Category: Roofing & Siding

The Truth About Clog-Free Gutters

As the first line of defense against stormwater damage, gutters play a vital role in the infrastructure of just about any home. The catch is that, in order to function as designed, gutters require regular care. In fact, to ensure that rain can run freely through the gutters and downspouts—without encountering clogs or other impediments—prudent homeowners perform maintenance as often as twice per year, in fall and then again in spring.

No doubt, there are plenty of ways to rid gutters of leaves and twigs, pine needles and other yard debris. Some prefer to do the work manually, while others rely on gizmos like scoops, tongs, or even shop vac attachments. No matter the method you choose, however, chances are good that, if you live in a multi-story house, you’re not going to be able to get the job done unless you risk life and limb scaling a full-size extension ladder.

When you consider the nature of gutter cleaning, and when you think about the very real physical dangers associated with working high up on a ladder, it’s easy to see why so many dread the task. Fortunately, a suite of products known as gutter guards can reduce or nearly eliminate the need for it. Perhaps the best-known are LeafGuard Brand Gutters—a seamless, one-piece system that has inspired many imitators over the years.

LeafGuard features an ingenious design that leverages the principle of surface tension. As water meets the hood of the system, it flows around the curved lip and into the trough of the gutter. Leaves and debris, meanwhile, meet the hood and bounce right off, leaving the gutters clog-free. Properly installed, an effective gutter guard option like LeafGuard eliminates the need for gutter cleaning by preventing clogs from ever forming in the first place.

Learn more about the dangers of clogged gutters, and explore the benefits of gutter guards by reading the graphic below.

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All You Need to Know About Attic Ventilation

Understand the pieces and parts that contribute to quality attic ventilation so that you can better cool down the space and prevent roof damage all year long.

All You Need to Know About Attic Ventilation


At first glance, it can seem counter-intuitive: You insulate your home to reduce temperature fluctuations and save on utility bills, but then you allow fresh air to flow through the attic no matter the time of year. The science behind attic ventilation, however, is sound. Sealed attics trap excessive heat and moisture, which can lead to reduced shingle life. And the extra heat is not just a summer concern—come winter, hot attic air can melt snow on the roof during the day only to refreeze when temperatures drop overnight, creating ice dams that lead to interior leaking and roof damage. Ensuring your home has the proper attic ventilation according to these guidelines, however, can save yourself the stress and hassle of an emergency roof repair.

Attic ventilation works on the principle that heated air naturally rises, primarily utilizing two types of vents:
• Intake vents, located at the lowest part of the roof under the eaves, allow cool air to enter the attic.
• Hot air exhaust vents, located at the peak of the roof, allow hot air to escape.

Taking advantage of this natural process, referred to as passive ventilation, is the most common way to vent an attic. In order to facilitate this exchange of warm and cool air, the general rule of thumb suggests installing at least 1 sq. ft. of vent for every 300 sq. ft. of attic floor. Building codes vary, though, so do check with your local building authority for the specifics that pertain to your community.


All You Need to Know About Attic Ventilation


An attic’s intake vents are most commonly installed directly in the soffit, either as individual vents spaced every few feet or as one continuous perforated soffit running the entire length of the eave. While effective at pulling in cooler air, the biggest problem posed by this type of soffit vents is their positioning: Homeowners can too easily inadvertently block them when insulating the attic. Unfortunately, blocked soffit vents are as just bad as no soffit vents, because they prevent fresh air from freely flowing into the attic.

Houses with gable roofs may also have vents located on the side of the house as high as possible within the peak of the gable. Whether round, triangular, or rectangular, these gable vents can be painted to match either the siding or the trim work so that they add to rather than detract from the home’s exterior. What’s more, they’re particularly valuable for their ability to function as both intake and exhaust vents, depending on the wind direction. Most of the time, their position near the peak of the roof allows heat to dissipate out through its cover. When there is wind flowing perpendicular to the roof and of sufficient speed, it can enter through the opening; however, winds that are too light or not flowing directly at the vent’s entrance will do little work to cool down the space.


Releasing all of the heat that rises and gets trapped in the attic can be achieved with one or a combination of the three following vent models in addition to the multipurpose gable vents mentioned above.

Ridge vents—openings that run the entire length of your roof along the ridge—are often visible only to a trained eye. Hidden in plain sight and often camoflauged by specialty ridge shingles, these are a particularly popular means of ventilation because they create no disruption to the roofline. Installation of this type of attic ventilation involves leaving a gap in the sheathing along the ridge, and covering it with a perforated vent.

