What Are Ice Dams?

Ice Dams

What Are Ice Dams?

Icicles hanging from the roof in winter is one of those iconic images of the season. However, they are a signal that there is a serious problem with your roof. If they are visible, that means that there is a thick layer of ice with melted water behind it. Left unchecked, that water can work its way into your home and cause serious damage.

What causes ice dams?

Ice dams form when heat from inside the home escapes to the outside. When warmth flows through and out the attic, it doesn’t just lead to higher heating bills. It can also signal serious and expensive damage to your roof and your home. The heat melts snow that is on the roof. This melted liquid runs down the roof until it meets the eave line and the gutter. Here, the colder temperatures refreeze it. This forms a dam that blocks the flow of new melted snow. A puddle forms on the warmer part of the roof.

What kind of damage can ice dams do?

The sheer weight of the ice on top of your house can lead to damage to the roof. It can cause your gutters and downspouts to pull away from the house. Sometimes they take the fascia boards with them. When rain gutters, collapse, it can typically cost as much as $300 to make the repair.

Ice dams can cause water to keep into the house, causing peeled paint, warped and buckled wood floors, soaked and ruined carpets and cracked ceilings and walls. It can also drench your insulation and joists. This can cause joists to rot and dangerous mold to form inside your home.

The damage that ice dams does can be expensive. Researchers say that it accounts for the second largest share of homeowner insurance claims, with an average of $5,531 per claim.

How can I tell I have ice dams?

The icicles mentioned above are a telltale sign that ice dams have formed. However, you may not see a sign of ice dams before it is too late. In general, you are at risk when there is a great deal of snow built up on the roof, heat escaping from your home and subfreezing temperatures that allow the dam to form.

Can ice dams be prevented?

A little bit of maintenance and preparation can help keep dangerous ice dams from forming on your home. First, ensure that your attic is well-insulated. Less heat escaping means less change of snow melting. Install gable, soffit or ridge vents to expel heat from the attic safely. Rake snow accumulation off the roof with a roof rake.

What do you do if an ice dam forms?

Whatever you do, do not try to chip the dam away yourself, as this can damage your gutters and roof. Roofing contractors can help you safely remove the ice dam from your home. Using heating technology, the dam will be melted and removed.

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