Icicles Signal Problems for Home Owners


This winter, take special note of any icicles hanging from your roof. Small icicles are normal, but large, thick icicles can be dangerous if they fall and usually spell trouble for your home. Fortunately, most problems that cause icicles can be remedied easily.

Icicles typically indicate ice damming on your home’s roof, a problem usually caused by insufficient or missing insulation and ventilation in your attic and between your house and your attic. During the winter, this warms the roof, causing snow to melt more rapidly and move down the roof to the overhang, where it refreezes in the form of icicles. It can also cause an ice dam to form, which eventually pushes the water up under the roof’s shingles. This damages the roof and gutters, and it can lead to water intrusion causing leaks in ceilings or walls, or soaking insulation, which would make it ineffective. As if those problems weren’t bad enough, ice dams can cause structural decay and rot to your house, or cause mold and mildew to form in your attic and on wall surfaces.

Try the following remedies to reduce or eliminate ice damming and the damage it causes:

  • Seal all holes or gaps connecting your heated living space and your attic.
  • Ensure that the attic is properly insulated.
  • Attached with clips along the roof’s edge in a zigzag pattern, heated cables prevent ice dams, allowing you to equalize your roof’s temperature by heating it from the outside instead of blowing in cold air from the outside.
  • Use an aluminum roof rake to pull snow off of your roof.
  • Install a ridge vent and continuous soffit vents to circulate cold air under the entire roof.
  • Make sure that ducts connected to the kitchen, bathroom and dryer vents all lead outdoors through either the roof or walls — never through the soffit.
  • Seal gaps between chimneys and the house framing with L-shaped steel flashing held in place with unbroken beads of a fire-stop sealant.
  • DO NOT attack an ice dam with a hammer or other tool to chop it up, as you could cause further damage to your roof. If necessary, contact a roofing company to steam the ice dam off.

February 2018: How To Survive Winter

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How to Survive Winter

How To Survive Winter: Seven Genius Hacks

Snow is stressful, but just because it’s the dead of winter doesn’t mean you should be left out in the cold. We’re here to make it easier with these seven brilliant snow hacks you can add to your winter routine right now. Learn More

How To Remove Salt Stains the Easy Way

If pesky salt stains are getting in the way of keeping your floors sparkling, you’ll want in on this secret: vinegar. Find out how this inexpensive household staple can help you get rid of winter salt stains in a flash. Learn More

Expert Advice

The Best (and Worst) Firewood to Burn This Winter

Whether you’re new to the world of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces or a seasoned veteran (pun fully intended), it helps to know the right woods to use. Read on to find out the best firewoods, as well as a few you should avoid altogether. Learn More

How to Get Organized Around Your House

The start of the year is the perfect time to set goals and priorities. And a big part of hitting the reset button is getting a handle on your possessions. Here are four proven tricks for paring down, sorting out and organizing your stuff for a stress-free home. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Our inspectors are always coming across interesting things in the field: new home trends, common repair issues—and sometimes even a few throwbacks.

This little light panel may not look like much, but at one time it was considered cutting-edge technology! Now a household rarity, solenoids once allowed us to turn on the lights in almost any room of the house from one centralized location. No stumbling into a dark kitchen—you could simply flip a switch in your bedroom on your way down the hall.

These days, the panels are considered outdated and have been replaced with “smart” devices like the Amazon Echo. This means they have the potential to warrant costly repairs for a home’s wiring down the road. If you own or show a home that features solenoids, we recommend having a specialist check them over.

