Ice Dams

What Are Ice Dams? Are They Damaging?

Ice dams can damage your roofThose hanging icicles are beautiful, but there is great potential for damage to your roof and attic.

As winter is fast approaching, and the potential of icicles from your roof is also coming, now would be a good time to examine your attic. Why examine your attic? Because, believe it or not, that is where ice dams get their start.

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam form when your attic or parts of your attic are too warm.

Heat from the building leaks into the attic and melts the initial layer of snow on your roof. The runoff from that melt runs down to the eaves and gutters where it refreezes and forms an ice dam and icicles.

If conditions are right, water will pool and backup behind the dam, travel under the shingles and leak into the attic. Ice dams can also tear off gutters and loosen shingles.

Typically, the greatest risk for damage is when it’s warm enough for the snow to melt during the day and then refreeze at night. Temperatures are usually at between 15 – 20º F.

Another risk factor is the depth of the snow on the roof due to the insulating value of snow.

Getting rid of an ice damDon't use and axe to get rid of an ice dam

Once an ice dam has formed, there is no quick and easy way to get rid of it. People have used such things as axes and ice picks which we don’t recommend and can be dangerous, to panty hose filled with salt, which isn’t very effective.

It seems that the best way to get rid of an ice dam is to not get one in the first place – be proactive and preventative.

What are preventative options?

The cooler the roof the greater protection from having ice dams. Good attic ventilation helps keep the roof cold, thereby helping to limit uneven snow melting.

If you are having ice buildup around your gutters and eaves, you should probably have your attic inspected to make sure it is insulated correctly.  You could avoid costly mold cleanup and roof and attic repair.

**Thoughts and ideas for this article came from the article: Attic Condensation and Ice Dam Leaks in Buildings.

**originally published 11/24/10

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