Saturday, February 12, 2011

8 Ways To Combat Ice Dams on a Toronto home

It's very important to understand that the ice build up shown below is usually the result of a heat loss problem in the attic. The heat loss through the ceiling and lack of proper ventilation need to be addressed.

Never let anyone tell you that installing new eavestroughs will have a significant impact on any ice issues you may experience with your home. A proper functioning eavestrough system is definitely an important part of the big picture that may help with this problem but new eavestroughs will not eliminate ice build up, if the heat loss problem isn't taken care of.

Properly functioning eavestrough is essential for proper rainwater management around your home. In a Toronto winter we are dealing with snow melting due to heat loss and that is a different story. Snow melting on the roof will refreeze on the roof edge and eavestrough no matter what condition it is in because of below zero temperatures.

Ways to combat ice:

1. Prevent heat escape through the ceiling by making sure there are no major gaps around light fixtures to let warm air into the attic. This is best done from the attic and is easy to see once the loose fill insulation is pulled back a bit. Use spray foam to seal any gaps.

2. Make sure the insulation is about 16 inches thick to provide about an R-50 insulation value. Ensure it's evenly spread and no bare spots which are often caused by people working in the attic to do electrical and not spreading the insulation back out properly after the work is completed. If you have old style potlights, have an electrician inspect them to make sure they are to code before covering over.

3. Ensure all bathroom vents actually vent directly outside the attic through the roof and not just laid into the soffit.

4. Visually inspect from the attic that the soffits on the home are actually providing fresh cold air. You should be able to see a clear path to the soffit in the form of a baffle attached to the underside of the roof. Often you can see daylight if their is a clear path to a vented soffit. If you plan on getting your attic blown in, ensure baffles are installed if needed to ensure the ventilation to the soffit is not compromised.

5. Ensure that there are enough vents at the peak of your roof to let any heat out.

6. Install heater cables on the roof edge , eavestrough and down pipe. Note that this will not deal with the root cause of the ice. This is just throwing more energy at a energy loss issue. However careful use is needed in some cases. Some houses would require a major renovation to get to the root cause of heat loss due to vaulted ceilings etc.

7. Remove the snow off the roof so it can not melt and cause problems. Some roof tops can be reached from the ground using a roof snow rake which is much safer then going up a ladder this time of year.

8. Inspect soffits from the exterior to ensure that most or better yet all of the soffits are perforated with little holes to let the attic breathe. Unfortunately many homes have a layer of plywood hidden under the aluminum soffit which ideally should be removed to allow for maximum ventilation. To determine this a piece of soffit will need to be partially removed to inspect. Most Toronto and GTA homes built before the 80s will have this plywood. It's there because wood was used to cover in the soffits back then, not aluminum. When the aluminum soffits were done at a later point to cover the old plywood, the installers normally did not remove it to save time. At the very least, make sure there is a 1 foot square hole cut in the old plywood every 8 feet. Every piece of new soffit should be perforated.

Are you interested in new eavestroughs, leafguard, soffit, fascia, insulation or LED lighting for your Scarborough, North York or Toronto home?  Visit our website at

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