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Reading This Could Save You Thousands of Dollars in Roof Repairs

December 31, 2018

With a better understanding of roof damage, you could save yourself many thousands of dollars in roof repairs. In Ontario, the extreme winter weather can do plenty of damage to roofs once snow and ice are imbedded. It’s only when the spring arrives that roof damage and roof repairs become so apparent.

A common problem during our frigid winters is ice damming. In a typical residential roof, ice damming can be the beginning of serious roof damage – and that could result in costly roof repairs when winter is over. The best option is prevention, which means preventing ice dams from forming in the first place.

Why ice damming can cause roof damage & the need for roof repairs

In serious cases, and depending on the state of your roof, ice damming can cause melted ice and snow to leak into your home. Worse still, roof materials can be seriously damaged. Preventing ice dams is about preventing roof snow and ice from melting. Essentially, this involves improvements to attic insulation, air sealing and attic ventilation.

Ice damming can result for a number of reasons

In general, ice dams are caused as a result of heat loss from inside the house through the attic. Because of various gaps and openings in the building envelope, sometimes because of a lack of insulation, warm air leaks out and warms the attic and roof cavity. This causes a freezing/melting cycle with snow and ice, thus creating damaging ice dams.

Air leakage in the roof and attic

Air leakage in the roof and attic cavity is a primary cause of heat loss during the winter. To begin with, this is a serious waste of energy, since your warm indoor heat is escaping needlessly. In preventing the occurrence of ice dams, effective air sealing in the attic is integral. This stops warm air from escaping in winter and prevents cool air from escaping in summer. Comprehensive air sealing will also allow the insulation to better perform. In addition to stopping ice damming, air sealing also reduces energy use and cuts utility bills. With ice damming prevented, you can also avoid roof damage and roof repairs.

Poor insulation in attic and roof

Poorly performing insulation in the attic can be a direct cause of heat loss and can quickly contribute to ice damming. Ideally, insulation should be checked annually, and preferably prior to winter. Here, it’s important to ensure that thermal insulation is up to par, especially if you’re living in extremely cold weather conditions. Oftentimes, simply “topping up” existing insulation will do the trick. However, if iced dams have previously been problematic, removal and re-installation of insulation may be needed so air sealing measures can be performed. Once the condition of the insulation has been determined, it’s worthwhile to do the proper upgrades.

Poor ventilation in attic and roof

Effective air ventilation in the attic is also essential to preventing the collection of snow and ice on the roof. Air ventilation allows the temperature in the attic to be more efficiently moderated. Whether your attic is warmer or colder depends on whether or not you are using your attic for living space (you should consult with a professional when performing these types of renovations).

Along with air sealing and insulation, ventilation works toward keeping the attic temperature consistent, and will help to alleviate any constant cycle of freezing/melting/freezing throughout the winter. Hampering that cycle will lessen the chances of ice dams from forming, and from any potential roof damage from occurring. Your roof is going to experience a buildup of snow. In fact, a properly functioning system allows for snow to build up. What you don’t want is for it to melt and refreeze. If you notice an unusual buildup of ice around your eavestrough and soffits, it’s a sure sign of potential problems.

Fluctuating winter temperature

Clearly, fluctuating winter temperatures are not in anyone’s control. When daytime temperatures are above freezing, the snow and ice will melt. At night, when temperatures are below freezing, everything will refreeze. However, this does not necessarily lead to the formation of ice damming that causes serious roof damage. You can still mitigate the excessive, localized freezing and thawing that does lead to serious damage. This is done most effectively by air sealing the attic, improving the performance of your insulation, and retrofitting air ventilation. In the event that roof repairs are required, all of the retrofitting should be performed in tandem – once and for all.

Radiant heat from winter sun

During certain times of the winter, the warm sunshine can melt roof snow even though temperatures are below freezing. This is ideal for ice dams to form because the melting/freezing cycle is allowed to perpetuate. Radiant heat from the winter sun is impossible to predict and impossible to prevent. While you might want to physically remove snow from your roof, this is not entirely practical (or safe). Here again, mitigation is the best course of action – ensuring that the attic is properly sealed to prevent heat loss; checking that attic insulation is performing at peak; and making sure that ventilation is efficient.

