Do splash blocks really help?

Many people have these water diverters placed around their house underneath their gutter downspouts. The idea is that when it rains, the water is diverted away from the foundation, keeping it from pooling up and eventually finding it’s way into the basement or crawlspace. There are a couple problems with these seemingly helpful devices though:

  1. Most don’t move the water far enough away from the house. Unfortunately they just aren’t long enough to keep the water from seeping back into the dirt, and right back up against the foundation. As home inspectors, we usually recommend getting fully enclosed gutter discharge extensions that are at least 5-6′ in length. That way the water is placed well away from your home, and doesn’t hang out right next to the foundation. There is another reason that we recommend such long, fully enclosed gutter discharges; which brings us to problem number two:
  2. If the siding material is close to the ground, it can wear out prematurely or even start to rot when water is constantly splashing onto it from the underside. Siding material is designed to have water drip from the top down. This is why they are almost alway overlapped from the bottom up. If water is splashing from your splash block back up and onto the siding every time it rains, there is a good chance it will start to wear out long before the rest of the siding, and if it’s wood, possibly start to rot. This is why we recommend it be enclosed and as far away from the house as possible.

I’m not going to say that splash blocks are useless, because frankly, they are better to have than nothing at all. However, they just seem to do the job poorly in comparison to having fully enclosed gutter extensions.

I hope this helped you understand more about your home, and please feel free to leave a comment if you have any additional questions!

What is ‘ice damming” and should I be concerned?

Do you see an unusual amount of icicles hanging off of your roof? This is a usual sight during the Winter, and often times is overlooked as just a pretty decor offered up by mother nature itself. While icicles hanging from your roof might not be a problem, it can turn into one if left alone with the right conditions.

Here’s what’s happening:

Heat from the living areas in your home is constantly rising into the attic space, and in turn heating all that fresh or old snow that landed on your roof. This drips down the eaves and then refreezes forming icicles. The problem comes in when Ice starts to build up around the eaves. The constant freeze and thaw cycle can cause ice to build up, or create a sort of “dam” at the edge of the roof. When the snow that’s left melts, instead of dripping off the edge of the roof, it pools up because of the “ice dam” that was created. This in turn leads to water getting underneath your shingles, into the soffit area, and then possibly even into the wall cavity.

What to do:

Luckily there is one thing you can do right away to help prevent this; simply use an extended broom or broom-like tool to pull the snow that is on the eaves or near them off your roof. This will prevent any unnecessary snow from melting in that area.

Once you have cleared the snow from around the eaves (the higher the better!), you now have to think of long-term solutions. Should you just make it a habit to clear the snow every time it snows? Should you install ice melt cables on your roof?

Both of the above actions might be plausible solutions, but may actually just be putting a bandaid over the real problem. The real problem usually lies in the ventilation of the attic space.

I’ll explain:

Underneath the eaves you have what’s called the “soffit”(see diagram). On the soffit, there should be vents installed that help bring cool air into the attic space. In addition to these, there should also be attic vents at the top of your roof that look like little boxes spaced out near the ridge (if you don’t see these, there may be ridge vents, which are hidden underneath the ridge shingles). The purpose of these is to simply pull in cool air from the soffit vents, which in turn forces the warm air from the home out the attic vents. This helps keep the shingles cold, and prevents that freeze and thaw cycle from happening. Often times what happens, is someone will put insulation in their attic space without thinking about these hidden vents near the edge, and will mistakenly cover 1 or more of the vents. This prevents the cool air from coming in, thus making it harder for the warm air to escape. Simply calling in a professional to clear them out may fix the issue entirely!

Improper Ventilation:

Proper Ventilation:

Under-insulation in your attic may also be the problem. This could let more heat than necessary from the living spaces into the attic. Check with an Insulation contractor to see if your attic is sufficiently insulated.

If you’re certain it isn’t the insulation that’s the problem, there is a possibility that the wrong type of vents were installed. Attic vents and soffit vents have certain criteria in order to be compatible. In short; Spaced out attic vents (the box looking vents) need spaced out soffit vents, and continuous ridge vents need continuous soffit vents. If you mix these with the wrong styles, you may have issues with the ventilation not working to it’s full capacity. If you suspect that this is the issue, I would recommend having a professional roofing contractor look at the vents, or maybe even a qualified carpenter.