Ice Dams on Your Roof Can be caused by Sleet and Freezing Rain

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Sleet and Freezing Rain can Cause Ice Dams on Roofs by Rick Nipper near Raleigh, NC 


Most people think that it takes snow to cause ice dams on a house roof. However, storms consisting of mostly sleet and freezing rain can result in ice dams as well.


What are Ice Dams?

You may be wondering what exactly are ice dams. If a winter storm that consists mostly of sleet and freezing rain hits your community, the sleet can form ice dams on your roof. You don’t need snow. Low temperatures for the days preceding the sleet or ice storm combined with low temperatures following the storm make for perfect conditions to create problematic ice dams on your roof.

As the sleet falls, some of it freezes on the shingles.

Ice dams caused by sleet on upper roof that collects at eave by Rick Nipper near Raleigh, NC


However, much of the sleet slides down the roof and collects at the eaves of the roof (the overhang that extends beyond the exterior walls), at the gutters, in the roof valleys, around dormers, behind chimneys and at roof penetrations. This collection of ice pellets freezes into a mass of ice at these roof locations.

If your roof looks like any of the photographs below, then you have ice dams.


Ice dams on roof at dormers by Rick Nipper near Raleigh, NC


Ice dams on roof at eaves and roof valley by Rick Nipper near Raleigh, NC


Ice dam on roof behind chimney near Raleigh, NC by Rick Nipper


Why are Ice Dams Bad?

The thin layer of sleet and freezing rain that accumulates on the upper roof shingles will melt quickly because the temperature in most attics is warmer than the outside temperature. I will explain more about this later. Also, once the storm is over, the sun may come out and help to heat asphalt shingles causing the sleet to melt on the upper shingles.

Drawing of roof eave and soffit by Rick Nipper near Raleigh, NC


 By contrast, the temperature at the eaves and soffits is lower than the attic temperature. The soffit is the area underneath the eaves of the house that overhangs past the exterior walls. Some soffits have vents. Some do not. Soffit vents help with attic ventilation. Regardless of whether there are vents or not, soffits have no insulation. The temperature at the soffits is will be much lower than the temperature in the attic and be much closer to the outside temperature. As mentioned already, sleet accumulates at the eaves because of this lower temperature.

As the ice on the upper roof melts and turns into water, it runs down the roof toward the eaves of the house where the soffit and gutters (if you have them) are located, but is blocked from exiting the roof through the roof drainage system (the gutters) where any ice dams are located.


Sleet melting on upper roof and water running under ice dam at eaves by Rick Nipper near Raleigh, NC


Because of the ice dam, the melted sleet cannot reach the gutter. The melting of ice dams will likely occur from the bottom first where the shingles are warmer due to the attic temperatures being warmer than the outside air. Water will be moving underneath the mounds of ice. The water will then re-freeze overnight because of the low temperatures. The water will begin moving to the path of least resistance. Since water increases approximately 9% in volume when it freezes, the ice will expand and can exert pressure on the roof covering.This water may very well push under shingles and other building materials into the structure and unfortunately into the interior of your home.


This process can repeat itself over and over depending on weather conditions.


Many of my home inspection clients will understand why I harp over raised roofing nails and flashing that is not sealed. These are areas where water from ice dams and other weather conditions such as blowing rain can cause water to enter the structure causing roof leaks.

Raised roof shingles caused by raised roofing nail that can lead to roof leaks by Rick Nipper near Raleigh, NC


Raised flashing with nail heads that are not sealed by Rick Nipper near Raleigh, NC


How long will it take for Ice Dams to Melt?


As long as the weather conditions remain favorable for ice dams with low outside temperatures and little sun, ice dams will melt very slowly. Any water remaining on the roof will re-freeze each night as temperatures drop.


Sleet as tiny ice pellets are a good insulator because of its density. Sleet is therefore much slower to melt than typical snowflakes because the density does not allow air to penetrate as freely as it can with most snowflakes. According to NOAA’s National Sever Storm Laboratory, on average 13 inches of snow is equal to one inch of rain, whereas two inches of sleet is equal to about one inch of rain. Combine this fact with low outside temperatures following a sleet or ice storm and ice dams may take a several days or longer to completely melt, much longer than snow would take.

Ice dams in shaded areas or on the north side of the roof will likely take longer to melt.


