Preventing That Dreaded Winter 'Ice Damming' And Potential Damage

Tuesday Jan 14th, 2020


One of my concerns, as your Real Estate Agent, is to take care of you and your home at all times – not just when you want to sell or buy. So keeping that in mind, here’s some important information to ward off the evil ice damming that winter is so generously known for.

Everywhere we look there’s ice – on our driveways, sidewalks, and hanging down from our gutters. This is dangerous.  

When snow and ice collect together “ice dams” form. And it’s usually in our eaves-troughs, on our roofs, and around our windows. As heat escapes through our attic ceilings or, in some cases, a lack of attic insulation, it melts the snow on the roof. The run-off continues until it comes in contact with the snow already on the eaves-troughs. The result: it re-freezes into an ice dam. This process goes on and on and if the ice dam gets large enough the shingles will have backed-up water underneath them. This water can leak through the exterior walls and windows into your home. Windows underneath sloped roofs are particularly prone to ice damming and when the ice starts to melt it can wreak havoc inside your home into your walls and floors causing very costly damage.

Ice damming is most usual on a low sloped roof and the biggest ice dams occur over areas that aren’t heated: eaves-troughs, windows, front and back porches, attached garages, and sky-lights.  Even detached garages should be examined for ice-damming.

Keeping the attic and the roof surface cold enough to ward off snow melting is the key.

Ice Dam Preventative Measures

What are the best ways to avoid ice dams?

  1. Add insulation to your attic if possible. Get a professional to check the level of insulation and make sure it’s as high as possible. You’ll save money on your heating bills too.
  2. Seal your air leaks. If you know where they are, sometimes you can correct this yourself. However we usually don’t know the location(s) so we recommend hiring a tried and true professional. This also is a heat preserving measure throughout your home.
  3. Improve the ventilation in your attic. This can help to eliminate the warm air up there before it can melt the snow on your roof.  

Your Driveway, Walkways and Sidewalks

Another crucial winter safety snow and ice caution is to make sure your driveway, stairs, porch and your sidewalks are clear. In 2013, I broke my foot falling on an icy sidewalk in front of a property. I found out that The City of Toronto’s by-law, in that neighbourhood, states that it’s the Home Owner’s responsibility to keep their sidewalks free of ice and snow.  

De-Icing Solutions

The most common de-icing solutions are:

  1. SALT - It’s cost effective and easy to buy. But it’s definitely damaging and corrosive to asphalt and concrete as well as human skin as well as pets’ tender little paws.
  2. UREA - Urea is a liquid de-icer that’s very easy to use on pathways, steps, porches and it’s easy to maintain.  However, it can run off and damage to your surrounding plants. It’s also not as easy to buy.

But the most popular new de-icer is….

  1. SUGAR BEET JUICE:  Yes – sugar beet juice. Not only is it being used by many towns/municipalities, for the winter roads (especially in Toronto and Niagara), this juice lowers water’s freezing point and helps de-ice. It ‘s definitely a bit more expensive than salt but the benefits might very well outweigh the cost.

I have my own excellent professionals on hand to assist you with any seasonal home maintenance and if you notice a great deal of ice, a lot of icicles or drafts coming from your attic/roof, please give me a call. I'm always available to guide you towards the right solutions to keep you and your home safe and protected. 

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