how you know it is winter

By Dymon Brady

It may be the beginning of summer, but we can be sure that winter will come again. If you plan well for your roof now, you will be prepared for the worst winters Utah can bring you. That’s why we need to be aware of the issue of ice dams in climates like Utah’s while we install our roofs. An Ice dam is formed when heat from inside a home or attic warms the roof and melts the snow on it. This melted snow runs towards the cooler eaves and gutters, where it refreezes. This process creates ice dams. The result of these dams is water backing up under the roof shingles or behind fascia boards where it can cause damage to your home, both inside and out. All shingle manufacturers exclude from warranty coverage leaks that are caused by water backing up behind these ice dams.

The good news is, in most situations, ice dams are easily reduced if you take a few simple steps. There are three ways to protect your home against ice dams: insulation, ventilation, and waterproofing shingle underlayment. All three of these steps are vital to protecting your home. Insulation minimizes heat loss from your home’s living area, reducing the hot air which reaches your attic. This is important to keep you warm throughout the winter, as well as to keep your roof cool. Ventilation removes the heat from underneath your roof and helps to keep it evenly cool to prevent the freezing and thawing process. Finally, waterproofing shingle underlayment can be installed on your roof before the shingles are applied. This protects your roof in the case that an ice dam were to form.

I don’t want to install a new roof, what can I do??

If you already have an existing roof without any major problems, you may still want to protect against ice dams. You cannot install waterproof shingle underlayment on existing roofs without removing the shingles first or building a new addition. However, it is possible to increase your insulation R-value, or level of thermal resistance, in your attic. Also, it is typically simple to add ventilation to your attic at any time.

Insulation is a great place to start when protecting your home from excessive ice dams. If your home was built before 1980, you will most likely need to add more attic insulation. The amount of insulation your house should have will vary on depending where you live, how your home was built and other factors, including your lifestyle. In northern Utah, you should have a ceiling R-value of R-49, a wall R-value of R-19 and a floor R-value of R-25. One inch of insulation can have an R-value of anything from 3.8-4.2, depending on the material.

Ventilation is important to your home both in the winter and the summer. Any heat that is lost from your home will be drawn out of your attic through your ventilation, keeping your roof deck cool. In the winter, this prevents ice dams. Attic ventilation can also allow any moisture from bathing, cooking and laundry to escape rather than sit and mold or rot your ceilings. There are two common types of attic ventilation: a mechanical ventilation system and a natural ventilation system. A power ventilator is an electric fan installed at the roof or gable that runs by a thermostat to ensure the roof is the proper temperature. A natural ventilation system consists of simple vent or covered openings in your attic. These are typically installed into your roof.

Above and beyond

If you are building a new home, or re-roofing your current home, it is essential to install waterproof shingle underlayment. This underlayment is completely resistant to water and is an important step in defending your home against leaks and ice dams. Shingle underlayment does not prevent ice dams, so it should be accompanied by taking the above steps. However, installing an underlayment will prevent any backed up water from entering and damaging your home. Shingle underlayment is installed differently for every situation, depending on the amount of snow and ice that will be on the roof, and the amount of attic space there is to allow air circulation (some underlayments don’t breathe and can cause condensation when there is no air circulation – see previous blog on ventilation). Generally, it is a good ideal to have it applied under flashing, at roof penetrations, areas where pitches change, in valleys, around chimneys, and along the eaves of the home. You should consider building codes in your area when determining how much ice shield should be installed to prevent the ice at the eaves from backing up and coming in at your exterior walls.

It is important to note that some situations call for a product called heat tape (sometimes called electrical heat coil). Areas where this is most prevalent are at the bottom of valleys where it butts into a wall or chimney and does not flow freely off the roof. This heat tape is effective in resolving ice damming issues, but is costly to operate. It is best to consult with a roofing contractor when assessing areas that may require special consideration.

Remember, proper planning can avoid a whole lot of pain later on when the roofing project or repair is completed! Brady Roofing specializes is proper ventilation and waterproofing your roof for all climates. If you would like a roof estimate, you can request a free estimate here.

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