Why are Attic Temperatures Warmer than Outside Temperatures?


Winter attic temperatures are warmer than outside temperatures because the warm interior air rises. The warm air in the house is the air that you have paid to heat. This hot air is drawn into the attic because of temperature differentials between the house and the attic. Pathways exist between the house and attic that allow the warm house air to enter the attic because of an incomplete air barrier between the conditioned space in the house and the unconditioned attic. This knowledge is part of building science and within the purview of energy efficiency experts and home performance contractors.

What Can You do if there is an Ice Dam on your Roof?


  • First, understand that if ice remains on your roof for an extended period, there is a chance that you will have an interior leak. You aren’t being singled out. Chances are most of your neighbors are in the same boat.
  • If you happen to own a roof rake, scrap off any snow, sleet or ice that you can. During a storm or if you live in parts of the country that do not experience lots of snow, roof rakes may not be available. DO NOT improvise and use axes, picks, hammers or other tools. More damage will be done to your roof with these tools than any benefit you might gain. You may be able to use a spade and remove some of the ice from the gutters.
  • Monitor the attic areas just below and in the general vicinity of the ice dam. Remember that if water finds its way into the structure it may travel and not be exactly beneath the ice dam. If you have vaulted ceilings, there may be no attic and the first sign of a leak will be wet drywall. Also, depending on house design, you may not be able to access attic areas near the ice dam. There may be closed roof sections or areas where the pitch is too low to access.
  • Be vigilant and continue monitoring your attic as long as the ice dam remains on your roof. It can take time for water to work its way into the structure.
  • Take a flashlight and shine it on the ceilings of all rooms in the house to look for water stains.
  • Place a box fan in your attic aimed toward the area with the ice dam to help circulate the warmer attic air to the edges of the roof. This circulation may promote melting.
  • Try to catch any leaks that you find in the attic if possible to prevent drywall damage.
  • Call in your professional roofing contractor to assist you if you have damage. Be sure and check credentials, insurance and references of any contractors that you consider hiring.
  • Don’t do anything foolish by risking your safety to deal with an ice dam or leak. In the big scope of problems, your health and well-being are more important than a home repair.


For a consultation to problem-solve home issues, call 919-846-6133 or email Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.


Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc. Author: Rick Nipper is a NC Licensed Home Inspector, a NC Licensed General Contractor and BPI Certified as a Building Analyst Professional and Envelope Professional. He is the owner of Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc. and NC Radon Experts in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.

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4 Myths about New Homes: Why You Need a Builder Warranty Inspection

Posted by in Builder Warranty Inspection, Home Inspection, New Homes | 11 comments

New home buyers can have misconceptions about the houses they are purchasing. They sometimes don’t understand the need to get a builder warranty inspection before the 12 month builder warranty expires. This article will dispel these myths and new home owners will be convinced that they should get a builder warranty inspection.

Myth #1: I have a great builder. Maybe. Your builder may have convinced you of this with their marketing literature. The truth is that most home builders are not building your home. Home builders contract the work out to many subcontractors. In fact, some of the subcontractors hire subcontractors themselves. Some home builders even contract out all the work to General Contractors who then contract with subcontractors. Who exactly is building your house? I hate to burst the bubble, but the best subcontractors for a specific trades are not working in the new home sector. They are working in the remodeling sector or in commercial construction. As a result, the quality of the work in most new home construction is less than stellar.

This is a good point, right? Are you seeing why a Builder Warranty Inspection is important?

Builder Warranty Inspection - Raised Roof Shingles  These raised roof shingles will allow moisture to penetrate under the shingles and to the roof decking. These defects were discovered during an 11 month Builder Warranty Inspection. In time, the roof decking will rot.

Myth #2: My new home has already been inspected by the city or county. True…but…Municipal building inspectors spend only a few minutes at each property and only have time for a cursory inspection. Builders and their subcontractors know this. Municipal inspectors don’t have time to crawl the entire crawl space or attic. Because of their extreme work load, they are forced to trust the builder and their subcontractors. The builder and their subcontractors know this and sometimes take advantage of this trust. Many things can still go wrong after the municipal inspectors have signed off on various inspections. No one is looking at how the components and systems of the house function as a whole unless you hire an independent private home inspector.

Have I convinced you of the importance of a Builder Warranty Inspection yet?

