Ice buildup on gutters

Home Maintenance Tips for December

For many people, home maintenance tasks are the last thing on their minds this time of year. We pared back this month’s task list to just two items. One can help you save on energy costs, and the other can help prevent water intrusion from melting ice and snow. Then you can get back to sitting by the fire, chestnuts roasting, caroling, and all that jazz.

Flat or fluffy? Over time, your attic insulation can deteriorate or get matted down, especially if you live in an older home. The result is reduced energy efficiency because it can no longer insulate against the cold air as well as new insulation. Fortunately, it’s easy to remedy, just taking a little time and care.Insulation is assigned a number, called an R-value, which indicates its ability to resist (R) heat. The higher the number, the more it resists heat, and the better job it does keeping the cold air out of your home in the winter and the hot air out in the summer. Most conventionally built homes have an R-value of R19. This value gives you about 5½ inches of insulation depth in your attic.

By contrast, an Energy Star home has an R-value of R38, which is often between 10 and 14 inches in depth. Which one do you think does a better job at keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer?

Crawl up into the attic and look. If your insulation is matted down below 5½ inches or deteriorating, it needs some TLC. You can pull it up and replace it with R38 rated insulation, or, you can add another layer of R19 insulation and get similar results. Aim for 10 to 14 inches. And be careful. It’s easy to put your foot through the ceiling by accident. You can also have new insulation installed professionally. Call us if you need a referral.

Sealing drafts and cracks (last month’s task) and giving the insulation some TLC can help you stay toastier this winter.

At risk for ice dams? However lovely the phrase may sound, ice dams are not your pals. In fact, they can cause water to seep into your attic, causing a whole other layer of problems. Ice dams are mounds of ice that accumulate around the edge of your roof, and they’re created when melting snow or ice can’t drip freely into gutters, through downspouts, and away from your house. These drips can freeze and form ice dams over just a few hours, and as result, push water under eaves and into your home.

Shady roofs and high elevations can increase the risk of ice dams forming because snow and ice can linger. Ice dams are less common at lower elevations but can happen any time snow or ice accumulates on the roof. Need a visual, think of icicles inside and outside your gutters. To help prevent ice dams from forming, make sure you have adequate and properly installed insulation in your attic (see above).

Also, make sure gutters and downspouts are in good shape and free of leaves, bird nests, and other debris that can cause water to back up and freeze. If ice damming has been a problem in the past, or you want to take an extra step to prevent them, install heat cables along the edges of your roof and in the gutters and downspouts.

Like we said, insulation can be easier for professionals to tackle. Contact us if you need a referral. Glad to help.