End-of-winter temperatures

At the end of winter, when outdoor temperatures are just at the freezing point, even energy-efficient homes can suffer from ice dams. The problem is that these temperatures promote the melting/freezing cycle more than other times. This might be a time of year when lowering your indoor temperature may be a good idea – it can reduce the chance of ice damming. With the right type of retrofitting prior to the winter, you shouldn’t need to resort to this. With the attic properly sealed, and thermal insulation working to prevent heat loss, there is less of a chance that near-zero outdoor temperatures will promote ice dams that promote damage.

Ice damming can damage various parts of your home

When ice dams are out of control and disregarded, there is potential for physical damage to various parts of your home. Regardless of the cause, ice dams can be damaging, and substantial roof repairs may be required. Indeed, the cost of preventive retrofits is usually less than the cost of major repairs.

Roofing damage

Ice damming can cause damage to a wide range of roofing materials – from shingles to soffits. Over time, expanding ice and melting snow can wreak havoc on structural components in the roof and attic.

Insulation damage

With ice damming, if the melting snow and ice infiltrate your roof, your insulation can be compromised.

Water damage

Whether it’s melting snow or melting ice, the resulting water leakage will affect both the roof and the attic. Worst of all, the water leakage can eventually drain into the home and cause additional damage.

Great Northern Insulation can help reduce ice dams and roof damage

The formula for success with ice damming is a combination of air sealing and thermal insulation. With quality products and professional installation, this is the way to effectively reduce the potential for ice dams. You should always air seal an attic before installing insulation – this is an important step is commonly skipped over because of inexperience or a DIY approach.

At Great Northern Insulation, our experienced installers create a “complete system” in the attic – one that incorporates sealing and insulation. By properly managing airflow and air moisture, ice damming can be arrested and unnecessary roof damages can be prevented. Though it’s not the only solution, spray foam can be extremely effective.  

Spray foam provides an impermeable protective envelope that stops heat loss and effectively insulates at the same time. The entire attic space is sealed and insulated, including all the beams, plumbing, and ductwork. Still, any insulation installation in conjunction with air sealing will do the trick. The finished space will become airtight, and the chance for ice dams is dramatically reduced.

Home energy rebates that relate to ice damming problems

In Ontario, several home energy rebates are available when you perform specific upgrades, retrofits, or improvements. These rebates are designed to help offset the overall cost of upgrades and retrofits.

Union Gas offers their customers a Home Reno Rebate for attic insulation and air sealing – an ideal first step in stopping ice dams. Certain air sealing targets must be reached and all work must be performed professionally. The benefits of air sealing are far reaching and the rebate offered will help to pay for the work performed.

Enbridge Gas offers their customers a Home Energy Conservation Program. The incentives are aimed at home energy upgrades, with a portion of the program offering cash backs for air sealing work. There is one rebate when you attain above the base target and one rebate when you attain the base target.

The City of Toronto offers taxpayers their Home Energy Loan Program. This loan helps homeowners to finance home energy upgrades. In this way, homeowners can finance the work affordably, especially when the initial upfront costs are unaffordable. The loan can be paid off over a fixed time period.

Home energy solutions from the professionals at GNI

At Great Northern Insulation, our team of home energy professionals will recommend the most cost-effective upgrades and improvements to suit your needs. When it comes to ice damming and associated issues, the idea is to prevent more damage from developing and avoid costly roof repairs.  

Prior to any upgrades or retrofits, we’ll do an assessment to identify the problem areas that need improvement. Once we pinpoint the underperforming areas, we’re able to recommend the proper fixes – from air sealing, to insulation, to ventilation – each one designed with ice damming in mind.

You can avoid those costly roof repairs by being proactive with ice damming. Find out more by calling Great Northern Insulation at 1-800-265-1914 or visit the company website at www.gni.ca.

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