Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Dealing With Winter

I think we have all had enough of this winter.  But your not alone, your house is suffering too. Forget about snow accumulation; this winter’s combination of cold and wet has wreaked havoc on our homes.  So what can you do to stave off potential damage and costly heating bills?


Ice Damming

As one who needs a solution for every problem, ice damming is terribly frustrating.  There is little that can be done as it happens.  Basically, ice damming is formed from heat (through convection, conduction or radiation) melting snow on a roof that turns into ice once it reaches a cold eve.  In the worst of cases the ice’s weight overwhelms a gutter and the ice creeps up under your roof and melts back into your house.


I have read and seen a variety of solutions, from the laborious chipping and removing to the bad idea of pouring warm water over it.  The only thing to do is clear the ice from the downspouts, so when it melts, it has somewhere to go.  There are no special tools, just anything that can get it off safely and nondestructively.  Whoever does it, be sure they do it safely using harnesses and stable ladders.  A roofer or landscaper should be able to do this.


The real solution is to conduct proper air sealing and insulation techniques.  Keep the roof cold and the house warm.  There are specific insulation techniques for roofs, with plenty of information on the web.  It’s pretty easy to do it wrong.


Snow and Ice Load

We have seen multiple reports of roof collapses.  A flat roof should be cleaned off, unless you are assured the roof is overbuilt and sound.  Wood roof frames with previous leaks are especially vulnerable, since many are engineered to perform as a whole.  One weak point is enough for a complete failure.  Any roof with a decent pitch should be OK.  Call the electric company if ice is accumulating on power lines.


Air Infiltration

I have said it before, air infiltration can be the single most contributor to heat loss and money wasted.  It is easy to blame it on windows, but a house can be riddled with holes and cracks.  So do the most obvious things first.  The goal is to stop air from moving around and out of the house.

  • Use a door sock.
  • Close basement doors, or doors floor to floor.
  • Close cold room doors, especially if they are not being used.
  • Remove air conditioners, or use an interior or exterior cover.
  • Close or get window blinds.  Open them when the sun is coming in.
  • Install glass on storm doors.  Close storm windows.
  • Open sinks cabinet doors if pipes are vulnerable to freezing.  Allow them to drip to prevent freezing.  Or use a space heater.


Heating Systems and Chimneys

Status quo is to deal with things when they break, but you can have a problem without even knowing it.

  • Clean your flue.  They can reduce efficiency and be a fire hazard.
  • Clean the furnace or boiler.  Annual furnace or boiler maintenance has a profound effect on longevity and efficiency.
  • Regulate your heating registers to warm or cool a room.  Most registers can be opened and closed, from baseboard, to radiators to forced air.  If you are not sure, ask.  My biggest pet peeve is a cold room with the baseboard heater’s top flap closed.
  • Close your fireplace flue.  There are inflatable bladders to close them up.  Stuffing with batten insulation does little except filter the air.



For the sake of pedestrians, please shovel.

  • Clear your mailbox area.
  • Over shovel you walk, because when it freezes or snows again, it gets even smaller.
  • Clear bus stops.  Yes, RIPTA cannot do them all, if any.
  • Clear fire hydrants.
  • Use ice melting agents.  Use salt alternatives where pets and masonry are concerned.  Salt kills mortar and some stone.  Salt first, wait, then remove the pieces.


So before you throw in the towel and move south, stick it out, and pay attention to your house.  It needs you more than ever.  If you want to improve your house’s performance and health, call several qualified contractors now so they can develop the right solutions if, I mean when, the weather turns.

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