Static vents often protrude from roofline thanks to special covers intended to keep all precipitation—rain, sleet, hail, and snow—from entering the attic. Homeowners can choose from a variety of shapes and colors that closely match their shingles so that the vents won’t appear too out of place on the roof. One static vent style is the turbine vent, which uses wind to power its enclosed fan—all it takes is a light breeze to rotate the blades and suck heat out of the attic. Again, whatever the type of static vent, it must be located as close to the ridge as possible; homeowners worried about how the addition might affect curb appeal can place them only along the roof’s backside in order to minimize visibility from the street.

Finally, unlike the rest of these models that utilize passive ventilation, powered exhaust vents feature an electric- or solar-powered fan to create an effect similar to that of a turbine. A standard powered exhaust vent turns on when the temperature inside the attic reaches a pre-set limit and runs until the temperature drops. While these powered vents do effectively draw out the heat, they will pull more cool air from any air leaks in the ceiling of the house (read: your home’s central air conditioning) than soffit vents simply because it’s easier. Considering that they already require some amount of electricity to power, additional energy spent on air conditioner cooling the whole house may make this type of vent a less desirable option—especially if your attic is not well-sealed.

All You Need to Know About Attic Ventilation


With square-foot living space at a premium, many homeowners turn to their attics for a little extra room. When the attic becomes part of the home to be heated and cooled, open-wall gable vents and roof vents are no longer feasible, but the underside of the roof (the sheathing and rafters) can still get blazing hot without airflow.

The answer is rafter venting. Rafter vents, or insulation baffles, install in any rafter space to create narrow gaps that direct fresh air from the soffit vents to the peak of the roof. These specialty vents do not affect the finished look inside the remodeled attic. Instead, fresh air still flows in through the soffit vents and travels along the underside of the sheathing until it reaches a ridge vent or can be vented with another type of exhaust vent—allowing homeowners to keep cool without cutting  into their aesthetics.

3 Hidden Benefits of Installing a New Roof

Sure, a new roof will protect your home from the elements, but what other benefits can you expect from this major home improvement project? A new roof can do much more for your home than keep out the rain—as long as the job is done right.

New Roof Benefits


Do you dread the prospect of replacing your roof? You’re not alone. It’s an intimidating project for almost any homeowner, in part because it’s tackled so rarely in the life of a house. Indeed, the average roof can last for decades, so homeowners typically reroof no more than once during their tenure. Plus, the cost is daunting: Roof replacement calls for a substantial investment, enough to make any budget-conscious homeowner hesitate. As well, if another, perhaps more exciting home improvement project looms on your horizon—say, a kitchen remodel—you may not be keen to put dollars toward something as utilitarian as a new roof. That said, while the project certainly lacks flash, roof replacement stands out as one of the most critical steps you can take toward safeguarding the structural integrity of your home. Don’t be mistaken, though: A sturdy, sound roof does much more than simply keep out the weather. In fact, it delivers a suite of less obvious, all-too-often overlooked benefits, both immediate and long-term. “A newly roofed house simply performs better,” says Dave Lincon, a product manager with Sears Home Services. So, what are the benefits of a new roof beyond protection from the elements? Find out now.

Enhanced Energy Efficiency
Shingles are shingles, right? Though it may seem that way, scores of new options have arrived on the market, thanks to major advances in design and manufacturing. Today, according to Lincon of Sears Home Services, “The most innovative shingles deliver on the promise of limiting solar heat gain.” In other words, by reflecting sunlight rather than absorbing it, the latest, most energy-wise shingles help keep your HVAC system from having to work so hard. If the air-conditioning system doesn’t need to run as much, then it doesn’t have to cost as much either—simple. To that end, Lincon advises, “Focus your search on shingles that carry an Energy Star rating.” Sears offers a number of shingles that have earned the Energy Star designation for their ability to reduce cooling demand and help homeowners save. But as you think about energy efficiency and indoor comfort, “don’t forget about ventilation!” Lincoln warns. As part of any roof replacement, competent installers like those of Sears Home Services assess the attic to confirm that rising warm air can easily escape. In addition, Sears offers attic insulation and radiant barrier installation to help ensure that your energy costs don’t go through the roof.

