Slings and arrows and ice dams

I woke up this morning to find that J wasn’t feeling well. So I called in to work and said as much, and that I had to take care of the kids but that I hoped to be in later. After a little wrangling I got the kids to their choir practice. I spent a pleasant forty-five minutes reading more of Mitford’s biography, and brought the kids home.

Whereupon it became clear that the house was leaking.

Now, some of you may not know what an ice dam is. Think of the roof of your house. It slopes a bit, most likely, and it has eaves that extend out past the walls of the house. Now picture said roof covered with eighteen inches of snow.

Ice dams occur when the heat from the house penetrates through insufficient insulation and melts the snow resting directly on the shingles. This snowmelt, combined with any melt from the sun, runs towards the edge of the roof. So far, so good, right? Then the slowly trickling water reaches the eaves.

The eaves are not warmed by heat leaking up from the house. They are cold, below freezing. And the slowly tricking water begins to slowly re-freeze. Over the course of a few days this turns into a giant dam all along the rim of your roof. Up to a foot high.

Meanwhile, the melting snow from warmer parts of the roof is still melting. And still flowing. And it hits the ice at the edge of the roof and forms puddles, or, you know, ponds, on your roof. Even the best shingling job cannot withstand gallons of sitting water. The water seeps in through the layers and, voila, you get water running down your walls. Or, in my case, down the wall/window area of my bedroom.

This is Not Good.

The solutions for ice dams are, in the order of efficacy:

Insulate your attic better to prevent snow from melting.
Rake the snow off of your roof after every accumulation so that there’s nothing to melt.
Install eave heating elements to melt the ice dams off as they form.
Get your roof steamed, at great expense, every few weeks all winter.
Dump ice melt on your roof all winter long.
Chip the dam stuff off with a crowbar all winter long, without gouging your shingles.

Our house cannot have more insulation installed. We looked into it. It’s insulated to the max. Roof steaming is thousands of dollars. Heating elements only work partially. You can see where this is going, right?

Yep. J, who is still feeling pretty poorly, and I went out to chip ice off the damn roof. After a bit of lunch and a warm-up, we’re heading back out again. For as long as she can manage it. My job is to hold the ladder and get ice-water poured on me while avoiding the largest falling chunks of ice. Wish us luck ….

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