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Snow and Ice Buildup

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by mayhem, Jan 13, 2011.

  1. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    OK, so I've been living with this for years and I'm tired of it. More importantly though, my wife is REALLY tired of it.

    We have a chalet-style log cabin, 11/12 pitch roof that holdds alot of snow and ice. On the south side of the house is the main entrance and the large front deck wraps around from the front to the south side and you step doen off the deck near the main doors. The attached pic is what I have and it shows the basic layout ok. The side deck is about 6 feet from the house to the railing.

    I get alot of icicles on the eaves and alot of dripping on the deck which of course turns to ice rapidly...eventually we get several inches of ice built up and the only thing I can do is stop using that door and have everyone enter/exit through the basement.

    The ideal solution would be to make the side deck into a porch and just let the ice go off the side into the lawn...but I can't do that midwinter and even in the spring thats probably not going to be in the budget.

    My wife wants me to put up a gutter...while thois would certainly keep the roof from dripping on us when it rains in the spring, I just can't see how its going to do a darn thing for ice...its just going to fill up with ice itself and just extend the icicle buildup out a few inches, right?

    I have a snow rake and I can get about 2/3 of the way to the peak of the roof mostly clear with it, and by using it is the only thing keeping the ice thickness DOWN to a few inches...in past years when I didn't clear the roof we were dealing with more like a foot or more of ice buildup right in front of the door.

    So, anyone have any ideas? I put some plastic down on the deck last night and it worked like a charm to keep the ice off the deck, but its ot a really workable solution since we cna't walk on it safely and there is no way my wife is going to be picking it up and putting it back down.

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  2. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I'd go with having the basement door as the winter entrance for now and do the screened in porch later. I'm no sure how that would work in your case though because if the slope of the porch's roof is too low the snow would gather on the porch roof.

    I deal with something similar only it's a colonial with a full porch in front and partial deck in back.
    The back used to be a full deck but we screened it in and I like that part a lot because the snow slides right off.
    The screened in porch is nice - sit out there in the evening and no bugs -sweet.

    If I keep after it with a single stage snowblower (which is easy on the wood) I can just barely keep it clean if I'm lucky, otherwise, it's so icy by the time it falls off the roof it can't be moved.

    On the front of the house, the snow slides right off the metal roof onto the walk - it could kill you. I put some yellow tape across it when there's danger of snow slides.

    I think the slides would rip those gutters off the first winter.

    Sorry I wasn't much help I guess.
  3. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    How much insulation is in the ceiling? If not very much, or there is a way for warm air to get to the roof decking, that might be leading to more snow melt than you would have otherwise.

    If the roof gets lots of sun, you will have snow melt even on a roof of an unheated building, so there's always going to be water dripping down the roof if you get a lot of sun.

    I agree the gutter wouldn't help much. Instead of having to keep the walkway clear of ice, you'll now have to keep the gutter free of ice. Gutters are nice for when it rains, though.

    Is the ice a daily problem? That would seem excessive from just normal freeze/thaw cycles in the daily temps.
  4. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    The roof has about 12-14" of rolled insulation...not sure of the r-factor. Trusses are 2x14's 16 on center IIRC. Its a very thick roof. The main entry doors are not well insulated and despite my best efforts over the years are still drafty...but very expensive to replace as its a double door set...no storm door option either. That side of the house is southern and a touch western exposure, so it gets alot of direct sun. Additionally the woodstove chimney is right about in line with the main doors, up near the peak, which probably adds a bit of energy to the mix. The icicles are definitely longer over the door, but I've got big icicles all the way across that side of the house and only a few on the north side of the house, so I think alot of it has to be solar melting.

    I'd say yes, this is a daily issue in that I really need to shovel, scrape, salt and sand daily in order to keep it usable and safe. If I let it go a few days its game over until we have a thaw.

