Ways to Defend Against Pesky (and Problematic) Ice Dams

Folks that live in our part of the country where snow and ice are prevalent during the winter seasons must remain vigilant against potential water damage caused by ice build-up on roofs. This build-up, or ice dams, can cause problems after the snowstorm long after the snowstorm has ended. “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.”*

As more snow melts, and refreezes at the edge of the roof, the ice accumulates and finds its way under the shingles. It is not uncommon to see larger ice dams – large chunks of ice that can also cause structural damage because of their weight.

“There is a complex interaction among the amount of heat loss from a house, snow cover and outside temperatures that leads to ice dam formation. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof, and, at the same time, higher portions of the roof’s outside surface must be above 32 degrees F while lower surfaces are below 32.”* Slight degree changes can occur over and over throughout a day, creating ice dams to form quickly. And, while attics are designed to be cold, they can be warmer than the outside air because of the heat rising from the livable space in the house through conduction, convection, and radiation.

To prevent damage caused by ice dams requires a several tactics working in tandem. It is best to minimize heat in the attic, maximize attic ventilation, evaluate roof weaknesses, conduct regular maintenance and hire professional help as necessary.

GW Savage would like to provide the following measures:
1. Survey your attic and take note of all openings that allow heat from livable space into the attic. Even the small openings make a difference!
2. Look at your attic entrance and ensure proper gasketing.
3. Consider increasing your attic insulation. Ideally, there should be about a foot of insulation.
4. Inspect all ventilation outlets that run through the attic, making sure that vents are unblocked and run the air straight out of the house.
5. Remove heavy snow build-up from roofs when necessary. Please be safe!
6. Consider installing a heat cable system that warms the eaves and prevents ice build-up.
7. Hire a professional to inspect the roof and address any problems or potential problems. It is much better to do this before damage occurs indoors. Damage that does occur may be extensive and expensive. 

Taking proper steps can prevent ice dams. And if water damage has occurred, GW Savage is a phone call away and remains ready to help in your time of need.