An ice dam is ice built up near the edge of your roof preventing water from running off of your roof.
The best prevention of ice dams starts with ensuring proper insulation and ventilation of the attic space. But it is December and the snow is here and most people will not have the time to make a repair like this during the holidays and the cold weather. It takes time and needs to be fixed to prevent water damage in the future from ice dams.
For now you can make a habit of clearing the edge of your roof with a snow rake.
What harm does an ice dam cause?
Ice dams hold back water causing water to enter the home by seeping under the shingles. This can lead to many issues such as:
- rotted roof decking, exterior and interior walls, and framing;
- respiratory illnesses (allergies, asthma, etc.) caused by mold growth;
- reduced effectiveness of insulation. Wet insulation doesn’t work well, and chronically wet insulation will not decompress even when it dries. Without working insulation, even more heat will escape to the roof where more snow will melt, causing more ice dams which, in turn, will lead to leaks; and
- peeling paint. Water from the leak will infiltrate wall cavities and cause paint to peel and blister. This may happen long after the ice dam has melted and thus not appear directly related to the ice dam.
How do I prevent ice dams?
- Keep the entire roof cold. This can be accomplished by implementing the following measures:
- Install a metal roof. Ice formations may occur on metal roofs, but the design of the roof will not allow the melting water to penetrate the roof’s surface. Also, snow and ice are more likely to slide off of a smooth, metal surface than asphalt shingles.
- Seal all air leaks in the attic floor, such as those surrounding wire and plumbing penetrations, attic hatches, and ceiling light fixtures leading to the attic from the living space below.
- Increase the thickness of insulation on the attic floor, ductwork, and chimneys that pass through the attic.
- Move or elevate exhaust systems that terminate just above the roof, where they are likely to melt snow.
- A minimum of 3″ air space is recommended between the top of insulation and roof sheathing in sloped ceilings.
- Remove snow from the roof. This can be accomplished safely using a roof rake from the ground. Be careful not to harm roofing materials or to dislodge icicles.
This week we are staying on the topic of radon since we are indoors more with the cold weather season. Midwesterners spend most of the winter inside in the warmth of their home (even the hard-core winter lovers). General indoor air quality is not as clean as the outdoors, malady holding in the dust, germs and even Radon!
Our homes obtain a large amount of air through the ground. Even a concrete slab is porous enough to pull air though and allow Radon and other particles into your home. Imagine your home as a giant vacuum.
As funny as this depiction is… it is very true. As we heat our homes it sucks air out of the ground. This air contains Radon and other gases from the soil. This is why even if a test shows lower than a 4.0PC/L reading some homeowners still mitigate to lower the Radon levels even further and get the additional benefits we have heard about from a mitigation system.
Benefits of a mitigation system can include:
- Lower Radon levels (50%-99% typical reduction)
- Cleaner smelling basements
- Lower levels of moisture in damp basements
- Higher resale value
- Cleaner indoor air
This is a video that really can hit home for some. It is a public service announcement from the EPA stressing the importance of testing your home for Radon.
Graphic courtesy of The EPA
Video courtesy of SOSRADON
Are there any symptoms that people might look at to suggest they have high radon levels in there house?
No symptoms can be detected. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non smokers. Radon is odorless and invisible.
What are clues that might indicate you need to have testing done sooner than later.
The only way to tell Radon level is to test.
Is this a soil condition that causes high levels?
There are areas of the world that have higher levels of radon due to the makeup of the earth below but all rock contains trace amounts of uranium that breaks down and causes Radon Gas.
What is Radon remediation?
Subfloor depressurization has been the most effective way of lowering Radon levels. Subfloor depressurization basically means venting the air from below your house. Your home is a big vacuum powered by the stack effect this is how Radon and a large amount of air you breath enters your home.
Do you report your tests results to the government?
No. The report is sent to our client and can be shared with who they wish to see it. In a real estate transaction it is disclosed to the home buyer.
Why should I pay a professional to perform the test when I can go buy a test kit for $20 from the store?
When you hire Acer Home Inspections you receive more than just the test results from our Continuous Radon Monitor.
- A graph and data table of hourly results
- Average Radon levels of the test
- A 3 ring binder to keep all of your Radon information in one place
- A test conducted to EPA standards
- Advice on what to do after your test
When using store bought kits EPA Standards require the use of 2 test kits for 72 hours plus shipping and processing. The results are then averaged to give the homeowners radon level. Acer Home Inspections can conduct the test in 48 hours and issue results with a detailed graph and table of radon levels within 24 hours of data collection.
Minnesota has a great booklet about Radon available in PDF form. Radon Booklet click here
Minnesota has a new law on the books about reporting any known radon tests being disclosed to a buyer of a home. This law starts January 1st 2014. Many of the news stations report Do It Yourself kits for cheap alternatives to hiring a professional. While the kits can be accurate there are protocols that I have been trained in to have the results hold up in the court of law.
The EPA has protocols that must be followed and documented in case there is any discrepancy in the future. Why is this important? When a home is sold the seller must disclose if Radon testing has been done. If Radon has been tested the information from the test must be disclosed along with any information about any mitigation completed on the home. Homes under 4.0 pc/l is below the EPA’s acceptable level of Radon for performing mitigation.
At Acer Home Inspections we use continuous radon monitors and EPA protocols to complete a Radon Test that will stand up if there are any questions. We are also a 3rd party that has no interest in the results and only care about the accuracy. We do not offer mitigation but there are many qualified companies that do.