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Winter Home Tips For Your Champaign Home: Ice Dam Prevention

by Rose Price

 

Icicles hanging off your house look beautiful, but they're usually a sign of trouble. 

The same conditions that allow icicles to form; snow-covered roofs and freezing weather, also lead to ice dams (thick ridges of solid ice that build up along the eaves). 

These dams can tear off gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to back up and pour into your house. Obviously when this happens, the results aren’t pretty.  Paint peels, floors warp, ceilings get stained and worse sag, and the insulation in your attic becomes soggy, which is magnet for harmful mold.  

How it happens:

First, heat collects in the attic and warms the roof...but doesn't warm the eaves.

The snow on the warm roof melts, causing the water to rush down to the eaves…which are still cold.  So, the water freezes again. 

This ice accumulates along the eaves, forming a dam, preventing the water from running into the gutters and away from the house. So the Melt water from the warm roof backs up behind this ice, forcing it to flow beneath the shingles, and finally into the house.

Find out how to get rid of them OR better yet, prevent them below:  

 

Quick Fixes: 

Hacking away at ice dams with a hammer, chisel, or shovel is bad for your roofing—obviously…and is also quite dangerous for you. Throwing salt on them will do a lot more damage than the ice.  So, what do you do?

 Freeze It

Bring a box fan into the attic and aim it at the underside of the roof where water is actively leaking in. This targeted dose of cold air should freeze the water in its tracks.  This method can stop water from flowing in in just a few minuets.  

Rake It

Pounding is bad.  Raking, you can get away with.  Simply use a long handled aluminum roof rake to rake the snow and ice.  You want to make sure it is a dedicated roof rake, so you don’t damage your shingles. 

Steal Your Wife’s Pantyhose

Ok, so maybe you should ask first.  But you can lessen the damage after a dam has formed with a simple trick.  Fill the leg of an old pair of pantyhose with Calcium Chloride Ice Melter.  Then simply lay the hose onto the roof so it crosses the ice dam and hangs over the gutter.  The calcium chloride will melt through the snow and ice and create a channel for water to flow down into the gutters or off the roof, thus eliminating the backed up water.  

 

Permanent Fixes 

Preventing ice dams for good is simple: Just keep the roof the same temperature as the eaves. Do that by increasing ventilation, adding insulation, and sealing off every possible air leak that might warm the underside of the roof.

Taking care of these trouble spots (listed in order of priority) will give you a dam-free winter and will also lower your energy bill!

How to prevent it?

Two words: Heated Cables.  Attach with clips along the roof's edge in a zigzag pattern. Heated cables combat ice dams that lift shingles and cause leaks. This method allows you to equalize your roof's temperature by heating it from the outside.  Keeping your roof one consistent temperature will prevent ice dams from flowing beneath your shingles.  You’ll want to be sure to install the cables well before bad weather hits.

 More Prevention Tips:

1. Ventilate Eaves And Ridge. A ridge vent paired with continuous soffit vents will circulate cold air under the entire roof. Both ridge and soffit vents should have the same size openings and provide at least 1 square foot of opening for every 300 square feet of attic floor. Place baffles at the eaves to maintain a clear path for the airflow from the soffit vents.

 

2. Seal Your Attic. Attics are full of air leaks.  Fill these! This will help keep everything the same temperature in your attic, which will in turn help to keep the roof one consistent temperature. You may want to add some more insulation as well.  Follow the video below for instructions on how to seal attic air leaks.  

 

3. Always Exhaust to the Outside. Make sure that the ducts connected to the kitchen, bathroom, and dryer vents all lead outdoors through either the roof or walls, but never through the soffit.

 

5. Install Sealed Can Lights. Old-style recessed lights give off great plumes of heat and cannot be insulated without creating a fire hazard. Replace these with sealed "IC" fixtures, which can be covered with insulation. Keeping the heat from escaping into your attic.

 

6. Flash Around Chimneys. Bridge the gap between your chimney and house framing with L-shaped steel flashing.  * NOTE * Using canned spray foam or insulation isn't fire safe.

 

7. Seal and Insulate Ducts. Spread fiber-reinforced mastic on the joints of HVAC ducts and exhaust ducts. Cover them entirely with R-5 or R-6 foil-faced fiberglass.

 

8. Caulk Cracks, Gaps and Air Leaks. Seal around electrical cables and vent pipes with a fire-stop sealant. Also, look for any spots where light shines up from below or the insulation is stained black by the dirt from passing air.

Looking to sell your home this winter?  Want more tips like these to keep your home in tip-top shape this selling season?  Contact the Rose Price Team for more Champaign Home Tips.  
 

Get Your Champaign IL Home Ready For Fall

by Rose Price

It may seem like summer has just ended, but before we know it, the blustery winds and  cooler temperatures of Fall will be upon us. Now is the best time to prepare your home for the change of seasons, before the actual change begins. Just think of the cash you will save by taking care of the weatherizing of your home now. Here are a few area's to check out on your home:

Raise the Roof

Few home problems are more frustrating than a leaky roof, as it’s often hard to find the exact source of the problem.  So, taking care of these things before the rain and snow begin is a good idea. 