New Roof Benefits - Asphalt Shingles Detail


Killer Curb Appeal
According to Lincon, relatively few homeowners appreciate that a sturdy, weathertight roof can not only prevent extensive, expensive water damage, but also lend a boost to the appearance of your home. Different homes feature different rooflines, of course, but as Lincon points out, “there aren’t many properties whose roofs cannot be seen at all from the street.” In fact, the roof often ranks among the most visible components of a home’s exterior. “Those cracked, curled, or missing shingles aren’t doing you any favors,” Lincon says. For a roof that looks the worse for wear, reroofing can actually present a valuable opportunity. “If you have the help you need to make the right choices,” Lincon continues, “a new roof can work wonders to promote curb appeal.” An advantage of working with Sears Home Services: The company guides you through the entire roof replacement process, all the way from deciding on materials through to the final day of installation. Sears experts can even help you decide which style and color of shingle will best complement your house. In the end, you get a new roof that not only performs exceptionally well, but looks great.

Higher Resale Value
Homeowners aren’t the only ones who know that roof replacement comes at a premium. House hunters know too. That’s why many prospective buyers walk away from homes that would soon be in need of an expensive new roof. If you’re a home seller, however, the same equation can work to your advantage, particularly if you recognize that, as Lincon puts it, “reroofing isn’t a sunk cost.” That is, the upgrade doesn’t simply take a bite out of your bottom line. On the contrary, it often adds a considerable amount to the resale value of your home. Lincon estimates that upon resale, homeowners typically recoup more than half the amount invested in a new roof. Despite that, Lincon says, “anxiety always enters into the picture when there are thousands of dollars in play.” Making the situation even more stressful are the horror stories that everyone has heard of fly-by-night crews that botched an installation, or perhaps failed to finish the job they were contracted to complete. A new roof is a big investment: Don’t make the mistake of settling for the first roofing company you run across. The quality of your roof replacement depends largely on the contractors you choose for the job. So, which company will you trust to put a roof over your head?

Sears Home Services demonstrates its commitment to your roofing project in many ways. For starters, the company installs only best-in-class shingles from Owens Corning, a manufacturer whose products carry a 50-year guarantee of problem-free performance (view details). To be sure, that means a great deal for a homeowner’s peace of mind, Lincon says, but he quickly points out that if a new roof ends up experiencing problems, faulty shingles are rarely the cause. “Much more often, the installers are to blame,” he says. Here, Sears stands out from most local roofers, because as a national provider with a firmly established, decades-old reputation, the company provides a limited warranty on labor (view details) in addition to a Satisfaction Guarantee. Wth Sears in your corner, you can expect more than the usual. You can, of course, expect the job to get done on time and on budget, but equally important, you can also expect the company to continue providing customer service long after the completed installation. Don’t know where to begin? To learn more about your roofing options, call or go online to schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services right away!

New Roof Benefits - Contractor Silhouette


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How Long Does Exterior Siding Last?

If your exterior siding isn't looking or performing as well as it used to, maybe it's time for replacement. Start weighing your options by learning the pros and cons of today's most popular siding materials.

How Long Does Siding Last?


There’s a paradox inherent to exterior siding. On the one hand, siding serves as your home’s first line of defense against the elements. On the other, the very elements it’s designed to deflect—driving rain, for example, and whipping wind—can lead to its ultimate demise. Of course, different types of siding stand the test of time differently, and while some continue performing well with a minimum of maintenance, others require regular care to last over the long term. In the end, the expected lifespan of siding largely depends on an assortment of variables, but of them all, nothing matters more than your choice of material.



How Long Does Wood Siding Last?


A traditional favorite, wood siding remains popular with homeowners who consider its stand-out beauty well worth the relatively high price. It’s not all about aesthetics, though. Wood also boasts impressive longevity, but there’s a crucial catch: “Wood may be the single most demanding type of siding in common use today,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. “Under the best circumstances, it can last decades,” Eldredge continues, but proper maintenance calls for much more than occasional cleaning. For one thing, you must regularly inspect wood siding for evidence of rot, mold, and pests, and if you discover any, you need to act quickly to limit damage. Bear in mind also that because the material naturally expands and contracts throughout the year, homeowners with wood siding often need to redo the caulking around exterior window and door trim. Finally, Eldredge says, “don’t ignore the fact that wood siding must be refinished about every five years.” Failure to paint, stain, or otherwise seal the material makes it vulnerable to moisture, and as any homeowner knows, moisture and wood do not mix. Besides undercutting the longevity of the siding itself, the incursion of moisture can mean extensive, expensive damage to the home itself. All that said, for those prepared to shoulder its considerable care requirements, wood siding is a lovely, lasting option for virtually any house style.



