Icicles and snow on the roof

Published on: Feb 1, 2015 by Admin

Ice Dams: Prevention and Maintenance

We have all heard of or experienced ice dams. What exactly does the term “ice dam” mean? According to the University of Minnesota, “an ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.”

What causes ice dams to form?

Ice dams are formed as a result from a multipart interaction. The amount of heat loss a house has, the amount of snow covering the roof, and the outside temperature all play an integral part in how an ice dam is conceived. Snow on your roof, differences in temperature between the higher and lower portions of the roof, and outside temperatures sustained below freezing create a perfect climate for ice dams to form and grow.

Awe a baby ice dam, now what?

Once the dam has been formed it will not be long before it starts growing. The ice dam gets bigger as it “eats” the melting snow above it and it will only choose the areas on your roof that have consistently been below the freezing mark. The water from the melting snow backs up behind the ice dam and stays in liquid form. The water needs somewhere to go, so it seeks out little cracks and openings and finds its way into your attic. From there it may travel into your exterior walls or through the insulation in your ceiling.

A DIY trick that will help keep ice dams that have already formed at bay is combining a pair of panty hose and calcium chloride ice melt. Fill the panty hose up with the calcium chloride and lay them onto the roof, crossing the ice dam and have it hanging over the gutter. The calcium chloride will begin to melt the snow and create a channel for water to flow. This is only a temporary fix and you should still have a licensed contractor inspect your roof and discuss options with you.

Why isn’t the temperature on my roof consistent?

It gets cold in the winter so what do we do? Turn on the heat! We all know that heat rises and that heat travels to the surface of your roof and through the insulation. Overly warm roofs play a huge role in whether or not your home will become victim to ice dams.

How can I protect my home?

Making sure your home is properly insulated and ventilated is extremely important. Insulation is important as it keeps most of the heat from your home inside the interior living space.. The heat that does get through is what creates the fluctuations in temperature on your roof. Without adequate ventilation, it doesn’t matter how well your home in insulated. The heat that does get through the insulation is kept at a minimum if your home is properly ventilated.

Another way to protect your home is by installing an ice belt. An ice belt is a band of metal roofing and is installed at the eaves. This helps ice dams from forming as well as reduces the penetration of standing water.

When in doubt, call a licensed and insured professional. Most contractors will come out for little to no cost and assess your roof.

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