Inspect your roof from top to bottom, searching for missing or damaged shingles. Check shingles for cracks and other damage. Look for damage to metal flashing around vents and chimneys. Look in your gutters. If you find large granules, it could be a sign that you are losing your roof’s coating. Finally, make sure your gutters are flowing freely of any type of debris; leaves, sticks, sludge from rains and storms throughout the summer months.

Get your mind IN the Gutter

The drainage system on your roof is extremely important, as it diverts thousands of gallons of water from your home annually, protecting your foundation and walls. Obviously you want to keep these drains flowing smoothly.  Clogged gutters lead to basement flooding and other hard to detect damage.  They are not immune from rust and erosion, so you need to keep them cleaned out, especially BEFORE the Fall leaves start falling into them. Once they have been cleaned, we'd recommend using a mesh guard over the top to protect them from future debris, and it makes keeping them clean  & your job, a whole lot easier!  

Hunt your Home for Drafts

Many homes have air leaks around windows and doors, which can account for an increase of  10% in your energy bill (according to the U.S. Department of Energy).  So, check for gaps in caulk and weather stripping.  If you don’t have weather stripping…you’re missing out!  Seriously, weather-stripping is by far the most cost-effective way to control heating and cooling costs. It will reduce drafts and keep your home comfy cozy year round.  However, this stuff can deteriorate over time, so even if you already used it, you want to inspect it annually.  

There are a couple easy techniques for checking your stripping:

  • 1) Close your door or window on a strip of paper…if the paper slides up and down easily, you have some work to do.
  • 2) Light a candle and hold it near the frame of the closed door or window…if you find the flame flickers at any point near the frame…you have a leak!

You’ll also want to check your caulking, especially near entry points for cables.  This can also deteriorate over time, so look for area's you may have to re-caulk.  

Brrr.....It's Getting Chilly!

Winter is coming, and we all must protect our pipes or deal with a very messy & expensive aftermath! Close any shut-off valves to outdoor faucets…then drain the water line, by opening the valve outside.  

*If you don't have shut-off valves or your faucets are not "freeze-proof “, you may benefit from styrofoam faucet covers sold at home centers.

In-ground irrigation systems should come with instructions from the manufacturer on how to freeze proof. 

Where’s your Filter?

Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited around your home.  Clogged filters also make it harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can seriously increase your utility bills. It’s easy to manage by a simple monthly cleaning to keep the filters breathing free and clear.

Disposable filters can be vacuumed once before replacement. Foam filters can also be vacuumed but these don't need to be replaced unless they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.  Boom, your filter is good as new.

Professional Help

It's a good idea to have your Heating System inspected by a professional once a year. People often wait until the last minute, so beat the rush and schedule this for the early fall, before the heating season even begins.  Here are some of the signs that your Heating Systems isn't functioning properly:    

  • Noisy belts Weird screeches or whines may signal that belts connected to the blower motor are worn or damaged.
  • Poor performance. A heating system that doesn't seem to work as well as it used to could mean a lot of different problems. Your heating ducts could be blocked, the burners might be misadjusted or the blower motor could be on its way out.  But before you panic, check that the filter is clean.   
  • Erratic behavior. This could be caused by a faulty thermostat.

Come on Baby Light your Fire

Even if you rarely use your fireplace, you should check it annually for damage. 

Inspect your flue for creosote. Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood, so if it accumulates in your chimney, you could be victim to a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace frequently, then have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

The best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick, though the actual cleaning of these deposits should be performed by a professional.  

  • Look for flue blockages. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap is an easy way to prevent this.  If you don't have a cap, just take a look up the flu to be sure.
  • Exercise the damper. The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Test the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.
  • Check for damage. Make certain that the flue cap is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken points. If access is a problem try using binoculars.

Keep your Humidifier Happy 

Really dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you know it can make fine wood crack easier? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your Central Humidifier running properly. 

  • Inspect the plates or pads. You can clean them with laundry detergent. You should also rinse and scrape off mineral deposits (use a wire brush or steel wool). 

Gassy 

Anything involving gas is a huge safety issue.  Heaters that are not maintained properly can spew poisons into the air of your home, or at least it may be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. 

Smoke and CO Detectors 

Replace batteries in all of your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven't already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.

Fire Extinguishers 

You’d be surprised how many homes don’t have a fire extinguisher.  Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). Keep one near the kitchen;  though having one per floor isn't a bad idea. Check the indicators on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make sure the lock pin is intact and in place, and then make sure the discharge nozzle is not clogged.  

  • Fire Extinguishers should be replaced every 5 Years.
  • With every replacement, use a permanent marker to mark the date clearly on the new unit

​​For more Homeowner Tips and Fall Maintenance, visit my website and Facebook page. If you're looking to Buy or Sell a home in the Champaign/Urbana IL area in the fantastic Fall season, give me a call or stop in our office. You can contact me anytime at 217-202-8843 or view local homes at this link: Homes for Sale in Champaign IL.

Have a POWERFUL day!

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