How Long Does Aluminum Siding Last?


“It’s tough to categorize aluminum,” says Eldredge of Sears Home Services. “It’s by no means delicate,” he notes. In fact, the metal often lasts for decades. But, he continues, “the same can’t be said for the enamel.” After about 15 years, the baked-on enamel coating typically begins to fade, first becoming chalky and then gradually washing away in the rain. To keep aluminum siding looking new, Eldredge explains, homeowners have to repaint, although “not as frequently as with wood.” There’s another significant maintenance concern: Unlike other materials, aluminum can become scratched, pitted, or dented. Those surface imperfections can be repaired in many cases, but if the damage warrants replacing the affected board, “you may not like the result,” Eldredge warns. Even if readily available, “the color of the brand-new board likely wouldn’t match the existing color, simply because the enamel fades so much.” Such headaches may help to explain the waning popularity of aluminum. Despite its insulating properties and relatively low price, “you rarely see it on new homes these days,” Eldredge says. That may be because the material “never delivered on its promise of low maintenance.” Or it may be that, because advances in technology and manufacturing have afforded new options, homeowners now enjoy a broader selection. Today, for budget-friendly, low-maintenance, eye-catching exterior siding, Eldredge acknowledges that “most go with vinyl.”



How Long Does Vinyl Siding Last?


Vinyl siding enjoys enormous popularity, Eldredge says, because it provides “the look of traditional wood siding, just without all the hassle.” Case in point: Quality vinyl siding like the Sears-exclusive WeatherBeater brand often remains colorfast for decades, never needing to be refinished. “It’s virtually maintenance-free,” Eldredge explains, in part because it resists many of the challenges that compromise other materials. For instance, unlike wood, vinyl doesn’t rot, and unlike aluminum, it doesn’t easily scratch or dent. Of course, like any other type of siding, vinyl does get dirty, but cleaning it off couldn’t be much easier. “Usually, it’s only a matter of rinsing it with a garden hose,” Eldredge says, but even for tough stains, you rarely need more than a solution of water and mild detergent. Long-lasting and low maintenance, vinyl appeals above all to those with no time or energy to put toward maintenance. But practicality isn’t the only advantage vinyl siding offers. Available in a range of colors and textures, the material delivers crisp, striking visual appeal, no matter the context, traditional or modern. In addition, vinyl siding can help make your home more tightly sealed. All three levels of WeatherBeater-brand siding, in fact, boast an Energy Star rating for their utility bill-slashing energy efficiency (note that Energy Star lends its label only to windows that meet or exceed efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy). “There’s a reason vinyl has become the most popular type of siding in America,” Eldredge concludes.


Is your siding falling down on the job? Sears Home Services can help you assess its condition and offer guidance on how to proceed. Should it be necessary to replace your siding, expert consultants can guide you through the entire project, from selecting a material to final installation. There are distinct advantages to working with a generations-old company with a well-established national reputation. Hire the right contractor, and you can expect your chosen siding installer to get the job done right—on time and on budget. Work with Sears Home Services, however, and you can expect even more—namely, a Satisfaction Guarantee and a commitment to the success of your project.

How Long Does Siding Last? - Closer


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How To: Clean Exterior Siding

Even the sturdiest siding requires some regular maintenance and attention. Here's how to keep the most common siding materials clean and in tip-top condition.

How to Clean Exterior Siding


Day after day, year after year, exterior siding protects your home from the elements. It’s the first line of defense against an array of natural challenges, including howling winds, driving rain, hot sun, and bitter cold. Under the circumstances, it’s no wonder that grit and grime tend to accumulate over time. Savvy homeowners, as a result, incorporate exterior cleaning into their semiannual maintenance routines for a number of compelling reasons.

First, it cannot be ignored that the condition of your siding significantly influences the curb appeal of your home—that is, how it appears to visitors and casual passersby. Second, giving your siding a good once-over a few times a year gives you the chance to identify and address any problems early on, before they pick up steam and become extensive, expensive-to-resolve headaches that could steal years from the expected lifespan of the siding.

Indeed, from both an aesthetic and pragmatic perspective, it’s never wise to go long without giving a thought to the wood, brick, stucco, or vinyl that clads your home. Generally speaking, experts recommend seasonal inspection and cleaning as needed. But according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services, it’s essential to remember that “different siding materials carry different—often very different—care requirements.”

Continue reading below for expert advice on cleaning and caring for many of today’s best-known and most widely installed types of exterior siding.


