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FALL HOME IMPROVEMENT TAB Avoid ice dams,

insulate the attic

Albany Times Union

The heat escaping through the attic of your toasty home can result in more than just high heating bills. It can also cause ice to build up on the eaves, leading to pooled water, leaks, curled or damaged shingles or worse.

The large amounts of snow that have accumulated and melted and frozen on top of homes can cause serious headaches for homeowners. Frozen gutters and wind-driven ice and snow cause billions in damage to homes each winter, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.

"The exterior of a home takes a real beating throughout the course of the year with such dramatic weather cycles," says Sheree Bargabos, president of Exterior Systems Business for Owens Corning in Toledo, Ohio. "Knowing how to identify and solve problems resulting from weather events like these recent storms can significantly prolong the quality and life of a house."

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The roof is the first line of defense for a home. While many know that heavy, wet snow can stress a roof and even cause a collapse, ice dams are a less dramatic but still damaging effect of Mother Nature.

Snow on a roof can begin to melt even though temperatures haven't climbed above freezing. When heat from the living area escapes through a poorly insulated attic floor, it can build up in the attic, raise the temperature of the roof and gradually melt the snow. As the melted water flows toward the edge of the roof, it refreezes on the colder surfaces near the roof's edge, forming a solid ice dam or icicles.

If your home has recessed lighting near the roof, heat from the lights can also contribute to melting snow and subsequent ice buildups, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Once the weather grows milder, homeowners should check the roof for damage, Bargabos says. Water backing up behind an ice dam can eventually leak through flashings, around nails, chimneys, vent stacks, dormers and skylights or through the membrane under shingles. Leaking water can damage walls, ceilings, floors, carpeting and insulation. It can also peel paint and lead to mold and mildew growth in attics and on wall surfaces.

To stop ice dams from forming in the first place, the attic should be no more than five to 10 degrees warmer than the outside air, recommends the Insurance Information Institute.

"You need to have the proper amount of ventilation and insulation in your attic to keep heat loss at a minimum," says Darrel Higgs, technical manager for the Exterior Systems Business for Owens Corning. "Ventilation is also key, because you want to remove heat from an attic to make it cooler and closer to the temperature outside to prevent melting and freezing."

If leaks form "pools" of water in the ceiling, puncture a small hole in the ceiling to relieve the pressure and allow water to escape into a container. If water is leaking near an electrical source, be sure to shut down the circuit breaker first.

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