    Maybe I need those strips of metal up there to push the ice off to the sides? I dunno, but its driving me nuts.
  5. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Nice house!
    Probably not an option, but could you put one of those wires/strips that plug in and heat up, and arrange the wire/strip above your doorway/entryway?
    I think the cabling is meant to be used with gudders/downspouts, but it may work for a small area above your doorway.

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  6. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    Dave beat me to it. I was going to suggest putting up a gutter, filling the gutter and a little bit of the roof with heat trace. This will virtually eliminate the problem. You could also add those metal spikes to stop the snow/ice from falling off the roof. Should be a relatively easy/cheap solution.
  7. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    Thought about heat tape, but I'm not sure it'll really fix the problem. The core issue that I need to fix is that I'got massive amounts of ice forming on the deck floor below the roofline. If I used heat tape, it would eliminate the icicles, but not the water thats forming them, right?

    Or maybe put some heat tape in a gutter?

    Maybe I should just build a temporary angled roof structure to go over this 8-10 foot section for the winter? I could anchor it to the eaves maybe and the railing on the far end and put a sheet of metal roofing or plastic roofing on it tohelp it shed the snow adn ice onto the lawn? Just make a 2x6 frame, heavy playwood over that and some roofing material and call it a day. It won't be as nice as a full blown porch roof over there but maybe it would do the job sufficiently to keep the entrance clear and my wife off my case till spring?
  8. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    Do you mean the insulation is 12-14" thick? It FG, the effective R value would be around R30, which is then probably not the problem.

    I'd check for any penetrations of the drywall/ceiling that could be letting even small amounts of warm air get under the roof decking. Some of these might be coming from the adjacent walls. If not already done, I'd air-seal all fixtures, receptacles, etc.

    That just seems like too much run-off to form from just solar heat, despite the southern exposure. If the insulation was installed properly, then there must be a source of warm air getting out of the living space and under/onto the roof decking. This would be a real problem if the insulation had pulled at all away from the underside of the roof deck.

    Are there any penetrations of the roof on that side? A vent of any kind?
  9. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    Also, though a gutter with heat would solve one problem, namely the overflow onto the walkway, it doesn't answer why you've got so much snow melting on your roof. One way or another, the heat that's doing that is getting out of your house, and unless you like giving money to the utilities, and burning more wood than you really need to, the snow melt problem is the one to be solved.

    Icicles are not typically seen on well-insulated, air-sealed houses, except under rare circumstances. Regular icicles and run-off mean something is wrong.

    We all remember knocking down icicles as kids, because the houses we lived in were so poorly insulated.
  10. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Do you use the entire deck in the winter, or just the 8-10 ft section?
    I'm thinking put up a temporary gudder, downspout, and heat tape strip for that 8 ft section, and see if it helps temprarily.
    You could saw out a small portion of your deck to allow the downspout, and this would allow the water to flow underneath and not on top of your deck.
    Probably best bet would be to get a structure up there, but I think for $75, you could get a gutter, heat tape and downspout....looks like 30 ft of heat wires goes for $30 or so.
    Maybe snap a pic of the area of the icing and the doorway?
  11. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    I'll take some pics tonight when I get home. I knocked the icicles off the edge yesterday afternoon around 4pm when I shoveled off that section of the deck and laid down my tarp to try and keep some ice from sticking to the deck. This morning I went out to lift the tarp so my wife doesn't kill herself slipping on it and I was shocked to find 18-24" icicles all along the section i cleared off. Now to be fair we got over 24" of snow yesterday and the roof looks like its got a good foot on there, I think there's just enough heat up there to keep the surface at like 33-40 degrees and keep the snow melting. Since the roof was totally covered in white snow, logically this has to be coming from the structure, right?

    I prefer to use the whole deck, so this sort of problem extends for another 10-12 feet, I'd say I have about 20 or so feet of side deck (and stairs) that are affected by ice on the drip edge. The front section gets zero ice from the roof because it just doesn't slope that way. We grill all winter long and sometimes I like to just go out there and enjoy the view on a warmer winter's day.

