Ice dams are common in places with cold winters and regular snowfall. They occur when heat collects in the artic and warms up your roof to temperatures above 32 degrees F. This, in turn, causes the snow on top of the roof to melt. When the running water flowing from the top of the roof reaches the colder lower edge of the frozen rooflines it freezes again, forming a huge rim of ice which keeps on growing larger while trapping more water behind it. It prevents the melting snow on the warmer part of the roof from flowing onto the ground.
Can Ice Dams Do Damage to Your House?
If left unchecked, these ice dams can cause water has already melted to flow back about 5 to10 feet, pass through the shingles and flowing down to ruin the roof ceiling. The water can stain the area around the windows and wall surfaces. Some of the heavier ice dams have been known to bring down gutters and fall on property and even on pets like cats and dogs. Falling ice dams can also cause damage to any vehicles parked right under the roof.
Ice dams destroy paint causing it to peel. However, the peeling of the paint may not be immediately noticeable. It can happen long after the storms have subsided, so pay special attention to the paint when you have snowstorms and particularly ice dams. Ice dams also loosen shingles and, as the water leaks within the wall frame, wets the insulation causing it to sag. So now you have uninsulated spaces at the top.
The moisture that has been trapped in between the walls in turn ends up attracting smelly mold and mildew due to a rise in humidity levels. Homeowners use thousands of dollars every year just so that they can fix the damage but by that time, the damage is usually too substantial. This kind of environment is also a health risk for those people who have allergies.
When snow falls and ice dams form, you as the homeowner needs to be vigilant. Some of the problems may not be too obvious because there is no controlling the pattern with which water may choose to flow. Check the insulation to see if there is any visible dampness. Whatever you discover, make a plan to solve the problem.
How Do You Prevent Ice Dams From Forming?
Ice dams need melting snow in order to form. To prevent them, one method is to ensure that they do not form in the first place. Ice dams can begin to form even when the snow is 1-2 inches high. So if the snow is falling lightly and you live in a single-story home, try to remove as much of it as you can. Removing snow is an easy, cost-effective way to keep the ice dams away. If you choose this particular method, you must adhere to all the safety guidelines so as to prevent injuries and/fatal accidents that may result from not being careful enough or from not taking safety precautions seriously.
The snow can be removed using a snow rake, made from an aluminum scraper mounted on a long pole. It can be done by you, or a certified professional. Rakes that have small rollers are ideal for removing the snow from the roof because they do not damage your shingles. The snow needs to be removed in layers, steadily bit by bit. Start from the bottom and work going up until all the snow has been removed to prevent ice dams from forming again at the place where you stopped raking. This is possible especially If your home is prone to ice dams.
As a safety precaution, do not rake your snow while standing on a ladder, and under no circumstance should you climb your roof to rake in snow as this may lead to slipping and cause serious injuries. Rake the snow with both your feet firmly planted on the ground. This way, there will be no falls, no slips and you can control the procedure while at the same time control where the falling snow will land.
The second alternative, is to maintain a good attic ventilation system. Keep the air in your attic as cold as possible. This will prevent the snow on the roof from melting down because cool outside air being circulated in the spaces under the roof deck keeps the roof surface below freezing, preventing snow from melting.
You can also get a professional to insulate the ceiling in living spaces under the attic and rafter spaces. You can do this for any finished second story ceiling that is directly against the roof. One-third of heat lost in homes is through the ceiling directly to the attic. Seal gaps around the chimneys as well as in plumbing pipes, gaps in dry and unblocked walls using foam or caulk or other ways to prevent heat being generated there. If you see an area where frost is building up, take a few pictures so as to get some guidance when doing interior inspection where there may be leaks in the house that need attending to.
Replace Older recessed lights with Sealed Can Lights as the heat generated by the recessed lights is surprisingly massive. Cap the attic hatch with weather-stripped caps and ensure ducts connected to the kitchen do not lead outside through the soffit. Exhaust and HVAC ducts can be covered by fiber-reinforced mastic. Heat cables, looped in a zig-zag pattern ensure melting water does not freeze but flow to the ground harmlessly when it reaches to the eaves. Always keep your gutters clean at all times. Remove all the leaves that have fallen on the gutter before the storm comes to prevent clogging.
Check to see if your downspouts work properly. Take care of the trees that are hanging over your roof because they can create shaded areas that are 5 to 15 degrees cooler where ice dams can easily form. Water running to these cool spots will refreeze again and encourage the formation of ice dams.
For a more effective extreme measure, especially in places where ice dams are a common but unwanted occurrence, replace your roof with a metal roof. With metal roofs, the ice has nothing to grip and the chances of these roofs leaking are very minimal. This could probably be one of the best solutions to your ice dam problems.
How Do You Remove Formed Ice Dams?
One of the things that can be used is a calcium chloride ice melter or a similar product. Do not use rock salt as this may be very corrosive to your roof, your paint as well as your walls and may also damage any plants that the snow will be falling on.
Another way is to blow cold air on the underside of the roof with a fan, on the places where the water is actively leaking in. This burst of cold air will freeze the water and stop the leaking.
Some people install heated cables to equalize their roof’s temperature by heating it from outside. But sometimes, these heated cables may not be able to melt away all the water. The best thing to do when you have huge ice dams and you want the job done properly is to hire a professional contractor. The contractors use professional steaming equipment that uses high- temperature and low-pressure. Do not use a high-power washer with a steam box as this will damage shingles.