Ice Dams: How They Form and How to Prevent Them
Ice Dams Can be a BIG problem in Northern Colorado and Wyoming.
Ice dams are mounds of ice that form along the edge of a roof. While the icicles that hang from them may add an extra festive look to your wintertime holiday décor, these packs of ice can cause major damage to your roof shingles, gutters and downspouts, and even water damage to your drywall, insulation, and sheetrock inside your home.
When it snows, ice dams can form when heat escapes from the roof of a house and warms the bottommost layer of snow on the roof enough to begin melting it. This water then trickles down between the snow above it and the shingles below until it reaches the eave of the roof, which stays cold because it extends beyond the side of the house and is fully exposed to the outdoor temperature. There, the water can freeze if the outdoor temperature is 32 degrees or below and can gradually grow into a mound of ice. Ice dams are more likely to form along the flatter portion of the roof pitch, although gutters can also collect and trap snow and ice, encouraging ice dams to develop.
Depending on the temperature and winter conditions, the snow can melt so quickly that water begins to pool behind the ice dam at the edge of the roof and seeps back up under the shingles, even up to 10 feet up the roof from the gutters, and into the ceiling—wreaking havoc on the inside structure of your home.
Short-Term Fixes for Ice Dams
Although tedious, you can rake the snow off your roof after a heavy snowfall to prevent ice dams from forming. Most hardware stores in areas that experience snow will carry special roof snow rakes that have an aluminum scraper mounted at a right angle on a telescoping aluminum pole. Be extremely cautious while raking snow from the roof as the snow can slide off onto you or others. Never attempt to use a snow rake on a second story or while standing on a ladder.
If you notice leakage through the roof from an ice dam and can’t rake off the snow, the best way to get rid of the ice dam is to hire a roofing company to steam it off. A steamer is like a pressure washer, except that it uses hot water to melt the ice without damaging the roofing. Chipping the ice off with an ice pick or another tool can break or puncture the shingles causing even more serious leakage through the roof. If you notice water damage, be sure to give us a call. We can help minimize damage to your property.
Long-Term Solutions for Ice Dams
Although more costly, if you find that you have ice dams forming year after year you can replace your shingle roof with standing seam or other metal roofing or replace just the bottom three feet of your shingle roof with a wide metal drip edge.
Whenever you do replace your roofing, make sure a water-repellant membrane is installed underneath.
While there may be temporary fixes to prevent ice dams from developing and to reduce the risk of damage after they may have already formed, the only real solution is to treat the underlying problem of poor insulation which leads to the warm roof and melting snow.
During the spring or summer months, talk to a professional about addressing one of these potential issues:
Seal the attic bypasses. In the average home, about one-third of heat loss is through the ceiling into the attic. Most of this loss comes from air leaks caused by unblocked walls, gaps in drywall, and cracks around light fixtures, plumbing pipes, chimneys, and access hatches. To close these gaps, you or a professional will need to pull or rake back the insulation in the attic and plug the gaps with foam or caulk. Low roof angles could make it tricky to reach some of the air leaks on your own.
Add roof or soffit vents. Attic ventilation draws in cold outdoor air and flushes out warmer attic air, cooling the attic and the roof in the process.
The added bonus of tackling the underlying issue behind ice dams is that by better sealing the attic, you’ll keep more heat inside your home where you want it and lower your winter heating bills.
Give Water Extraction Experts A CALL!
We are equipped to guide you through the process of protecting your property and getting you back to your life as soon as possible.
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