    Triple wall chimney pokes through about a foot this side of the ridge, more or less in line with the doorway. Master bedroom has 2 18x36" skylights, both of those are further towards the back of the house from the doorway though. There are no other protrusions on this side of the roof, bathrooms are both on the north side of the house.

    Walls are solid log, interior ceiling in the great room (front 3/5 of the whole internal volume of the house) is tongue and groove, so certainly lots of potential for air leaks into the insulated area there, I do not know if a vapor/air barrier was put up above the tongue and groove ceiling, but I took hundred of photos during construction so I'll have to dig them out and see, maybe I caught that part of the process. The ceiling in this room if a 26 foot peak ceiling and I remember a couple years ago I checked the surface temps with an IR thermometer and it can get up to around 100 degrees at the top of that room, can be a 30 degree difference when the stove has been cranking for a long time. I have definitely not sealed up interior wall receptacles and outlets, but I did do the exterior walls because they were all cold to the touch.

    The main doorway definitely radiates heat out of the house and could very well be the biggest aprt of the snowmelt issue as that section of the roof clears off well in advance of the rest...you can watch the semicircle form above the doorway over a few days time. Part of the latch mechanism for the second door was lost right after construction and that door has always been a bit loose, the primary door also never sealed quite right. I add weatherstripping and other cob job bit and pieces to try and seal it up better, but that one spot I woudl say is probably my home's single biggest heat loser. I'd love to replace it with a nice single door and two sidelights with a good storm door, but its just never been in the cards. Its an insulated fiberglass door and just touching the interior surface of the door I can feel the cold right through it...by comparison, those colossal windows on the front of the house are room air temperature on the inside of the house. I hate that darn doorway, but I just dont have the funding to replace it. Maybe the door is the core of the problem.
  12. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    Woa! Believe it or not, my next question was going to be: "Have you checked the ceiling's surface temp? Because it might be as high as 85 degrees..."

    But 100F? That changes everything.

    Even with R30 insulation, at a temp difference of 80 degrees (assuming ceiling of 100F and outside of 20F), the amount of heat lost through the roof is probably plenty high to continuously melt the snow, except on the coldest days of the year.

    I assume you need to run the heat to make the rooms with the large windows feel warmer?

    What is the average room temp in the main rooms of the house? Are they comfortable at that temp?

    I doubt the leaky doors are the cause of the faster snow melt on the roof at that place. The heat going outside gets dissipated quickly to the air and would not settle on the roof. But doors are often where there are air leaks into the walls/ceiling, so I'd start looking there, for a way that room air is getting into the ceiling.
  13. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    AND the chimney is also part of the problem. Insulated is good, but still lets plenty of heat pass through it when the air inside is 600F. My liner cap melts a space around it for many feet, though the roof itself is many feet away (Mine is an exterior chimney).

    Not much you can do about that if you want to keep burning, other than move the stove. But I'd be certain the chimney/liner entrance to the ceiling is totally airtight, so no room heat can add to the problem.
  14. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    AND, it's 100% vital to know, for sure, whether or not there's an air barrier installed under that T&G ceiling.
  15. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    I'll see if we have an IR temp sensor here and take it home tonight. Those temps are with the boiler off, woodstove only. My meory may also be fuzzy about those numbers...I need to verify.

    Those large windows on the front are all one room, the great room is kitchen, dining and living room and aloft office above the kitchen and the ceilings go all the way up. Literally 3/5 of the interior volume of the house. The room is so tall and has enough air volume that on a still night, ceiling fans off and wood stove cranking, there is a cool breeze blowing downward from the heat exchange...it feels like I'm sitting under a ceiling fan blowing down on low.

    maybe I jsut need to find a better way to keep the air at the peak of the inside to circulating better. I have no ceiling fans that high so the air is largely stationary...plenty of opportunity for it to seep through and get to roof warmed up...even just from solid material heat exchange.
  16. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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  17. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    You have a boiler? Do you have subfloor or baseboard radiant heat? That would eliminate a lot of these problems.
  18. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    If the ceiling is 100F, then yes. If the ceiling is 75F, not very much. Heat will transfer much faster at the higher temp.

