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Massive icicles hanging from the eaves

Readers:

Leaving aside the issue of massive icicles falling on pedestrians, does it make sense for me to just let the icicles hang there, or does it make more sense to break them off?

That is, considering the roof, the eaves, the gutters, which is better?

Let them grow, or break them, and force them to start growing again? What's the theory?

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Comments

vicki's picture
Submitted by vicki on

I've encountered some terrible gutter damage due to big ol' icicles over the years.

But I live in the subtropics now, so what do I know.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Break 'em. They are a hazard, and can do damage via ice damming. Roof de-icer cables or better attic ventilation are solutions.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You must be a sad and lonely little person to ask such sad and lonely questions.

I weep for you.

Please get a life.

Submitted by lambert on

Thank you for commenting, eastriver. Your comment is important to us. Please do not hesitate to comment again.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Eastriver, thank you for one of the heartiest guffaws I have had in the all too many years of increasing gloom of the Bush interregnum.

Pippin and Merry (with a little help from Gandalf) are about to fire up the Ents to relieve the siege of Helm's Deep, I gotta get back to the teebee. But anybody who can take time out of their no doubt busy life to troll about icicles is right up there with Grima Wormtongue in his persuasive powers. Your master will be proud of you and probably give you a pet orc as reward. :)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I weep for you.

really? you cry over other peoples questions about winter roof maintenance?

Easily "stirred" ain't ya?

Hey, I've got a story about a basement sump pump that'll keep ya boo-hooing into a box of kleenex for days.

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Submitted by lambert on

LOL, farmer. Yeah, the sump pump? Please, let's not go there.

Re, "attic ventilation": Looks like the fill I added wasn't enough, because heat is still getting up from the house, and that's melting the snow and ice, and that forms ice dams. Yes? [Yes]

(Although the roof is still covered with snow, so everything is not melted -- except on the sunny side.)

Sheesh. Fucking organic being, this house....

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

if you break off a big icicle, to use to kill a snow vampire for instance, make sure you don't take a chunk of your roof with it. Like a chunk of shingle. Because, after you kill the vampire, the icicle will melt, and the chunk of shingle will be left behind on the dead snow vampire and the other snow vampires will trace that chunk of shingle back to your roof and they will come to your house at night and suck all the life juices out of your car battery. Or, if you don't have a car, especially one with a battery in it, they will release nutroller demons in your attic that will role walnuts around in your ceiling all winter long until you go slowly insane. Or be forced into the basement.... where the sump-pump of the underworld waits!

your house have ridge vents and soffet vents? some old houses don't. you have the fiberglass (pink stuff) in your attic or the blown in stuff? Did you blow insulation into the walls? I remember you mentioning that you might do that a while back?

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Submitted by lambert on

Yeah, I don't like the scenario of breaking off an icicle and having a chunk of the roof come with it. That would be bad.

It has a ridge vent. There are no soffit vents. I did blown in stuff. I might add pink stuff, especially around the wall/roof interface (there's at least one chase (sp?) that's a straight shot to the basement). IIRC, I want NO vapor barrier on the pink stuff in the attic, since the whole concept is for water not to collect.

On the other hand, I did insulate the basement and several of the crawlspaces and that has greatly improved matters. Like, some of those rooms actually retain heat now.

Nothing in the walls. I don't like that fill settles, I'm not totally sure about foam (outgassing?) which is also very expensive, and I just couldn't face replastering the walls. Wouldn't it be great if there was some sort of nanotech R-19 insulation that went on like wallpaper and was about that thick...

I see that this is an all-consuming, life-long process....

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Breaking 'em risks the understructure; so does leaving 'em up, particularly big heavy ones. The mass is not something most houses are engineered to support, particularly at any angle; and if your roof is shingle and has not been recently replaced, you are indeed at risk for the aforementioned ice dams.

Soffit vents are a good idea. If you can do so go ahead and hook up computer-fan sized powered vents in your attic (the solar charger ones run about $60 a kit here).

There is at least one kind of foam insulation -- you'll have to look in the source lists for the "Austin Project" on "This Old House" that is fast-drying, self-filling and earth-friendly; it comes in a firehose-canister arrangement and is trimmed level with the walls with e.g. the world's biggest electric carving knife; this was used in a renovation in Austin that earned five out of five possible stars for Green Building, and they don't waste around about that in Austin as they have some serious ecological issues above and beyond the watersheds thereabouts -- that will work in your situation but I have no idea about co$t.

R-19 no thicker than wallpaper ain't happenin'. However, you can do a lot with Reflectix (which is basically bubble wrap with a space blanket on each side) or in a pinch you can do a lot with plain bubble wrap. If your attic has an inside that you can access readily and safely, the underside of your roof deck is a GREAT place to add insulation. If all you can get is foamboard, get it anyway; you can staple that to the underside of the rafters. It will sound silly to you right now but a whole-house attic fan is your friend!

Pink fiberglass blankets are fine for those who can handle the stuff -- I am not such a person, so I leave that to the pros. Blown-in wall-insulation ... eh. If you're going that route use the recycled cotton-fiber, it helps damp down fires.

NOTHING in the walls in your climate will eat you out of house and home in very short order, Lambert. It's absolutely the worst thing you can do except leave all your windows, doors and other envelope breaches without weatherstripping. There are "kits" available that let you essentially shrinkwrap your windows; those will help with huge heating bills but beware the lowered ventilation in your house -- you'll need to be that much more alert for the carbon monoxide and other fumes that arise with heating and cooking and running a water heater indoors, let alone candles, etc.

Chase is the right spelling -- and depending on what's in there, you may not want pink stuff (i.e. if it would rub on a furnace or stove exhaust). If it's a pipe chase or a vent chase, you definitely want to consider air barriers and condensation barriers for it.

But the biggest worry is dryness, and if you're at risk for ice dams you're at risk for leaks and the attendant water damage they promote.

I'll quit harping on all this now, but please do think seriously about what I've said here; if your roof is properly insulated it will retain snow (except under direct sunlight out of the wind, where the temperature will rise over time to melting) when snow falls.

Submitted by lambert on

I think I need to get the insulation round the eaves of the attic. Obviously, the fill wasn't enough, and I'm betting the warmer air coming up the chases is what's causing the problem outside at the gutters. None of the chases are vents; they're just part of the structure of the walls. And the other thing to do is to attack the chases at basement level.

In the attic, I think the thing to do is to get the "triangular" space between floor and roof closer to the temperature of the outside. So I want flat insulation at floor level. I want to leave the rafters alone, with no moisture issues and more importantly everything visible.

Putting in a roof fan is not an easy option; this might sound crazy, but I wonder if it makes sense just to crack one of the windows, when the stuff round the eaves and blocking the chases is in, so the whole house doesn't turn into giant chimney?

As far as windows, the replacement windows are in and they are a great improvement. IIRC, the real issue with windows, at least in an old house, is the frames around the windows where the sash weights go. These were foamed during the replacement. So I don't think shrinkwrap is on the top of my list.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Here are things you need to know:
You should insulate attics. Though not brand spanking new, this link shows some different types of insulation (this info doesn't have a sell-by date). The government offers a list of things you can do with insulation to help make your home more energy-efficient. This site offers tips on preserving the character of older buildings while bringing up their energy-efficiency, ventilation and insulation to modern standards.

It's good they foamed your sashweight chases, as those can leak conditioned air like crazy -- not just warm in the winter but cool in the summer, too. (Yeah, in Texas that's more often the concern; I was running the AC in my house earlier this month although I did have it cut back to 'vent fan' settings).