Builder Warranty Inspection - Misssing Attic Insulation Insulation was missing in a portion of the attic of this Energy Star Home. I often find missing insulation in areas of the Energy Star homes I inspect.

Myth #3: Nothing could go wrong because my home is new.  False. Actually a lot could go wrong with your new house both during construction and during the first year. There are the obvious defects that you may have caught in the first months in your new home. But, there are also hidden defects that most homeowners won’t have the technical training to find. Small defects can result in expensive  repairs in the future. In my professional experience, the most significant problems with houses that are 5, 10, 20 or 30 years old originated when the house was new.

Compelling to know especially if you are planning to stay in your home for a number of years.

Split roof truss on new home by Rick Nipper home inspector  This is a split roof truss discovered during an inspection of a new home that was never repaired before closing and was in the same condition at the 11-month builder warranty inspection.

Myth #4: I had a home inspection before I closed on my house. Maybe you did. However, over the first year, the systems of the house start to operate and you start living in the house the way you live. Building materials will expand and contract with environmental and weather changes. Problems might become apparent during the first year that were not evident when you first moved into your house.

Bowed garage door track by Rick Nipper home inspector This garage door track was bowed and making a loud racket. The door would eventually have either stopped working or fallen as it was not secured to the framing in a number of locations. It was discovered during an 11 month Builder Warranty Inspection.

Here’s why you should schedule a Builder Warranty Inspection:

  • The builder is responsible for repairs to your new home for the first 12 months.
  • The cost of warranty repairs were already calculated into the cost of the house you bought. You have essentially already paid for these repairs.
  • The cost of the inspection will be far outweighed by the cost of repairs that you won’t have to pay for in the future.

The prudent action to take is to hire an independent skilled home inspector and building science expert to perform a Building Warranty Inspection for your new home. Don’t miss this opportunity. If you miss this opportunity, you could find out why you should have gotten a Builder Warranty Inspection when you go to sell the house. The buyer’s home inspector will find defects that should have been discovered during the first year of the house.

Gapped sealant at trim boards by Rick Nipper Home Inspector This is split caulk or sealant where trim boards meet discovered during an 11-month Builder Warranty Inspection.

Hopefully, I have convinced you of the importance of getting a builder warranty inspection before the first 12 months is up. 


Call 919-846-6133 to schedule your 11-month Builder Warranty Inspection. I look forward to helping you protect the investment you have made.

Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.Author: Rick Nipper is a NC Licensed Home Inspector, a NC Licensed General Contractor and a building science expert. He is the owner of Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc. and Nipper Home Solutions in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.

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Should I Get a Pre-Drywall Home Inspection?

Posted by in Home Inspection, Pre-Drywall Home Inspection | 0 comments

Pre-Drywall Home Inspections:

You are buying a new house and wondering if you should spend the money to get a pre-drywall home inspection. I will give you 3 reasons and 1 specific example of why the answer is a resounding “Yes”

1. There are many workers involved in the construction of your new home. Mistakes happen. Superintendents are busy building many houses. Jurisdictional building inspectors are overworked. You need someone who knows construction looking out for you.

2. As a home inspector, I always find issues that need to be addressed at the pre-drywall stage of home construction.

3. This is the time to find problems while they are easy to correct. When the house is fully built, often you are only seeing the symptoms of a problem, not the cause of the problem.

Here is an example of what I discovered on a pre-drywall inspection that would have gone unaddressed by the builder without this inspection. I noticed water leaking onto the rough framing of this house under construction.

Leaky Roof Causing Damage to Rough Framing

It ran down behind the house wrap and through the foundation wall of the garage.

 Result of Leaky Roof: Water Running to Garage Foundation

The cause was this area on the roof.

Step Flashing Covered by Roof Patch at Leaky Roof

You should always get a Pre-Drywall Home Inspection when buying a new home. To schedule your pre-drywall home inspection, call 919-846-6133.

Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.

Author: Rick Nipper is a NC Licensed Home Inspector, a NC Licensed General Contractor and a building science expert. He is the owner of Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc. and Nipper Home Solutions in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.

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Should You Get a Home Inspection for a New Home?

