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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

How To Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof This Winter

11/2/2020 (Permalink)

photo of ice dam forming on the edge of roof of log cabin, large icicles hanging down Combatting ice dams before they start is your best chance to prevent water damage to your home this winter.

In areas that get a considerable amount of snow and cold weather each winter, Ice Dams are nothing new. But just because your home is subjected to New England winters doesn’t mean you should have to deal with the consequences of snow and ice building up on your roof. Taking the proper steps to prevent ice dams can help protect your home from water damage this winter. 

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams form as snow melts and refreezes again on your roof. Water migrates from the peak of the roof down to the eaves where it is cooler and refreezes. This melting and refreezing continues, causing a large amount of ice to form over time at the roof eave.

This makes it harder for melted snow or ice to drip from the roof, and acts as a magnet for melted water. This cycle continues as long as the dam is not removed or completely melted away by warm weather. 

The source of the formation of an ice dam is a warm roof. When your attic space is warm, the heat transfers to the underside of your roof and causes snow to melt. This melted snow flows down the roof and refreezes at the edges, as the overhang is not warmed by the attic. The large mass that is created over time is your ice dam, and it can spread to soffit vents and gutters as well. When your attic is any warmer than freezing, you are likely to end up with this issue. 

Ice dams (like icicles) are dangerous for your family and pets. They can come crashing down at a moments notice, especially when outdoor temperatures unexpectedly rise. 

What Are the Consequences?

The damage that can be caused by ice dams is not small by any means. As dams build up and become larger over time, they can damage your roof by just the weight of the ice. Dams may cause it to begin to sag or slope. 

As they melt, dams can cause a huge amount of water damage to your home. As ice melts, water seeps in between the shingles of the roof and refreezes and expands, in turn loosening the shingles of the roof. When shingles are loose, it creates a pathway for melted snow and ice to easily enter the interior part of the roof and drip into the interior of your home. 

When this water enters your home, it saturates everything in its path: Insulation, wood framing, drywall, and even your belongings. This moisture can cause extensive water damage to not only your attic, but your living spaces as well. When leaks are not caught, they can cause structural issues and cause mold to grow in the walls, floors, and ceilings of your home. 

Waiting for warm weather to come melt your ice dam is NOT a solution! Waiting will only allow your damages to get worse, and when the dam finally melts much of the melted ice will directly enter your home. When ice dams aren’t taken care of, they can continue to cause damage to your home even long after they’re gone.

How to Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof

  • Remove snow with a roof rake. If your home is prone to damming, you can prevent it before it starts by removing all snow from the roof so it has no chance to melt and turn into ice.
  • Roof heat cables. These should be mounted to your roof before winter weather hits in a zig-zag formation to keep the exterior of it warm and prevent snow or ice from freezing to it. 
  • Eliminate attic heat sources. Warm lights, uninsulated HVAC systems, or vents from dryers or kitchen exhaust fans can send enough heat into the attic to warm the roof.
  • Properly insulate and vent your attic to keep it cold. This will ensure that there is no heat loss from the living space of your home into the attic. Keeping the attic as cool as outside and prevents the conditions for ice dams to form. Take the following steps to properly keep your attic cool during the winter:
    • Ventilation: Install vents at the soffit and at the ridge of the roof to provide air flow between the actual roof and the insulation. This will keep the immediate underside of the roof cold even if the attic absorbs heat from your living space.
    • Insulation: You should properly insulate the floor of the attic and seal all air leaks from the main living space. If it is a finished room that has the roof directly above it, be sure that the rafter spaces above the ceilings are properly insulated. These methods will prevent the heat from the living space from rising it up and warming the roof.

Safely Removing Ice Dams

There are many DIY methods for ice dam removal online, but many of these tactics can cause damage to your roof and are not necessarily safe for you to do yourself. Using salt to melt a dam or chipping the ice off of the roof yourself can cause just as much damage as the mound of ice itself. So what should you do?

Always hire a professional for proper ice dam removal.

Ice dam removal companies use specialized equipment to get the job done without damaging the shingles of your roof. Most companies use a high temperature, low pressure steam machine to melt the ice right off your roof without any impact.

Using other methods such as a power washer or manually chipping ice off yourself will surely damage or rip shingles right off your roof, and end up requiring even more work and money to remedy when springtime comes around.

Need Ice Dam Removal? Call SERVPRO - 800-734-3213

SERVPRO of Branford/Shoreline is a 24/7 damage restoration company specializing in fire, water, mold and COVID-19 services. Make damage "Like it never even happened."

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