Example of roofing system

Example of roofing system

Recently while performing a Buffalo Grove home inspection we encountered large chunks of ice which are known as ice dams that occurs usually when the attic of a home has insufficient insulation or poor ventilation of the attic.  To get the full understanding of ice damming we have to climb on the top of the roof to physically see the size of the ice dam.   This is where nerves of steel are required.  Most listing agents do not really appreciate are need for thoroughness although there is no other way to get the full extent of the potential damage the ice dam can cause to the homes attic or walls.  We always explain to the client that we may not be able to access your roof in the winter due to the potential safety issues that may develop for the home inspector.   Luckily for the clients from the Buffalo Grove home inspection we were able to walk the roof and properly inspect the roof.

While walking the roof we found that the roofing shingles had been torn in many areas due to the shifting of the ice dam.  These areas allowed the tar paper that is installed to protect the wood decking completely exposed.  If the tar paper is compromised the wood decking can become wet allowing water entry in the attic and potentially in the home’s attic.  The roof of the Buffalo Grove home inspection will require repairs to assure that water entry does not occur in the upcoming spring.

When we entered the homes 2nd floor we noticed a faint brown mark in the ceiling directly adjacent to the exterior wall of the laundry room.  This location was thermal imaged with a Fluke Thermal imager and scanned with a Tramex moisture meter.  We just found ice damming damage that was documented for the clients of the Buffalo Grove home inspection.   We also found the same issue on the 2nd floor hall walls directly across the from the laundry room.  How to stop the ice damming from occurring?

Ice damming was occurring on this particular home from loose or not properly sealed ice shield.  The ice shield is installed under the tar paper which is only installed between 2′ – 3′ from the edges of the roof.  Due to the large amount of snow we received in the Chicago land area this winter followed by the rain caused the snow to freeze up in 4′ – 8′ ice dams.  This allows the water to melt and find its way under the shingles of the roof.  Fiberglass / asphalt roofs are shed roofs which will not hold water in these types of situations.  The water from the ice dam melted and wicked its way under the ice shield from the gutter and found its way in the walls.  This particular home is 3 years old and was built correctly.  Mother Nature just happened to deliver more snow that what can be handled for building codes in this region.

Ice damming for other homes can be caused by many ways that you can look for in your home.

  • Insufficient insulation in the attic ~ Missing or limited amounts of attic insulation will allow heat from the home to access the attic.  Warm attics in the winter cause the snow to melt during the day and freeze in the night causing ice damning to occur.  If you attic has let than 8″ of insulation then you may need to add insulation to your attic to prevent the loss of your homes heat in the attic.  If you are buying a new home the attic should have a minimum of 10″ of rolled fiberglass insulation.  (The Buffalo Grove home inspection home had 18″ of insulation!)
  • Poor or no ventilation in the attic ~ Ventilation in an attic is a major system that should be verified.  If you do not see roof vents, soffit vents, ridge vents, gable vents, attic fans then your attic may be overheated and will require vents to be added to move air through.  The attic should generally be the same temperature as the outside or exterior temperature.  Poor ventilation causes the heat to be trapped in the attic causing the snow to melt and cause ice damming.
  • Large or long soffits ~ Soffits longer than 4′ can pose a landing pad for ice to dam up potentially causing the ice damming issue to develop.  The big soffits is just something that is a design and cannot be changes unless you are up for the addition of soffit electric heating elements to be added to the roof to melt the snow and ice.  Large soffits are seen but not on a regular basis unless you are the company removing ice dams.

If you have ice damming and you have a newer home (5-10 years) there may not be a whole lot you can do to change your home because your issues just like the Buffalo Grove home inspection was just due to the multiple snow storms we had this year.  If you have an older home check your home for the items we listed above and see if you need to perform corrections in any of these areas.  If  you have any questions about this or any other issues please contact us at The Thermal Home Inspector or 312-961-4228.

Thank you for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke

Pinnacle Property Inspection Services, Inc.

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