Posted by in Home Inspection, New Construction Homes, New Homes | 2 comments


Home Inspection for a New Home:

I will offer an example of why you should get a home inspection for a new home. While building standards have improved in recent years,  the execution and performance of the work has not improved. Mistakes are still often made when building a house.Do New Homes Need a Home Inspection?

This example is from a $450,000 ENERGY STAR new home. There was no insulation or vapor retarder in the crawl space.  Fortunately, those problems can easily be resolved. However, the broken condensate drain pipe in the rear wall did not have an easy solution. The HVAC equipment was installed during warm weather and the air conditioning was running for perhaps a week prior to my inspection. The moisture from the broken condensate drain pipe should have drained to the exterior, but instead drained into the wall and floor cavities. When I arrived at the house, water was dripping between the OSB joints in the subfloor into the crawl space. This moisture warped the hardwood floors and damaged the kitchen cabinets. The builder did not have a clue of this issue until my inspection.

The sad fact is that I find all sorts of serious problems when inspecting new houses no matter the price. So, you decide…should you get a home inspection when buying a new home?

If you are not yet convinced, see my 5 Compelling Reasons for New Home Buyers to Get a Home Inspection. To schedule your home inspection for a new home, contact me at 919-846-6133.

Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.

Author: Rick Nipper is a NC Licensed Home Inspector, a NC Licensed General Contractor and a building science expert. He is the owner of Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc. and Nipper Home Solutions in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.

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A Home Inspector’s 7 Tips for Home Sellers

Posted by in Home Inspection, Home Sellers | 5 comments

Below are a home inspector’s tips for home sellers to provide you with a better home selling experience.

As a home seller, you are looking to move on to the next phase of your life whether it be a house across town or a cross-country move. Before you get ahead of yourself, follow these 7 tips for home sellers to make sure that you receive the best home inspection report possible for the house you are selling.

1House for Sale in Apex, NC. Move it. Home inspectors must be able to access all areas of the house including the attic, garage, storage rooms, closets and basement. If the entrance to any of these areas is blocked, move your belongings so that the home inspector can gain access to them. If these areas are blocked, it will look as if you have something to hide.

2. Make it Shine. Test all light fixtures on the interior and exterior of the house. Replace any burned out or missing bulbs. The home inspector will not be able to determine if the problem is simply a burned out bulb or if there is a problem with the light fixture or electrical wiring.

3. Check those Batteries. Get a step-ladder and check the batteries in the smoke detectors. You should do this for your own safety whether you are selling your house or not. If a smoke detector doesn’t work, replace the battery or replace the entire smoke detector.

4. Replace it. There is nothing more disgusting than a return air filter that has not been changed in years. This is the air you are breathing and dirty air filters can affect the performance of your heating and air conditioning equipment. A dirty air filter is not the impression you want to leave with the home inspector or the buyers who may be following the home inspector around your house. Change that filter.

5. Prune. Prune. Prune. Rid your yard of any bushes or trees limbs that touch or overhang any part of the house. Vegetation too close to the house does not allow the house building materials to dry out quickly after it rains promoting rot. Prune it. Dig it up. Pull it out.

6. Get out that Screwdriver. Check all exterior and interior doors. Tighten loose door knobs, latch plates and door hinges. Make sure that the hinge pins are fully installed. Tighten any loose kitchen and bathroom cabinet knobs or handles.

7. Raise them up. Make sure that all windows are operable. Inoperable windows are a safety issue in the event of fire or another emergency. The typical reason why windows cannot be opened is dried paint on the windows. Make sure all windows in the house can be easily opened.

If any of these items is present during a home inspection, be assured that they will show up on the home inspection report. You don’t want these “ticky” items cluttering up a home inspection report.

You can easily tackle these items before you list your home for sale. Leave a positive impression on both the home inspector and potential buyers by following these tips for home sellers

What other tips have I left out?

To learn more about strategies to make the process for selling your home go more quickly and smoothly, click here.

For peace of mind and confidence, contact Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.  at 919-846-6133 to schedule your home inspection.

Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.

Author: Rick Nipper is a NC Licensed Home Inspector, a NC Licensed General Contractor and a building science expert. He is the owner of Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc. and Nipper Home Solutions in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.

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5 Reasons to Get a Home Inspection on a New Home

Posted by in Home Inspection, New Construction Homes, New Homes | 4 comments


There are important reasons why new home buyers should always get a home inspection on a new home before purchasing.

