Through the window, you watch a perfect winter snowfall. You sip a mug of hot cocoa (or hot mulled wine!) while the snow gently falls, turning your neighborhood into a scene from your grandmother’s old antique snowglobe. In the morning, it looks like the world has been painted by pixies, everything sparkling and white and magical…

Until you look up, and see a water spot on your ceiling.

The spell gets broken pretty quickly when the realities of home maintenance interrupt the magic of a Nebraska winter. Fortunately, water spots don’t necessarily mean you have a faulty roof! The solution might be a simple fix, or a little updating to your existing roof, and White Castle Roofing is able to tackle any of it.

Let’s start with the obvious — you might have a leak. White Castle Roofing’s repair team can help get you patched back up, if this is the case. But often, in the winter, we don’t see the kind of precipitation and heavy winds that make leaking a problem. The issue usually isn’t a hole at all — at least not an accidental one! More frequently, the problem is that there aren’t enough holes — the VENT kind.

So how does a sealed-up roof lead to a water spot in your living room?

Your attic needs ventilation in order to maintain the balance of moisture in the air in your home. Air is introduced to the attic through soffit vents under your roof’s eaves, and circulated back outside through box vents or ridge vents. This handy-dandy diagram shows what this actually means:

Ventilation diagram

In the winter especially, cold outdoor air should be circulated into your attic to prevent ice damming, a phenomenon that occurs when snow melts on the warm roof, only to re-freeze around your gutters, blocking them up leading to even more ice.

As the ice dam builds up at the bottom of the roof, it can force the ice and water back up the slope of the roof and under the overlapped shingles, which leaks into the house when it is large enough, and melts. This is why we install ice and weather shield at the bottom of the roof, to keep the water that gets behind the shingle from getting into the house. Some ice damming is unavoidable, which is why ice and weather shield is a code requirement here in Nebraska, but good air flow minimizes the danger.

Another reason ventilation is important is to prevent excess condensation. When warm, moist air from your house gets into your attic and is quickly cooled (like when it comes into contact with your roof deck), it can cause condensation and frost, which melts when the temperature warms back up and drips right back down into your insulation and attic floor.

When warm, moist air is stuck in the attic, the roof deck (and the nails sticking through it) freeze the moisture from the air, which builds up to little icicle on each nail head. These melt during the day and can also cause small leaks all over the attic space. Less moisture to build up means less water in your insulation (to cause dangerous mold) or in your ceiling, and, of course, less ice damming on your roof.

Finally, what you might think is a roof leak might actually have nothing to do with your roof — it’s just built up humidity inside your house! Moist air can actually condense on the drywall that you might see from your room, but not from the attic moisture at all. The water mark is only on the inside of the house, normally near a corner. This occurs if the attic insulation is not covering that corner, and cold air is able to get into the attic at the soffit vent near this corner. The fix for this is more insulation over that spot, and controlling the indoor humidity.

If you haven’t had a problem yet, you can be actively preventing them from popping up in the first place! Here are some ideas:

  • Check your humidistat, if your home has one, to make sure it is not set above 30. The colder weather we get, the lower your humidistat should be set. Generally older houses do not have a humidistat, but lose enough moisture through their windows and siding that condensation may not be a concern.
  • Keep your vents open around your home. Air circulating everywhere will keep a better balance of humidity, reducing the chances of excess moisture building up in any one area.
  • Reduce the amount of time you use your humidifier. Introducing a lot of extra moisture to the air can lead to more frost buildup in your attic, even with an otherwise sufficient amount of venting.
  • Run the exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen when you’re working in those rooms, and for 15-30 minutes after a particularly long, hot shower, to help bring your indoor humidity levels back down to normal. Just make sure these fans actually vent to the outside and not just into the attic!
  • Peek into the attic and make sure your insulation is not tight against the deck of the roof at the eaves. Air needs to come in from there and the insulation can cut off that air flow.
  • Check your soffit vents around the house to make sure dust or paint has not suffocated air intake to the attic.
  • Cover pans when cooking, if possible — we totally understand the need for getting a good browned crust on a roast, so this isn’t always feasible, but if your food won’t be affected, throw the lid on.
  • Open a window on opposite ends of the house, just an inch or so, for a little while. The cold air introduced into your home won’t freeze you out, but will lower the overall humidity of your home.

If you’re still not sure you have sufficient ventilation, give us a call — we’re happy to come take a look, and put together a proposal for a repair, if needed, to make sure your attic has all the venting it needs.

And then you can enjoy that next snowfall, knowing that, because you’re an awesome, responsible homeowner, the gorgeous blanket of white outside will actually stay outside. That’s probably worth an extra marshmallow in your cocoa!