Maintenance Matters


5 Ways to Know if You Need a Gutter Replacement

Healthy gutters are an integral part of any home. With winter in full force and spring on the way, gutters become more important than ever for keeping your house free of water damage. Look for these five telltale signs to determine if it’s time for a replacement. Learn More

 The Best Electrical Outlets for Your Needs

As long as they’re functioning properly, electrical outlets are something most of us don’t even think of it. But believe it or not, certain outlets are better for certain purposes. Find out how to protect your home and connect to all your devices with this quick outlet guide. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

Q: How long does it take oak to season in order for it to be suitable to use for firewood?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

5 Ways to Know if You Need a Gutter Replacement

1. You can see visible damage.

The quickest way to know if you need a gutter replacement is to examine your gutters up close. If your gutters are damaged, you may be able to see visible cracks, rust and holes, especially along the bottom. If the wear and tear is minor, you should be able to make repairs yourself with a little sealant. But before you make a decision about how to proceed with a potential DIY project, it’s important to look for the following signs. If you see any of these, chances are you’ll need a full-blown gutter replacement.

2. There’s water damage on your home’s siding.

The state of your home’s siding can give you great insight into many other aspects of the house’s condition, including its gutters. Another sign you may have a gutter replacement on your horizon is the presence of discolored water marks right below the gutters on your home’s siding. Water marks can indicate that gutters are leaking or overflowing. If your home is made of brick or another material, you’ll need to take a look at the fascia and soffit for water damage.

3. Your gutters pull away from the house.

Sagging gutters that pull away from the house indicate major drainage problems. If gutters get weighed down with water, they can sometimes drop or fall off the home altogether. Sometimes, sagging gutters are unavoidable due to heavy rainfall or freezing snow, but often, they can be prevented by cleaning out the dirt and debris that might be blocking water flow. Just be careful not to cause additional damage to gutters when leaning your body weight or a ladder against your home.

4. Your basement is flooding.

They say that if your basement is flooding, you should start at the top of your home and work your way down to diagnose the issue. This is where gutters come into play. You might experience basement flooding from time to time when your gutters can’t carry water away from your home fast enough. If water isn’t carried away, it can end up right below your eaves as it slides off your roof, seeping into your basement and causing water damage that ranges from wet patches on the ground to inches of standing water. Sometimes, basement flooding is unavoidable, especially in areas of heavy rainfall where gutters overflow often. Often, though, it means your gutters are significantly damaged.

5. You can spot mildew on your foundation.

If your home is experiencing foundation issues, the gutters may be your last area of concern. But they can actually play a big role in the health of your home’s structure. This is because the primary job of gutters is to carry water away from the home. If you can see water pooling around the foundation and signs of mildew, you could be dealing with a major gutter issue. Sometimes, simply cleaning your gutters will help get rid of any plugs, but you could also need a replacement.

If you need help determining the condition of all aspects of your home, NPI can help. Whether you’re buying, selling or just looking for a three to five year checkup, set up an appointment with our highly trained and qualified inspectors.

September 2016: Gutters and Drainage

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Q. What Do I Need To Know About Gutters and Drainage?

Ask The Inspector

A. Gutters, downspouts and splash blocks are used to move water away from the exterior and foundation. This protects the exterior surfaces of the home, the foundation and landscaping materials from water damage. Gutters are valleys made of a variety of materials located on the edge of the roof.

Downspouts connect to the gutters to contain the water on its way to the ground, and splash blocks are found at the end of the downspouts to disperse water away from the foundation.

A variety of gutter systems are available depending on the type of home, slope of the roof and aesthetic concerns. Gutters on residential homes can have seams or be seamless, be attached to the outside of the roof or be an integral part of the soffit. They are made of plastics or metals. Leaks are most common at the seams, elbows and corners.

Drainage on flat roofs, generally found more on commercial buildings, can be accomplished with gutters and downspouts, an interior drainage system or scuppers. Scuppers are holes cut in walls that extend above a roof line. Generally a downspout is connected to the scupper to move water away from the building.

Damaged or leaking gutters can allow water to stain walls, pool against the foundation, or seep into the walls damaging the frame.

An unbiased, independent inspection by NPI includes a thorough examination of the gutters and downspouts to provide the information needed for exterior maintenance.