    It would be hard to constantly redistribute that volume of air with fans, without feeling like you were in a mini-hurricane.

    Was your house designed to be heated with just radiant heat? It seems so to me.
  19. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    5 zone boiler (basement, hot water, great room, MBR and first floor back bedrooms), 180k btu oil fired.

    Basement is a heated subfloor and the rest of the house is baseboard heat. Costs me about 1800-2000 gallons per winter to heat exclusively with oil, thuns the woodstove. Down around 300 per year now, mostly for hot water and end of the hallway rooms that the stove just doesn't heat well. The boiler does an ok job, but even with doubel height baseboards around the great room side walls and two fan forced kickspace heaters, it still cannot keep that front room warm...before we got the stove the living room zone used to run almost around the clock when nightime temps were single digits or lower...there were days when literally the heat did not actually switch off. At today's heating oil prices I'm not sure I could afford to keep my house if I went back to using oil exclusively...rather live with the ice.

    Not sure. The house is a Lincoln Logs Valcour Island plan, modified to our preferences. The original plan had a provision for a hearth/fireplace but we didn't put it in due to the cost of the chimney was in the $30,000+ range (stone chimney rising about 35 feet and the supports under it to keep it from flling into the basement).
  20. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

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    Just wait to Weds. next week. Should be in the high 30s with rain. No more snow on the roof to melt. Course then down to 20 or less. Ya got to love it in the hilltowns.
    Be safe.
    Ed
  21. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    The weather guy was talking about possible freezing rain around here next Tues. I hate freezing rain.
  22. dave11

    dave11 Minister of Fire

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    Actually, I think your house looks really cool. There is a great view out those front windows?

    But all that glass is hard to offset in getting the place warm. Those windows are like a radiant heater in reverse.

    There is radiant film for windows meant to hold heat in during winter time, with only a slight change in the transparency. Is there any sort of coating on them now?

    The original architect should have done all these calculations, based on the home site, the local temps, the snow pack, the roof pitch, etc. He/she was probably not taking into account the possibility of a hot wood stove in the great room sending hot air to collect against the ceiling. Or else he/she should have put the doors under the gable ends of the house, and not the eaves, for just the reason you've discovered.

    One other thing. If you have any sort of fan or blower on the stove, you might consider leaving it off. You'd want to encourage the radiant aspects of the stove, and diminish the convective aspects.
  23. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Instead of building out the roof over the deck, just divert the water coming down to both sides. You'll still have ice on the deck, but you will be able to open the door.

    The nicest way to do this would be to build a little gable over the doorway (i.e. a peaked roof with its ridge perpendicular to the main roof ridge). You could make it 4-5 feet wide at the base. The gable could be shingled with the same shingles as the roof. Also keep a torrent off you when you are going in and out in the rain. This gable could extend past the current eave (to provide a little shelter when you are fussing with your keys) or you could just make the vertical gable coincident with the current drip edge.

    The cheapo version that I have seen is just some flashing type material worked under the shingles to form a ridge 2-3" high, perpendicular to the plane of the shingles, to divert the water sideways. Not too clear here, sorry, but basically a low profile metal 'v' which kicks the sheet of water running down the roof to both sides. For the ice/snow problem, it is not clear that it wouldn't just dam up too, might need to chase it with a little heating wire also. Not elegant, but easy and cheap.
  24. Lighting Up

    Lighting Up Feeling the Heat

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    I think you just answer your problem...need to move that heat. To prove it if your stove is cold and your heating system is heating your house do you have this problem? That warm air up there needs to be move down with ceiling fans.

    Something to try with box fans maybe if there is a landing face the fans out to try to get the warm air moving.
    md
  25. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

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