Reminder: Check Your Home for Ice Dams This Winter

Winter time brings with it a wide range of temperature swings (warm to cold), heavy snowstorms and misty rain. And, with this comes the potential for ice dams.

What Are Ice Dams?
Ice damming occurs when the peak of your roof collects snow. The snow then starts to melt (typically because of warm air that rises up in your attic that warms up your roof top). This causes the melted water to flow down the slope of your roof and then refreezes as it makes its way to the colder eaves’ (overhangs or edges) of your roof.

Why Checking for Ice Dams is Important
It’s essential you remove ice dams immediately, before the water can seep into your roof and cause damage to your insulation and home.

Ice damming can easily cause water to seep into areas of your home where you don’t want water. When this occurs, it might cause wood rot or mold growth, where you’ll then need total removal and replacement repairs.

Ice dams can also pose a risk to anyone walking under or near your roof since chunks of ice could fall on them. The ice, over time, can also damage downspouts and gutter segments.

Eliminating ice dams might become dangerous if you leave them unattended for too long since dams might also create jagged, long icicles that could present a risk as well. Depending on what type of house you live in, the weight of the ice might even pose the risk of smaller dwellings such as a manufactured home or mobile home of breaking up.

Ways to Prevent Ice Dams
Some ways of preventing ice dams are:

  1. Proper Attic Ventilation

You need adequate attic ventilation so your attic doesn’t become too hot and potentially cause ice dams. An attic fan is crucial for proper attic ventilation. Homes with good attic ventilation typically don’t experience ice damming and the physics are fairly simple — when you circulate cool outdoor air in your attic, the surface of your roof stays below freezing and can’t melt the snow on your roof.

  1. Close Attic Bypasses

In the average house, around a third of the heat lost is through the attic’s ceiling. A lot of this heat loss comes from leaks of air caused by gaps in drywall, unblocked walls and cracks around:

Plumbing pipes
Light fixtures
Access hatches
Other ceiling penetrations

It can be difficult to stop air leaks. You would need to climb up into your attic, rake or pull back the insulation and then plug up the leaks with caulk, foam and other methods. You’ll definitely want to do this work in cooler weather since summer heat can make your attic unbearably hot.

  1. Good Insulation

Along with improving your attic ventilation, you can also decrease temperatures against your roof deck by installing insulation against the inside roof surface or in the ceiling in living areas underneath your attic.

If you have an open attic, you’ll have to insulate your attic floor. You’ll have to insulate the rafter spaces (along with ventilation baffles) if you have a finished second-story where there’s a finished ceiling against your roof. These insulation methods will keep heat from rising up to your roof deck and warming it to where it could melt the snow that’s lying on your roof.