Home inspector Quiz

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Real Estate Agent with Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -

What do you think is causing this icicle? It's over the kitchen area, where we have 4 high hat lights.  Instructions say do not put insulation around the lights.  Heat must be leaking into the attic and causing the snow to melt above.  Question #1  Am I correct?  Question #2  how to remedy this situation?  See photo.  Thanks for your help.

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Rainmaker
452,017
Jeana Cowie
RE/MAX Real Estate Limited - Paramus, NJ
Broker Associate, ABR, CRS, GRI, SRES

Kenneth, Wow that is some icicle. I am awaiting the answer, as I am not sure what is causing this.  

Dec 28, 2010 04:17 PM #2
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Scott;  It is on the sunny side,  but the icicle is only at the area the high hats are at, the rest of the roof has no icicles.  The other house has no snow on the north side, just like mine, because of the nor'easter storm that had winds up to 40 MPH.

Dec 28, 2010 04:19 PM #3
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Jeana;  Thanks for stopping by.  The only factor I think is the lack of insulation around the high hats.  This is the only area I get icicles.

Dec 28, 2010 04:21 PM #4
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Michael Thornton
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspector - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.0297

Looks to be ice damming caused by water melting under the insulating layer of snow. Once the water hits the cooler eaves, it freezes.

Your lights do not have anything to do with it. Warm air gets trapped in the attic due to normal convection and possibly blocked static vents. It is best to break up the ice dam before the dam breaks down your gutters. That's my take anyway...

Dec 28, 2010 04:48 PM #5
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Ken, there is a good chance that for some reason you are losing heat into the attic---whether it is just the can lights would require more evaluation.  They can loose a lot of heat however.  Changing the cans to a type that can be buried would eliminate this source of heat loss.  I always look at icicles at the roof edge as "solid BTU's" :)

Dec 28, 2010 04:51 PM #6
Rainmaker
1,233,631
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Ken - the heat from your lamps, if they are close to the sheathing, is almost certainly the heat causing the snow on the roof to melt, accumulating into an ice dam and then berg.  Are they the kind of light that you are not supposed to cover with a top or insulation?  That big fluff of snow above the berg is classic snow movement from heat causing the melted snow to flow downward, and then freezing over the uninsulated edge (eave) of the roof.  For now you need to eliminate as much of that snow and ice as you can.

Future prevention might include trying to divert as much of the heat from those lights toward the center, or higher, portions of your attic.  It might be that they are near to the underside of the roof sheathing and their heat is causing havoc with the snow, causing it to melt.  If somehow you could divert that heat toward the center of your attic, it could dissipate through the ridge vent at the top of your roof.  I am assuming, of course, that your roof looks like your neighbor's in your photo - a cape cod with a ridge vent in the center.  Even if your house is not a cape cod, if you have a center ridge vent you can dissipate the heat through that.  You have soffit vents, so you must have a ridge vent.  If there is no ridge vent, perhaps you can divert the heat toward the center, higher portion of your attic.

Corrugated roofing, either metal or plastic, placed above those lights might help divert that heat away from the sheathing and toward the center and/or ridge vent.  It might look clunky but would work!  I have seen such diverters before, with ice dam success.

Ice dams are usually venting related, so if you do not have a ridge vent like your neighbor you might want to consider one.

Have you not experienced these dams before?  Or are those pot lights new?

If you want to read about the anatomy of an ice dam, you can on my website blog here:     http://www.jaymarinspect.com/thermal-imaging-anatomy-of-an-ice-dam.html

If there is poor insulation in the attic, you might be getting general heat diffusion (convection) into the attic space from the living area below.  The solution, of course, would be better insulation and ventilation.

I hope this helps!

Dec 28, 2010 04:58 PM #7
Rainmaker
633,325
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Kenneth, Looks like classic ice damming. The lights are almost certainly the main culprit with a few minor players I'm certain. Most can light have a clearance rating. In other words you can't put insulation for example within 6 inches. Building foam insulation boxes to fit over the lights minding the clearance and then some just to be sure can help. The other thing is to check the venting. If this is a cape, you have some challenges.