Buying a new home is an exciting experience with the opportunity to pick out paint colors and floor coverings. In all the excitement of figuring out where the furniture will go and your new route to work, don’t forget to get your new home inspected by a licensed home inspector.

Building Plans for New Construction Home in Chapel Hill, NC

Building Plans for New Construction Home in Chapel Hill, NC

It’s best to have a licensed home inspector inspect a new home during early phases of construction when more of the house is visible. But, if the house is almost complete when you decide to buy it, it’s still important to get a home inspection on a new home. The walk-through with the builder is not enough. You need a professional looking out for you. Here’s why you should get an inspection on a new home:

1.  New construction homes have all sorts of problems. Building a home is a complex orchestration involving many different subcontractors and their employees each working on a different system of the house usually without regard to the other house systems. With all the separate activities occurring at the same time, it is nearly impossible for the builder to carefully check all phases of construction. Even the best builders will likely miss something. Here are some examples of problems I’ve found in newly built homes:

  • Broken roof trusses
  • Missing siding
  • Ducts completely unattached to the heating and air conditioning unit
  • Missing insulation in homes being sold as Energy Star energy-efficient homes
  • Organic growth on crawl space wood framing
  • Raised roof shingles allowing water to penetrate underneath the shingles

2.  Municipal building inspections are not the same as home inspections. The job of municipal building inspectors is to check for compliance with applicable building codes. Building codes are minimum standards. While most municipal building inspectors are doing their best, factors beyond their control prevent these inspections from being enough.

3.  Problems found before you buy can be fixed before moving in to your new home. You won’t have to deal with the dust and noise from repairs, or the inconvenience of having to stay home from work while workers are in your house. While there will likely be some minor touch-ups that will need to take place after you move in, you will want the builder to fix any significant repairs right away.

4.  Defects can be repaired before they result in serious consequences or costly damage. Safety items such as gas leaks need to be addressed to protect you and your family. Missing attic insulation that will result in higher utility bills can be installed. Raised shingles which can lead to rotted roof sheathing can be repaired before purchasing your new home.

5.  It matters at resale. When you decide to sell your formerly new home, the buyer will likely get a home inspection. Deficiencies that date back to the original construction will be discovered even if you never knew they existed. At this point, it’s too late to get the builder involved. You now own those problems.

The Good News is that hiring a professional licensed home inspector to inspect your new dream home can pay for itself many times over both monetarily and with peace of mind. You can feel confident that problems are identified and corrected early before you buy your home.

For confidence and peace of mind, contact Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.  at 919-846-6133 to get an inspection on your new home.

Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.Author: Rick Nipper is a NC Licensed Home Inspector, a NC Licensed General Contractor and a building science expert. He is the owner of Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc. and Nipper Home Solutions in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.

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A Home Inspector’s Tip: Is Your Room Too Hot or Too Cold?

Posted by in Home Comfort, Home Inspection | 2 comments

Is your room too hot or too cold? As a home inspector, home buyers often ask me why one room or area of a house is colder or hotter than other rooms. I will offer one solution to this problem.

Rick Nipper Measuring Temperature at Floor Vent

Rick Nipper measuring temperature at floor vent

Home comfort is a personal preference. However, when there are dramatic differences in temperature from one room or area of a house to another, it’s hard to keep everyone in the house comfortable. The knee-jerk reaction to feeling too hot or too cold is to adjust the thermostat. This action only exacerbates the problem making rooms even colder or hotter. If the heating and air conditioning equipment is functioning properly, rooms that are too hot or too cold signal a problem with the air distribution system of the house.

So, what can you do about these extreme temperature variations? Take a look below for one solution:

Dampers are used in heating and air conditioning systems. They are installed where the air ducts meet a plenum and become part of the air distribution system. They are called dampers because they offer the ability to close off or open air flow in varying degrees to certain rooms of the house. Dampers can help balance the air flow or distribution throughout the house.

Is your room too hot or too cold? There’s no need for some of your family members to be uncomfortable. To get a Home Comfort Check and discover ways to make your home more comfortable for all your family members, give us a call at 919-846-6133.

Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc.Author: Rick Nipper is a NC Licensed Home Inspector, a NC Licensed General Contractor and a Building Science Expert. He is the owner of Nipper Home Inspection Services, Inc. and Nipper Home Solutions in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.


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