A “half storey home” is a house that has a functional living space within the slope of the roof, resulting in sloped ceiling sections on the upper floor – a finished attic, so to speak.
While converting the attic to an extra bedroom or home office makes a lot of sense from a livability perspective, it can cause a giant headache when it comes to roofing and insulation.
The main problem? Ice dams. Because there is very little space between the ceiling (which is warm in winter) and the roof surface (which is cold), there’s lots of opportunity for heat to escape. This heat causes snow on the roof surface to melt, which trickles down the roof until it refreezes at the bottom, causing a buildup of ice. This ice interrupts the flow of water down the roof slope. No matter how good your shingles or underlays are, they aren’t designed to hold standing water, so if a dam forms, water will slowly be able to seep in through the roofing materials.
If you’re considering an attic renovation, properly insulating this new living space before finishing the interior will be of prime importance. Minimizing heat loss will reduce the potential for ice dam issues that could damage all your hard work inside. One of the most commonly overlooked areas of insulation is the ceiling section that will be sloped with the roof. Be sure to either increase the depth of the rafters to allow for more insulating space between the inside of the house and the roof, or use polyurethane spray foam insulation installed by CUFCA certified installers to gain the maximum R-value and vapour barrier possible in that tight area.
If you’re already experiencing problems with your half-storey home, there are two treatments to consider – upgrading the insulation to reduce the formation of ice dams and removing the snow from the roof before it melts. Ideally, you will be able to combine both methods of treatment. The best time to upgrade this insulation is usually along with the roof so that the sloped sections and smaller attic chambers are easily accessible, allowing polyurethane spray foam to be applied. If this is not a practical option, there may be few other methods available, so it is best to consult with a professional insulation contractor to discuss what is right for you.
Regardless of the condition of the insulation, regular rooftop snow removal is a strongly recommended component to half-storey home maintenance. It is important to remove all of the snow, not just the easy to reach sections, because the upper snow will still melt and freeze at the bottom. If you feel that it’s difficult or dangerous for you to do so yourself, please hire a professional service to do it for you. If an ice dam does form, the only safe way to remove it that doesn’t risk damaging the shingles is through the use of high-temperature steam provided by a professional.
Thankfully, Above All Roofing and Insulation in Winnipeg offers all of the services mentioned above, so you can stay safe indoors while your home is kept warm and dry by the professionals working outside.