A perennial favorite, wood siding boasts timeless, undeniable beauty, but of all siding types, Eldredge says, “it’s probably the most demanding.” For one, it needs to be painted (or stained) approximately every five years. Also, because wood naturally expands and contracts, “you regularly need to check all the windows and doors, reapplying caulk if and when appropriate,” he adds. Plus, for wood siding to not only perform well but look good too, it requires annual or twice-yearly cleaning. Mostly, Eldredge says, “you can get away with using soapy water and a soft-bristle brush.” But in special cases—say, to remove mold, mildew, or algae stains—you need to scrub with a solution of bleach (one part) and water (four parts). A note of caution: “Don’t use a pressure washer,” Eldredge warns. “It’d be faster and easier than cleaning by hand,” he continues, “but a lot of times, it does way more harm than good.”

A centuries-old siding material that typically lasts a lifetime, brick has long thrilled homeowners with its historical appearance, stately impression, and aura of strength. That said, as durable as brick may be, Eldredge points out that “its longevity partly depends on annual cleaning.” Under ideal conditions, so long as the siding remains in decent condition—with neither chipped, flaking brick nor cracked, crumbling mortar—maintenance involves thoroughly spraying down the entire house. Complicating matters is that, according to Eldredge, “parts of the structure that don’t receive much sun may get mold, mildew, or moss growth.” Double-check those shaded areas, and if you discover a problem, don’t hesitate to bring out the bleach. After thoroughly soaking the area to make the brick more absorptive, scrub in a mixture of bleach and water—about a cup of the former and a gallon of the latter.

Portland cement, sand, and lime or gypsum combine to create stucco, a material with an ancient heritage that today remains as popular ever. Versatility ranks as one of its main advantages—the material can take on a wide variety of colors and textures. The downside? Its rigid composition makes it vulnerable to chipping and cracking. Competent do-it-yourselfers can patch small areas on their own with store-bought stucco fillers, but for larger repairs, “it’s wise to hire a pro,” Eldredge recommends. Like plastering, properly applying stucco takes, as Eldredge puts it, “the kind of skills you develop only after years of experience.” You don’t need to be an expert to clean the material, though. Spray the exterior with warm, soapy water. It’s important to “start at the foundation level and work upward,” he says. “That way, the stucco near the base of the building doesn’t absorb gallons of dirty water.”

“There’s a reason vinyl has become the most popular type of siding in America,” Eldredge says. “It’s virtually maintenance-free.” Continuing, he notes that options like WeatherBeater vinyl siding, installed exclusively by Sears Home Services, actually “deliver the look of traditional wood siding, just without all the hassle.” For instance, vinyl doesn’t need to be refinished; it remains colorfast for years. Plus, vinyl is not susceptible to many of the factors that harm other materials—rot, for instance, and pests like termites. If your vinyl siding has gotten a bit dirty, don’t worry—cleanup couldn’t be easier. Even tough stains tend to come out with a solution of water and mild detergent, but as Eldredge attests, “more often than not, cleaning vinyl means nothing more than rinsing with a garden hose.” In the end, “that’s what makes it a great choice for people who don’t have the time or energy for home upkeep.”


When properly cared for, exterior siding can last for decades. But no siding lasts forever. There comes a time when cleaning and repairs won’t cut it anymore—a time when, in order to guarantee continued protection from the elements, you need to install brand-new siding. Fortunately, there are many benefits to be gained from an upgrade. Eye-catching curb appeal, higher home resale value, improved energy efficiency, and dramatically lower maintenance requirements are just some of the reasons homeowners choose a category leader like WeatherBeater. Though re-siding can be an overwhelming prospect, companies like Sears Home Services guide you through the entire project, all the way from selection of the new material to the final installation. Best of all, in contrast with many local contractors, the Sears brand offers a Satisfaction Guarantee. Schedule a free in-home consultation as soon as you’re ready.


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How To: Remove Vinyl Siding

Does your façade need a facelift? Skip the pricey pro and take off old vinyl siding yourself with the right tools and these smart steps.

How to Remove Vinyl Siding


Buckles, splinters, and cracks, oh my! These are all clear-cut signs that your vinyl siding needs to be replaced. Despite this material’s widely extolled reputation for superior strength and durability, it doesn’t last forever. After 10 to 15 years of exposure to the elements, your siding will no doubt reach its expiration date, but having the panels removed professionally can cost up to $3,000. So why not DIY and put the money you save towards a new exterior? It should only take a day or two to remove siding from a typical house—and this guide will help you get the job done.

