While we often consider the adverse effects of moisture in our attics during wet and warm months, cold snaps bring a new host of problems to watch for. Recently, our clients have come to us with the issues of ice and frost forming in their attics. If you discover icicles in your attic or ice inside your roof, there are several possible culprits, and thankfully, some simple solutions to remedy the issue. It’s important to take quick action to protect your home, as often — as we’ll outline below — ice in the attic can be a symptom of a bigger and more dangerous problem.
Ice in Attics Can Be the Result of Rising and Trapped Heat
A helpful way to understand this problem is to think back on warmer days. Have you ever walked outside on a hot summer day with a chilled glass of iced tea? What happens when the hot air hits the icy glass? Most likely, tiny water droplets of condensation form around the rim. As surely as heat rises, it’s capable of forming condensation and moisture in your attic. This becomes problematic if your attic is not sufficiently insulated. If you discover ice in your attic, use this gridwork of questions to troubleshoot:
- Do you have a whole house/attic fan typically located in the ceiling of one of a home’s hallways?
- Do you have bathroom exhaust vents?
Most homeowners will answer yes to one or both of these questions. If this is your case, her eis a follow-up question:
- Are these vents attached to a flex pipe, guiding the air to an exterior “flapper vent,” or is the air being vented directly into your attic?
If hot air from showers is steaming directly into the attic, this creates a buildup of humidity. Encountering a cold snap, snow and ice can sit on our roofs for several weeks. This can trap hot air in our attics. The air hits the frozen surfaces, condensing, frosting, and prolonging moisture exposure in our attics. In this instance, ice might serve as a helpful sign that we need to take action. It can point to moisture buildup that, left unaddressed, can contribute to mold and related dangerous conditions in the summer.
Prevent Ice in Attics With a Whole House/Ceiling Fan Cover
The codes for building homes here in the Kansas City area differ significantly from colder climates. Simply put, we build homes differently here, as we rarely encounter such prolonged cold snaps as we have this year. A short-term solution to mitigate this type of moisture buildup is to insulate the topside of an attic fan. You can use a commercial product such as a magnetic or velcro whole house/ceiling fan cover, or use an insulated blanket.
Frost And Ice in Attics From Faulty Furnace Pipes
Another question to ask if you find ice inside the attic regards your furnace.
- Do you have a high-efficiency furnace venting outside an exterior wall?
- Or does your furnace vent up through the attic and out the roof?
A typical ice issue in the attic can be caused by heat and moisture escaping the exhaust pipes from your furnace and leaking into the attic. Without proper insulation and with a buildup of snow or ice on the roof, this heat and moisture become trapped. Hitting the ice-cold metal pipe flashing, it immediately freezes. This can create frost followed by ice layers. This can also happen with a disconnect in the furnace or water heater exhaust piping. Left unaddressed, a disconnected pipe can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide exposure.
If hot air is escaping your furnace pipes and causing ice in your attic, call your HVAC company to seal the pipe seams with duct tape or “mastic.” This specific industry tape will remedy the problem and keep the hot air where it should be going: outside. You may also need to have new flapper vents installed. Further connections may also be needed to vent hot air and dangerous gasses outside.
Every year as winter approaches, it’s important to prepare your home using a tool like our Kansas City Winter-Ready Checklist. In cases of significant cold spells, make sure you’re giving extra attention to your roof and attic space. If you find ice in your attic or frost accumulation, don’t delay in getting to the bottom of the problem. These findings are often a more minor symptom of a significant problem. With help from your HVAC and roofing companies, the issue can be fixed quickly and correctly, making your home comfortable and safe.