Blog : How to Save Your Roof This Winter

By Craig | Mar 2, 2015 | in

By Mark Quirk

Proper insulation has taken on a whole new level of importance this winter. Not only has it been essential to keep the heat in and the cold out for comfort, but it has also been crucial to the safety of homeowners. That's because the roof of a properly insulated house is less likely to collapse under the pressure of snow and ice dams.

Ice dams form when an inordinate amount of heat escapes through the roof, a striking indication that the roof and attic are poorly insulated. As ice builds up, weight and pressure increase, sometimes leading to a collapse causing thousands of dollars in damages and putting homeowners at risk.

“Proper insulation is the most important thing,” said Candace Lord, general manager at Green Cocoon, Inc. “Not only for your comfort but your safety, too.”

The Green Cocoon is an environmentally-friendly insulation company located in Salisbury, Mass., that services much of the New Hampshire seacoast and southern Maine.

Lord said the best way to prevent ice dams from building up on the roof, and avoid possible collapse, is to use a spray foam insulation on the ceiling of the attic or top floor of the house. Using the proper insulation will regulate the way the snow melts and keep ice dams or large icicles from forming.

Ice dams form when snow melts and runs down a sloped roof settling near eaves, freezing again when temperatures drop. The snow also melts from warm air vents through un-insulated parts of the roof. As the ice continues to melt and freeze, it builds up and forms an ice dam.

“The only way to stop that from happening is to spray foam,” Lord said.

The threat is real. On February 28, a portion of the roof at the Metropolis Skating Rink in Canton, Mass. collapsed while a youth team was using the rink. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. A week earlier the roof of a home in Concord, N.H., slid off. Again, nobody was hurt. 

Even with a insulated roof, snow must still be removed. In fact, more snow will build up on a properly insulated house because less is likely to melt. But, because there will be less melting there is also less chance for ice dams and water damage. The weight of snow on a roof can be just as dangerous as an ice dam.

The average roof is able to endure up to 20 pounds per square foot. According to this, a roof should never have more than 4 feet of new snow, 2 feet of old snow or one inch of ice on it. The exact weight of snow a roof can endure can be found in a building's design plan.

While shoveling snow from a roof is a practical idea, removing ice dams can be difficult requiring the use of small blowtorches and hammers. A homeowner could hire a professional to shovel ice off a roof, or use salt, but according to Lord those methods are band-aids for a recurring problem. Without proper insulation, warm air still escapes through the roof and can cost homeowners money in heating costs if not damage.

Green Cocoon offers a wide range of renewable insulation choices – spray foam with soy and recycled content, cellulose, recycled denim, and Roxul, a mineral wool. The Green Cocoon also offers a spray foam blowing agent called Solstice by Honeywell, which has a Global Warning Potential (GWP) rating of 99.4 percent less than any current blowing agent.

The best way to find out if a home is properly insulated is to get a professional's opinion. Lord said any house should have at the very least fiberglass insulation. Cellulose is a step above fiberglass, but spray foam is the most efficient and most effective in situations like this.

In addition to offering recycled and eco-friendly products, Green Cocoon is part of the Portsmouth-based Green Alliance, a union of local, sustainable businesses and members working to unite the green community.

Green Alliance members save $100 on all foam and denim insulation jobs between $3,000 and $5,000! Or save $200 on all foam and denim insulation jobs of $5,000 or more! Additionally, save $50 on any cellulose insulation job of $2,000 or more! Not a member? Join here!