Dec 28, 2010 05:43 PM #8
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

What great comments.  Thanks all.  I like Jay's suggestion about diverting the heat toward the center.  Last year, after a light snow fall, the area above my kitchen was the first to melt.  That has to be the culprit.

BTW, I have a ranch, with vents at both ends.  And plenty of insulation in the attic.

Dec 28, 2010 06:28 PM #9
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Ken, I would be hesitant about trying to direct the warm air.  This smooth cold metal or plastic surface may just result in more condensation from the moist air moving across it from the can lights and could result in a worse condition than you may already have in the attic.  Honestly---it is not difficult to change the cans to a type that can be buried in adequate insulation to prevent the heat loss---and perhaps be done with the issue as opposed to possibly complicating the issue.  I also urge you to have a home inspector check your particular situation out to make sure there are not other considerations contributing to the condition.

Dec 28, 2010 06:36 PM #10
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Thanks again to all you great guys.  I have a confession to make.  I failed to disclose that I have a skylight there with no insulation around the sheet rock in the attic.  I suspect that it will need to get some insulation ASAP.

Dec 28, 2010 06:57 PM #11
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

AHHH---like I said therere may be "other considerations" :)

Dec 28, 2010 07:06 PM #12
Rainmaker
1,613,790
Debbie Gartner
Floor Coverings International Westchester NY & Stamford CT - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl - Westchester hardwood flooring

Great idea to reach out to AR inspector community!

Dec 28, 2010 08:14 PM #13
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Gentlemen:  A hearty THANK YOU for helping me solve this problem.  Now off to Home Depot for some rigid insulation for the skylight walls.

Dec 29, 2010 06:04 AM #14
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Michael Thornton
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspector - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.0297

Kinda interesting to see the varying opinions, isn't it?

Dec 29, 2010 06:35 AM #15
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Michael;  That's what makes this site so good.  As more questions are asked, more information comes out.  Example,  I forgot to list the skylight's walls have no insulation on them.

Dec 29, 2010 07:02 AM #16
Rainmaker
1,233,631
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Charlie's right of course about changing the lights if possible.  That was what I meant by asking if these could be covered with a top or insulation.  If they can be covered with insulation the problem is solved.  There are very good pot lights that have the ability to dissipate their heat, and there would be no need for much else but installing those.  He's right too about the possibility for condensation on something diverting heat.  Those could not be too close and you may not have room there for such a thing.  His suggestion that a home inspector look at it is a great idea!

It's a good thing you mentioned everything ... EXCEPT the skylight!  Uninsulated, that is a heat conduit!  Remember, heat seeks cold and that is a very convenient way out!  You should insulate that sucker real well, but remember, the vapor retarder is on the WARM side!

Dec 29, 2010 07:52 AM #17
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Thanks so much Jay.  I'm going to buy the rigid type of insulation and spray glue on the side that goes toward the warm side of the sheet rock.  This will make good information for my next Real Estate Newsletter.

Dec 29, 2010 09:52 AM #18
Rainmaker
591,254
Valerie Osterhoudt
Johnson Real Estate, Inc. - Cromwell, CT
ABR, Cromwell, CT Real Estate ~ 860.883.8889

Kenneth.. You have a lot of good information here from home inspectors.  Not that I'm an inspector, but maybe you need more insulation in the attic?

Dec 29, 2010 07:03 PM #19
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Valerie;  I just came down from the attic.  Insulation is OK, but the area around the skylight is tough to get at.  I put extra insulation around it.  Time will tell.  Happy new year!

Dec 29, 2010 07:08 PM #20
Rainmaker
470,756
Kenneth Cole
Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com... - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

It's springtime now. My problems are over.  Till next winter anyway.

Mar 29, 2011 12:25 PM #21
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Kenneth Cole

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