Be Advised

Ladder Safety

Checking and cleaning gutters will require climbing a ladder in most cases. Ladder-related accidents send thousands of people to the emergency room every year, so it pays to be cautious. Before checking the gutters, consider these tips:

Be Advised

  • Inspect the ladder to ensure it is clean and in good working order. Extension ladders are needed for heights above 10 feet.
  • Position the ladder on a solid and level surface. For uneven surfaces, use braces and ask a second person to hold the ladder for added support.
  • Keep the bottom of extension ladders 1 foot away from the side of the home for every four feet of ladder height.
  • For proper support, make sure an extension ladder extends at least three feet above the landing surface.
  • Face the ladder when climbing and keep a three-point grip (two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet) on the ladder at all times.
  • Centre your weight and never lean back.
  • Never overload the ladder’s weight and duty rating as set by the manufacturer.

For more tips on ladder safety procedures, look to instructions provided by the manufacturer, or guidelines published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field


  1. The downspout needs to be supported and fastened and elevated off the ground
  2. This is an acceptable length for a downspout extension
  3. It would be better to just terminate the downspout at the ground
  4. With this installation it is now difficult to open and close the gate.

Correct answer: 4. With this installation it is now difficult to open and close the gate. There certainly are better ways to install this.

Maintenance Matters

Cleaning Gutters

The gutters on your home are meant to divert rainwater away from the exterior and foundation, but they also collect debris, bugs, stick and leaves. It is important to clean them every six months. Heavier foliage near the home may necessitate more frequent cleaning.

Maintenance Matters

Before cleaning out gutters do the following:

  • Visually inspect gutters and downspouts for apparent damage from tree limbs or storms.
  • Check that all downspouts are directed away from the home’s foundation and splash blocks are in place.
  • Check fasteners on downspouts and gutters to insure proper connections are in place.

If you choose to do this project yourself, grab a ladder and position it next to the gutter. Follow ladder safety rules and use caution near power lines.

  • Cut a two-liter soda bottle in half and use as a scoop.
  • Use barbecue tongs to pick up debris.
  • Lay a tarp on the ground to collect sticks and leaves. Roll up at the end and empty it into the garbage.
  • Hang a bucket on the ladder with an elastic cord to free up your hands.
  • Remove debris from gutters as often as needed to prevent dams and overflow.
  • Depending on location, and the type of nearby trees, gutters may need to be cleaned twice a year or weekly to prevent debris from clogging drains.

After you have removed the large debris from the gutters, take your garden hose and blast out the remaining waste. Don’t forget to wash out hard-to-reach areas such as the drain spout.

Did You Know?

The Making of Gutters

In England, the Norman Invasion in 1066 resulted in the first use of Gargoyles, an early, ornate answer to the problem of moving water away from a structure. By the time English colonists settled in America, lead pipe and cast iron were being used in gutters, but only on more expensive homes.

Wood was perhaps the most commonly used material for gutters and downspouts in the 18th Century United States. These were formed by placing the long side of boards together in a V-shape, or by hollowing out logs. Downspouts were also made of wood and most ended in a cistern or rain barrel. Lead-lined gutters followed, only to be replaced by copper and other metals during the Revolutionary War when lead was needed for bullets.

During the Industrial Revolution, catalogues introduced seven different styles of hanging gutters made of terne, copper, iron, steel, morel, aluminum and vinyl. Plastics gained popularity following World War II.

From Our Blog

September 9 is national Grandparent’s Day

It’s a good time to consider some of the amenities needed by people looking for a home to shelter them in their retirement years. According to the National Association of Home Builders, these are some of the items that can help make a home safe and comfortable for many years:

  • A master bedroom and bathroom on the first floor.
  • A low or no-threshold entrance with an overhang.
  • No level changes on the first floor.
  • Bright lighting throughout the home.
  • Non-slip flooring throughout the home.
  • A low-maintenance exterior.

Safety conditions and concerns are part of any NPI home inspection.

Monthly Trivia Question

What word comes from the middle French term for “dead pledge”?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.