- Zip tool
- Scaffolding or ladder
- Claw hammer
- Carpenter’s pincer pliers
- Dumpster (optional)

How to Remove Vinyl Siding - Home Exterior


First, understand the system. Siding, which is generally sold in 12-foot panels, is attached via an interlocking strip-and-lip channel system, with the strip (at the top of the panel) nailed to the wall and the lip (at the bottom of the panel) locking onto the panel below. Removal requires you to unlock or “unzip” each piece from the one above, so to perform this part of the task efficiently and effectively, invest in a $5 vinyl siding removal tool—also known as a zip tool. You’ll work a panel at a time, first unzipping and then removing the nails.

If you’re not using temporary scaffolding (which can be rented from a home center for about $25 a day), position your ladder securely against a top corner of your home and climb to the top. To remove the uppermost piece, start at one end of the bottom of the first panel and push the end of the zip tool up under siding until it hooks onto the underside of the lip. You won’t be able to see the lip but should feel it lock on.

Once the zip tool is latched onto the lip, pull the siding piece downward and slide the tool horizontally across the entire length of the panel, unhooking the lip. Working in one direction, unzip the channel lock across the entire length of the piece of siding. Be careful not to extend beyond your reach. If you’re not using scaffolding, climb down and reposition your ladder as necessary. Once that’s done, the panel will hang loose, exposing the nail strip.

After unzipping the first panel, pry off the nails from the top strip using the claw end of the hammer. (Although nails on the uppermost panel will already be exposed, don’t try to remove them before unlocking—always unlock first and remove nails second.) Find any stubborn nails? Grab your carpenter’s pincer pliers to loosen.

Once all the nails are removed, unhook the siding piece by pulling straight down and out. Carefully bend the panel to free it from the receiving channel. Continue working in one direction from the top down, one panel at a time—unzipping, then removing the nails—until you’ve got them all down.

Once the vinyl is removed, determine how to dispose of the unwanted exterior properly. If you’re only removing a few damaged panels for replacement, disposal isn’t such a big deal. But if you’re taking on your entire house, renting a dumpster might be your best bet for cleanup. Though most companies only rent by the week, the average national cost runs about $400. Seems a fairly small price to have the cumbersome panels hauled off to the landfill.

Now, don’t jump the gun on your home’s new look! Because vinyl siding is notoriously vulnerable to water penetration, be sure to check for moisture damage, which could lead to underlying wood rot and pest infestation. Do a thorough repair before putting up new siding or any other exterior.

All You Need to Know About De-icing Systems

Blistered paint, damage to your ceilings, roof, and walls, and structural issues—these are just some of the potentially disastrous effects of ice dams. Learn how to take action now, before you get caught by surprise.


Of all the hazards that strike fear into the heart of the average homeowner, surely ice dams must rank near the top of the list. Making the phenomenon all the more menacing is that unlike many other home disasters—a downed tree, for instance—ice dams aren’t obvious threats. Often, it’s not until after the damage has been done that a homeowner even becomes aware of the problem. Therefore, the key isn’t to eliminate ice dams after they’ve formed, but rather to prevent them from forming in the first place. There are several ways to do this, but homeowners seeking the greatest protection often opt to install de-icing cables along the roofline. Here’s why.

Ice dams form in winter, in the days and weeks following heavy snowstorms. Warmed by heat rising up from below, accumulated snow on the roof begins to melt. Before the melted snow runs off the roof, however, it refreezes right near the edge, over the eaves. After repeated freeze-thaw cycles over the course of the season, a thick barrier of ice forms along the roof overhang. Once this dam has formed, any snow melting on the roof collects and puddles behind it. Eventually, this trapped, standing water works its way beneath the shingles, causing leaks and, in many cases, extensive (and expensive) damage.


Once bitten, twice shy: Indeed, the homeowners most likely to take measures against ice dams are those who ignored the risk in the past and wound up paying the price. But even if you’ve never had to deal with ice dams before, if you live in a region with extreme winter weather, it’s only prudent to minimize your vulnerability. Affordable, easy-to-install de-icing cables offer perhaps the most direct and effective protection. Fastened into position over the eaves (and often within the gutters as well), these cables output heat to prevent melted snow from refreezing before it has the chance to run off the roof, into the storm drainage system, and finally into the yard.

