Thursday, December 15, 2011

Preparing For Winter

In a desperate bid to prevent another year of ice dams, flooded rooms and destroyed ceilings/floors, we have been working diligently to prepare our home for winter.  Well, I say "we are preparing our home," but I really mean that we are writing checks to OTHER more-qualified people who are, in turn, preparing our home for winter.  If you are a frequent reader of this blog, that clarification should not be necessary.  For the last few days, the view from my kitchen window has looked like this: 

And the view from my front window has included this:

We are having a system of heated panels put under the edges of our roof shingles and heating coils added to our gutters.  The idea is that if we can melt the ice that leads to ice dams, maybe we won't have to live through the nightmare caused by the dams ever again.

Whether or not this elaborate system will work is anyone's guess.  The common opinion is that keeping the gutters clear of ice certainly won't hurt.  Gordy and I are not native New Englanders, and we are new to the concept of worrisome ice build-up and frozen gutter pipes.  We just know that when that first major storm hits our town, and the ice begins to form on our roof, we would like to be able to say that we did everything in our power to prevent another catastrophe.  

And last winter's ice dams were definitely catastrophic.

Here is a view from my bedroom window so you can get an idea of what the heated panels look like:

and here is a view of the gutter heaters (although I think things will look more organized and less obvious once the guys are finished with the installation --- well, at least I hope so).

Last winter, after the workers cleared the ice and snow off our roof, and the water stopped gushing out of our light fixtures, we met with the builder of our house and worked out a plan to prevent future ice damage.  The builder came to the meeting with research that he had gotten from a day at the local library and off of the internet.  Believe it or not, there has been extensive research (mostly from Canada) about what causes ice dams and how one can prevent them from happening.  It ends up, that most ice dam damage is caused by poorly insulated attics and roofs.  

With that information, the builder proposed that we insulate our attic.  "Duh!" you say.  "You mean your attic wasn't insulated?"  Well, not so fast with your judging, if you please.  You see, we have an unfinished attic space and here, in New England, the theory is that you DON'T insulate your attic and furthermore, you have open, louvered windows on either side of the attic to encourage cold air circulation. New Englanders believe that you insulate the floor of the attic to keep the warm air in your house, but you let the attic stay freezing cold, thus preventing the snow on your roof from melting, re-freezing, melting again and causing massive quantities of water from entering you house.

This is a very good idea... except if, as in our case, the house in question has half of its heating system housed in said attic, thus generating hot air that warms the attic and melts said roof snow/ice.

We can't move the forced air unit, so insulate we must.  

This is how our attic looked until this past summer:

and this is what our attic looks like now:

We had a high-efficiency, water-proof, magical, blah-blah-blah insulation sprayed onto the ceilings and eaves and then covered with pink batting insulation for extra measure.

The insulation was blown in while the floors were re-done during the Great Reconstruction Project of 2011 and while we were living in a hotel.  It was a terrifically messy job - one that I am still cleaning up after, as the workers themselves failed to sweep, vacuum or throw away debris after they were finished.

Can you tell this fact still annoys me?

So now we are insulated and we will soon be heating the OUTSIDE of our home.  Will this be enough?  As I type this post, the skies outside my window are turning a mean, snow-filled gray.  It's actually not supposed to snow, but the threat is there nonetheless.  The heater instillation is a very slow, laborious process and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will be finished before we actually need the system to be up and working!  

Will we be prepared?  Will water gush out of our ceiling once more?  Will Martha be having a nervous breakdown and put her house on the market come spring?  Who knows.  At least it will be said that we tried!  


Norbert Floth said...

I hope you didn't have any major ice dam problems last winter. We had a bad case of ice dam damage three years ago, and it affected the upstairs guest room. Needless to say, after that, we made sure we prepare our home for winter every year.

Martha said...

Thank you! We had a completely ice-dam-free winter, much to our relief. It's hard to tell if all our preparation worked or not. Truthfully, the winter we had in New England wasn't typical. We got very little snow. Did you do anything in particular to prepare your house? I'm always looking for new suggestions!

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please visit again.

Richard Boles said...

In my case, I often check our roof flashings before winter comes. Problematic flashings are perhaps the most common cause of roofing leaks and damage, so I’m constantly on the lookout. Also, I make sure that it is not ripped and is well fastened around the house’s perimeter.

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