We’ve had a mild winter so far here in the Northeast, but the snow will come and will need to be dealt with. The first thing we need to do is create a safe path in and out of the house.
I try to shovel early and often to save my back, and I also find sweeping my walkway helps keep ice from forming. I don’t like to use salt, but you may need to in really icy conditions, or you can try sand, ashes, and even coffee grounds to give you better traction.
The second thing you want to do is make sure snow isn’t covering anything that shouldn’t be blocked, like a dryer vent.
Third, if you’ve got a basement door, make sure it’s not covered, so that melting snow doesn’t get in the house. In the photo below, the house’s side door is at driveway level, and there are signs of water damage at the bottom of the door and frame. Keeping snow away from this door will help extend its life.
The fourth place to look is the roof. Snow on the roof isn’t a problem per se. If your house is well insulated, the roof will stay cold and covered until the snow melts away from the sun. If your attic isn’t well insulated, rising heat can melt snow from underneath, and when the water reaches the bottom of the roof, it can freeze, causing ice dams. The water caught behind the dam can then enter the house, damaging the interior walls and insulation inside.
Once an ice dam starts, don’t try to pull it down – you can damage the roof and gutters. If you can climb up to the eaves safely, you can use an ice pick to chip away at any big ice accumulations. More importantly, take note of where the dams form and look to improve insulation and ventilation in your attic in those areas in the Spring or Fall. Baffles placed at the eaves can help draw the cold air up and into the attic to prevent the melting in the first place. So can sealing air leaks and adding extra insulation in the attic floor, but make sure to remove any wet or moldy insulation caused by the water infiltration first. You can also buy or build an insulated cover for the attic hatch or stairway – a lot of heat enters the attic this way.
Once you’ve gotten things cleaned up, take a break to get warmed up. You’ve earned it.
In my next post, I’ll talk about things you can do now to keep the inside of your house more comfortable this winter.