How to Avoid Hidden Water Damage in the Winter Months

In Home improvements, Homeowners, Protecting your home by Doug PhelpsLeave a Comment

As another gorgeous Colorado fall gives way to winter, colder weather and snow are just around the corner. It is a good time to again visit with Mark Peter, a Denver area agent for State Farm, to discuss two forms of lesser known water damage typical to our colder climate homes – ice dams and attic condensation.

Both of these can catch a homeowner off guard, be complicated to recognize and even trickier to fix. And since many homeowners aren’t frequent visitors to their own attics any time of year and especially in the frigid winter months, water damage on the top floor of our homes is a surprise most of us want to avoid.

Doug Phelps: Mark, what are ice dams and how are they different from attic condensation?

Mark Peter: When the temperature in your attic is above freezing, and our Colorado sun is again shining after a storm, snow on the roof will melt. When the snowmelt runs down the roof and hits the colder eaves, it refreezes. If this cycle repeats over several days, the freezing snowmelt can build up and form a dam of ice. Behind this dam, water pools up. The pooling water can then back up under the roof covering and leak into the attic or along exterior walls.

Condensation of water vapor on cold surfaces in attics can cause wood to rot, which can lead to failure of the structure and costly repairs. Condensation typically occurs when warm, moist air migrates or is directed into the attic from living spaces below. Research indicates unusually high humidity in the home’s living spaces is strongly associated with attic condensation problems.

DP: What can a homeowner do to prevent them?

MP: Here are a few simple steps that can help prevent ice dams and condensation in your attic:

  • Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, as well as dryer vents, should never be discharged into the attic space; but always discharged outside. You may have an adequately ventilated attic, but this won’t matter if the bathroom exhaust fan dumps warm moist air directly into the attic space. This will result in condensed water vapor freezing onto cold attic materials, which will eventually thaw creating wet attic materials resulting in damage in the attic and then inside the home.
  • Minimize ceiling mounted fixtures below the attic that create the need for holes in the drywall or plaster ceiling. If you do, properly seal all ceiling penetrations to make them airtight, taking care to follow manufacturer clearance requirements for flues, chimneys, and recessed light fixtures.
  • Proper attic ventilation is key to keeping the attic cool, while adequate and properly installed insulation is key to keeping your house warm. It is critical to keep soffit vents free from obstructions to allow the natural flow of cool outside air into the attic space to replace the warmer attic air that rises and flows outside via ridge and/or roof vents. This flow of air will keep the attic cool and free of moisture build-up.

DP: These are great tips and straight-forward advice, really for all seasons of the year. Do you have any other tips of what a homeowner should do – and not do?

Please join me for my next blog to see what other tips Mark has to offer homeowners.

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