Keep your home safe from winter damage

De-icing walkways and driveways – Negotiating icy paths is a big winter concern. Owners of houses with traditional paving may wonder how best to de-ice a walkway, driveway or front stoop to make it less treacherous after a winter storm. It is important to note that frequent use of chemical de-icers can damage historic brick paving, and even more durable surfaces such as slate and granite will suffer if de-icers are overused.
The trick here is to use de-icers sparingly, perhaps de-icing only to the entrance you use most frequently. For other pathways, consider using sand or sawdust for traction. And shoveling early and often is a good way to prevent snow and ice from accumulating on historic masonry paths and drives.
Preventing ice dams – Ice dams — accumulations of ice at the roof line or in gutters — form when heated air escapes into the attic and warms the roof sheathing, melting snow that sits on top. Melted snow runs down the roof and refreezes when it contacts an overhanging, unheated eave. The weight of an ice dam can pull gutter and trim woodwork off the house.
Check for the likelihood of ice dams on your roof by inspecting the roof during the first light snowfall or heavy frost. You want to see an uninterrupted blanket of snow on the roof. If you don’t, follow the tips below. To keep ice dams from forming, keep the attic cold. Homeowners should make sure that the attic floor is well-insulated and that any gaps to heated areas below are sealed off. Penetrations into the attic from plumbing vents or electrical work should be sealed with caulk, expanding foam, or foam and backer rod. Replacing old, damp or compressed insulation with new loose-fill or dense-pack cellulose or fiberglass insulation helps to combat ice dams and reduce the costs of winter heating and summer cooling. Once the floor is air-sealed and insulated, make sure the attic is vented to move any warm air outside before it can heat the roof.
Removing snow and ice from the roof – Homeowners have only a few options for removing ice and snow from the roof of a historic home. Where ice dams recur, homeowners can install de-icing tape or cables along the bottom of the gutter, through downspouts and into drain pipes, or at problematic roof valleys or eaves.
These cables carry a heating element through an insulated wire to warm targeted areas. A homeowner can use a long-handled roof rake to reduce the volume of snow, but this is recommended only for low-pitched roofs and can be dangerous to attempt on a two-story building.
Keep melting snow out – The last thing a homeowner wants is for an ice dam to force meltwater into the house. To keep this from happening, it may be necessary to add an impervious roofing underlayment to a width of at least 3 feet along the eave line when the house gets a new roof. These installations may not keep ice dams from forming, but they can help reduce the damage caused from heavy accumulations.

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