According to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with, “De-icing cables are insulated electric heating wires specially designed for roof and gutter applications.” Made to resist exposure to sunlight, moisture, and impact, such products provide dependable, long-term ice dam prevention. “Once it’s up there, consider the de-icing system up there for good,” O’Brian says. “In theory, homeowners could take down the installation every spring, but you really don’t need to do that.” Secured with strong, durable clips, the cables stay in place for years and years and, O’Brian continues, “they’re virtually maintenance-free.”

It’s important to note, however, that the performance and longevity of a de-icing system hinges on proper installation. For that reason, O’Brian recommends hiring a contractor. ”A do-it-yourselfer may not have any trouble climbing onto the roof and laying the cable, but since it’s critical to position and fasten the cable correctly, there’s a lot of room for error.” In addition, cables typically require an outdoor GFCI electrical outlet. “If you don’t already have one, then you’ll at least need to bring in an electrician.” It helps to work with someone experienced: With so many options available, it can be tricky to choose the right product.

De-icing cables are designed for use primarily with the most common roofing material—asphalt shingles. If you’ve got, say, metal roofing, special considerations come into play. You must account for the size and, more importantly, the shape of your roof. Plus, there are environmental variables to consider, such as the solar orientation of your home and the prevailing wind direction. Finally, bear in mind that features vary from one product to the next. As O’Brian notes, “The basic stuff simply plugs in and turns on.” But if you’re concerned about energy savings, “opt for a system that self-regulates in keeping with the temperature outdoors.”

Experts at are on hand to help you find a de-icing system that suits both your needs and your budget. Of course, there are other steps you can take to protect your home. For instance, attic insulation and ventilation can help to control the temperature of your attic, which in turn decelerates snowmelt. If an ice dam forms despite your best efforts, ice-and-water barriers often prove to be a valuable safeguard, blocking the intrusion of water into the home and thereby mitigating the worst damage. But no measure addresses the issue quite as directly as installing a course of de-icing cables. In the end, though, which strategy you choose to employ is less important than acknowledging the risk and proactively pursuing a workable solution.


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All You Need to Know About Roofing Materials

With the variety of roofing materials available, it can be difficult to know what's best for your home. Use this guide to discover which is right for you, and to get a few tips on how to maintain your roof for long-lasting success.

Types of Roofing Materials  - Asphalt


You probably don’t think much about the durability of your roof until you absolutely need to. But waiting until a leak or other noticeable damage occurs could result in costly (and lengthy) repairs. Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or a long-time homeowner, educating yourself on the pros and cons of various roofing materials is vital to both maintaining and protecting your home’s exterior and ensuring it lasts for years to come.

Types of Roofing Materials - Slate


The roofing material that’s right for your home should work for both your architectural style and your climate. Making the smartest choice in material is the first and best way to avoid pricey repairs down the line.

Asphalt shingles are durable, easy to install, and will last around 25 years. Available in a wide variety of colors and offered at the least expensive prices comparatively, it’s no surprise that asphalt is the most common roofing material. As a bonus, zinc or copper granules can be found in some, which prevents algae growth that plagues climates with higher humidity.

Wood shingles and shakes are a favorite in both the Pacific Northwest and Western regions. Featuring a price that’s twice as much as asphalt (but with the same life expectancy), these uniformly machine-sawed—and sometimes handmade—materials offer a timeless, rustic charm to any home. If you’re drawn to this look, however, be weary; some municipal fire codes forbid the use of wood shingles, even though some now have a factory-applied treatment that makes the wood resistant to fire.

Fire-resistant and extremely durable, tile, clay, and cement roofing are often seen outfitting Spanish-style homes in the Southwest. But with the unique look also comes a steep price tag, as they are around triple the cost of asphalt. The high cost is equalled by a high lifespan, however, lasting anywhere between 50 to 100 years.

Slate is among the most durable roofing materials due to its heavy, natural stone composition. Although these qualities make it the most expensive—rounding out about 12 to 20 times the cost of asphalt—it may be worth the extra cost, as it can last over 100 years.

Popular for flat or low-slope roofs, aluminum, steel, and copper models can be molded or pressed to mimic other types of materials, like shingles and tiles. Durable, lightweight, and weather- and fire-resistant, these roofing styles can last about 35 years and are similar in cost to tile, clay, or cement.

If you want a slate or wood look, but don’t want to overspend, try synthetic, polymer, or composite roofing. These man-made options are offered in lookalike styles that copy the popular albeit expensive materials. Synthetic, polymer, or composite tiles are also lightweight, durable, and comparable to the lower price of asphalt. This material can last up to 50 years and requires little effort to maintain.


