Don’t Let Winter Destroy Your Deck

It only takes a little work to keep a New Hampshire winter from doing any serious damage to your deck. First, you’ll want to clean and prepare your deck in autumn. Then, it’s important to be aware of how to treat your deck over the winter.

Before the first snow flies be sure to remove all furniture and decorations from your deck. Sweeping off any debris now can prevent against stains and mildew. If there are already marks from furniture etc it can be a good idea to wash those now with a hose or scrubbing with a mild detergent. Check for loose boards, nails sticking out, cracks or other signs of damage. Repairing those now before water can get in and freeze could make the difference between a minor repair and a more expensive job.

Depending on the material of your deck you may notice that the finish is peeling or fading. If that is the case it may be a good idea to restain and/or reseal your deck. Over the winter it’s important to address snow removal properly in order to maintain your deck. Your deck does not need to be kept completely clear of snow. However, if you use your deck as a safety exit it is important to keep that pathway clear. A good rule of thumb for particularly snowy winters is to keep the level of snow below that of the railings. A structurally sound deck should be able to support the weight of snow to that point.

If and when you do shovel your deck the important thing to remember is to follow the boards, Shoveling perpendicular to the boards is a good way to catch the blade of the shovel and potentially damage a board. It is best to use a plastic shovel rather than metal on your deck to avoid gouges and scratches. Following these guidelines should keep your deck in good shape for next spring. Here at Diamond Hill Builders we’re ready to help you with any deck repairs in order to prepare for winter.

Ventilation and Insulation: The Winning Combo For Resolving Ice Dams

Having served southern New Hampshire communities for many years, we have investigated and resolved hundreds of ice dam problems. Although each case was somewhat unique, they always have two things in common. They happen because melting snow pools behind dams of ice at the roof’s edge and leaks into the house, causing thousands in damages to home owners. Ice dams and the damage that results from them is avoidable.

What Causes Ice Dams?

Ice dams form when melted snow refreezes at roof edges. Three things are required for an ice dam to form: snow, heat to melt the snow and cold to refreeze the melted snow into solid ice. Ice dams can form when as little as 1 or 2 inches of snow accumulates on a roof – if the roof is poorly insulated and air sealed, and the snowfall is followed by several days of sub-freezing temperatures. Ice dams develop as snow on the upper part of the roof melts. Water runs down the roof slope under the blanket of snow and refreezes into a band of ice at the roof’s edge creating a “dam”. Additional snow-melt pools against the dam and eventually leaks into the building through the roof or roof trim.

The reason ice-dams form along the roof’s lower edge is because the upper roof surface is at a temperature that is above freezing while the lower part of the roof surface is below freezing. The upper roof surface is usually located directly above the living space. Heat lost from the house warms this section of the roof, melting snow in this area. During periods of sub-freezing temperature the lower regions of the roof deck remain at sub-freezing ambient temperatures. Roof overhangs are not warmed by indoor heat-loss. The trick is to keep the entire roof below freezing if possible. Roof ventilation helps achieve this.

How To Resolve Ice Dams

The damage caused by ice dams can be controlled in 2 ways: Maintain the entire roof surface at ambient outdoor temperatures or build a roof so that it can’t leak into sensitive building materials if an ice dam forms. If your home experiences ice dams in the winter, please contact us to inspect your home. Diamond Hill Builders will properly diagnose the cause of your ice damns and assure you have proper insulation and ventilation.

Tips for Ice Dam Removal

You can help prevent serious damage to both the roof and inside of your home by minimizing the likelihood that an ice dam will develop, and by removing one as soon as you spot it. Ice dams can form when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roofline. Without roof snow removal, an ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. This water can then back up underneath roof shingles and make its way into your home.

How to Help Prevent an Ice Dam from Forming:

  • Remove snow from your roof after every storm. To begin with, use a roof rake to clear snow from the edge of your roof upwards of three to four feet immediately after each storm. In addition to helping prevent an ice dam from forming, this will lessen the stress on your home’s roof. The amount of snow and ice your roof can support will depend on a number of factors, including the roof type and the age and condition of the structure. But a good rule to keep in mind is if more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice has accumulated on your roof, you should have it removed.
  • Clear downspouts. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This can help prevent standing water from collecting near the gutter downspout.

How Do You Know if You Have an Ice Dam?

  • Look carefully at the icicles around the exterior of your house. If they are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, then an ice dam has likely not formed. Nonetheless, icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off, so try to safely knock them down while standing on the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them. If you cannot safely reach them from the ground, consider hiring a contractor (ahem.) to help.
  • Check for water stains or moisture in the attic or around the tops of exterior walls on the top floor of your house. Stains and moisture may indicate that an ice dam has formed and water has penetrated the roof membrane.

Ice Dam Removal:

  • Melt the ice dam. Fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt, and place it vertically across the ice dam so that it melts a channel through the dam. If you try this, make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof, and make sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt. Rock salt will damage your roof. Also, be aware that shrubbery and plants near the gutters or downspouts may be damaged.
  • Get professional help. If you cannot safely reach the roof, avoid using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions. Consider hiring Diamond Hill Builders for ice dam removal and helping you with snow management this winter. We can also provide a solutions based estimate to eliminate or reduce the occurrence of ice dams over the long-term.

Long-term Tips for Preventing Ice Dams:

  • Insulate your attic. Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting-and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.
  • Install a water-repellent membrane. When replacing a roof, make sure to install a water repellent membrane underneath the shingles. This acts as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside the building.

Basement Remodeling- No more smelly, terrifying living spaces

Basements that are not musty and more energy efficient are very possible.

When considering basement remodeling, you have a real chance to elemenate the “old cellar” basement smell and the damp, spider filled living spaces that haunted ygrandparents house back when you where just a kid. Your basement can be a comfortable, odor-free space. And at the same time, it can help lower your heating and cooling bills.

Eliminating the musty, damp smell is done by making sure you are building a basement that is waterproof. In addition to that, the walls of the basement should all be covered with insulation. On warm, humid days, condensation can form on cool surfaces in your basement. This adds moisture and can even contribute to mold growth. By insulating the basement walls, you keep the humid air from reaching the walls and prevent condensation from forming. The air in the basement will stay dry and not smell damp.

Because basements are primarily underground, they are not subject to high summer temperatures and low winter temperatures. The constant temperature of the earth around a basement tends to make the temperature within the basement more stable. It’s never too hot or too cold. You can use your basement as a heat sink by circulating that temperate air throughout your house. It will contribute to cooling your house in summer by absorbing heat from the upstairs air. And it can help heat your house in winter since it is already partially heated by the earth around it. And by mixing the house air through the basement, the quality of the basement air will match the air in the rest of the house and the basement will not smell musty.