, a homeowner can take care of this task themselves. However, some situations require a specialist to find and fix the issue.
3. Improving attic ventilation
Additional attic venting can help to flush out any warm air that gets into the attic before it can heat up the roof and melt the snow.
Salting & Other Ice Removal Alternatives
Ensuring your driveway and walkway are clear of ice and snow is imperative not only for your safety, but for the safety of others. Falls are a leading cause of injury in North America, and it is the homeowners' responsibility to keep their property accessible for visitors and pedestrians.
We know shovelling can be a pain in the back, but it's a fairly manageable chore. De-icing, however, can be less straightforward. There are a few natural products you can use; we've listed our top three:
Salt is the most common treatment used to get rid of ice. It's cheap, effective, and easy to obtain. However, it's also corrosive, so it can damage human skin, pets' paws, and its runoff can affect nearby plants and vegetation. It can also damage concrete and masonry.
Urea is the second most common de-icer. It is also used as a fertilizer. It's more expensive than salt and not as effective at very low temperatures.
3. Alfalfa Meal
Alfalfa meal is a less popular solution. Like urea, it is a natural fertilizer; however it contains less nitrogen so it's a bit less damaging. It's a very effective de-icer, and due to its dry and grainy nature, it provides additional traction to those walking and driving on it. Unfortunately it is more difficult to purchase.
We hope our guide helps keep you free of ice dams, ice patches, and ice-related damage or injury. For more seasonal maintenance tips and advice, please visit the Carson Dunlop blog. Our frequently updated articles are easily shared and meant to help homeowners and their homes stay healthy and happy. If there's a Home Inspection topic that we've yet to cover on our blog or in our newsletter, make sure to let us know via Twitter or Facebook and we'll do our best to help out.