No matter the material you pick, there are a few safeguards you should put in place to avoid costly damage down the line.

Proper ventilation is critical to ensuring a long-lasting roof. If none is put in place, heat and moisture can build up underneath the roofing and cause structural damage or rot. Louvers, roof vents, and soffit vents can help prevent these problems.

Leaks are an obvious issue to avoid. Consider installing metal sheathing called flashing at the points where different materials join, like around skylights or vents. Proper overlap and staggered joints are other ways you can prevent leaks.


Your climate and the elements will be a factor in the lifespan and performance of your roof. If you live in a rainy area, you could suffer from roof deck rot if the proper steps aren’t taken. If rough winters plague your city, ice dams along the roof might be a common occurrence. Even strong winds can blow or break off shingles.

To prepare for these unexpected issues, start a regular inspection, both annually and following any major weather event. This will help you catch little problems that could turn into huge repairs. When reviewing your roof, look out for these red flags:

• Shingles that aren’t lying flat. Another surefire sign that you’ll need to make repairs are shingles that show signs of cracking, curling, buckling, or other obvious damage.
• Sagging areas of the roof could be a sign of rot or other moisture damage. The underlying decking may need to be repaired to stop a larger issue.
• If you discover shingle granules in the gutters or downspouts, it might be a warning sign that your roof is at the end of its life.

Keep in mind, a few misshapen shingles or a little leak may not be cause for concern—it may just need some TLC. If you’re worried, contact a roofing contractor to ensure everything is safe and secure.

Genius! DIY a Roof Rake with Hardware Store Supplies

Letting snow pile up on your roof can lead to ice dams, leaks, and other costly repairs. Make this easy avalanche roof rake for the winter, and let a clever DIY design do all the work for you.

DIY Roof Rake - How to Clear Snow Off of the Roof

Photo: Bill Bachand

When the snow started to pile up on handyman Bill Bachand’s roof, he did what any responsible homeowner would do: run to the nearest hardware store to find just the right tool before the pileup could cause any damage. Unfortunately, the rest of the town did the exact same thing, so by the time he got there, the seasonal section was emptied of every last roof rake. Instead of scouring all the stores in the area, he set off to make his own roof rake out of a handful of dependable, readily available hardware store staples—a resourceful move that saved him more than $100.

The inspired DIYer’s roof rake design capitalized on the durability and versatility of PVC pipe by using it for the snow tool’s H-shaped frame. One half of the frame holds a 12-inch-tall piece of sheet metal, which is attached to the frame by multiple screws. This large, flat metal surface does the heavy lifting, easily clearing snow piled up on the roof. Plus, when tapped against the roof, this portion of the tool speeds up the chore by knocking heavy snow and ice loose from the shingles. The other half of the frame holds a length of metal chain. On a sloped roof, this side of the rake lets you harness the effects of gravity: When you pull the length of chain along the shingles, the resulting “snowball” effect makes winter way less work.

You’ve probably heard that you get what you pay for, be it a house or a handsaw. But when a budget build is paired with a genius design, that old rule just doesn’t apply. To see for yourself, give this $40 DIY a try! Your wallet—and your roof and your back—will thank you.

FOR MORE: Snow Ripper


Photo: Bill Bachand

Bob Vila Radio: Replacing a Damaged Gutter

In the war your home wages against the elements, the gutter system serves as a first line of defense. If a section gets damaged, act fast to replace it—before the next storm hits!

Wind, rain, snow, hail and falling tree branches can wreak havoc on your rain gutters. After an especially severe storm, if any section of guttering appears damaged beyond repair, you can always replace that one part of the system. It’s a relatively straightforward job. Here’s how it’s done.

How to Replace Gutters


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Once you’ve got your ladder safely positioned under the damaged section, use a screwdriver or a pry bar to remove the gutter hangers (assuming they can be reused). Then, with a hacksaw, cut away the section you wish to replace. Before you do so, however, consider wedging 2×4 spacers into the adjacent guttering; that way, you can be sure those sections keep their shape while you’re working. Now, cut the new section to size, allowing for about two inches of overlap on either side. (Note that it’s often easiest to cut gutters when they are upside down, and that it can also be helpful to position a spacer within the gutter you’re cutting). Finally, proceed to add the new section into the gap. Having cleared away leaves and debris, apply caulk at the seams where the replacement section joins with the existing gutters. Install rivets, reinstall the gutter hangers—and you’re done!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!