Energy efficiency is a top priority for homeowners. Advising clients on how to lower their heating and cooling costs while maintaining comfort is important for home inspectors. When homeowners have taken steps to make improvements, there are special inspection considerations. Read some useful tips in our latest article: Inspecting Added Blown Insulation in an Existing Vented Attic.
InterNACHI just released a new course on inspecting the attic, insulation, and interior of a residential property. The course, which includes over 40,000 words, a plethora of helpful diagrams and pictures, quizzes and a final exam, is accredited, state approved and totally free for InterNACHI members. Topics include radiant barriers, insulation, ice dams, ventilation, clearance, heat movement, attic access, and much, much more. Take the course or read more about it.
Ice dams in Massachusetts are a nuisance and can cause expensive damage to soffit areas, roof sheathing, gutters, and the most outer portion of living area walls. These ice build-ups can be alleviated, but each house tends to have different reasons for the ice to accumulate in the first place. First, let me explain how this massive ice mound forms on the edge of your roof, then we’ll discuss prevention.
- Your roof accumulates snow.
- The outside temperature drops to below freezing.
- The temperature inside your attic is above freezing, thus raising the temperature of your roofing material to above freezing.
- Because of the temperature differential and the warmer roof, the snow on top of the roof starts to slowly melt and the melted snow (now water) starts to cascade down the roof (underneath all the accumulated snow) in an attempt to drain off the roof or into your gutters.
- As soon as the water reaches the outer edge of the roof (where the roof will not be as warm as the attic cavity) it gets exposed to the freezing air. The cascading water now freezes into an ice mound (that literally clings to your roofing material) along the edges of your roof and the gutters (if applicable).
- As more and more melted snow (water) continues to cascade down your roof, it continues to freeze behind and on top of the previously frozen run off, forming a much larger ice dam. Once this ice dam takes shape, it will literally trap any water that is attempting to drain down and off the roof. Now, all the melting water is dammed and has nowhere to drain to, so it builds up. This accumulating water is simply backing up and is forced right under your roofing material and into your attic or soffit cavity (and then gravity takes over), and this water infiltration simply drips down onto your living area walls, causing the nuisance staining and damage that you are observing throughout your walls.
Preventing this ice from forming on the edge of your roof in the first place is absolutely possible. Many homeowners are continuously researching articles on “HOW TO PREVENT ICE DAMS” and they learn that proper insulation and ventilation is necessary to prevent these ice dams. After most homeowners obtain their education on “HOW TO PREVENT ICE DAMS” they may attempt to correct their ice dam situation, but are still baffled and are unable to figure out exactly where these improvements are needed. That’s why they call me.
The solution to alleviate your ice dam issues is the use of Infrared technology. My infrared inspection is a brilliant method of providing you with an instant snapshot of any active heat loss through the most outer portion of your walls and ceilings of your home. Thermal imaging will visually show thermal mapping of any improperly insulated ceiling and wall cavities that are causing the ice damming at the outer roof edges of your home.
Take a look at the images below and see how easy Infrared detects un-insulated/problematic cavities where ice dams were occurring…
Infrared clearly detects cold air (blue color) infiltrating the living area:
Infrared detects an entire ceiling cavity missing insulation:
Thermal imaging detects cold spots from improperly installed soffit vents:
Infrared detects insulation issues above this bathroom ceiling:
If you have ice dam problems, and Infrared inspection will help you determine the best form of remediation.