Check Under the Snow Before You Buy This Winter

18-ice-dam-4Although the real estate market is not as “hot” in the winter as it is during the rest of the year, the winter months can actually provide valuable insight into many areas of a home otherwise not able to be seen in the warmer months.

When looking to purchase a home in the winter months, it is beneficial to have a look at the roof of the home you are considering. The roof can tell you a lot about the state of the home and may allow you to see where unexpected expenses may come into play after you move in.

A properly insulated and well-ventilated attic will keep cool air in your home in the summer, and warm air in your home in the winter. A natural property of heat is that it rises, so a well-insulated attic will keep that warm air from escaping. After a snowfall, take note of any snow-free spots on the roof. If snow-free spots exist this means that warm air is escaping, resulting in higher than necessary energy costs for you as the homeowner.

While they are beautiful to look at, icicles are also a sign that the roof is not functioning properly.

The icicles are a result of ice damming – a condition that happens when accumulated snow on a roof melts and then freezes. This freezing water accumulates, forming a dam, which further prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. A ridge of ice is formed at the edge of a roof, where water often builds up and causes unwanted damage, including torn off gutters, loose shingles, and leaking water into the home.


The root cause of ice damming is heat loss. Heat escapes into the attic through the ceiling from lack of insulation and ventilation.

Electrical coils on the roof, in the eaves trough and down pipes, are sometimes installed to reduce the damage caused by ice damming but they do not fix the problem.

roof with heat loss

Increasing the insulation in the attic is a start to correcting/eliminating the problem, but there also needs to be air-flow. Roof vents, at the top of the roof will allow air to escape, but there also needs to be a place where the air can enter. By installing ventilation sleeves at the eaves you will have an air inlet and the roof vents at the top of the roof will allow air to escape; thereby, creating good air-flow.

If you suspect that your roof is poorly insulated, or not functioning properly, it is a good idea to have a professional insulation company assess the issue at hand.

If you have had any instances where you’ve experienced poor insulation in your roof, please share in the comments!