Ice Dams Happen! (But they don’t have to)
Guest post by Tiger Home & Building Inspections
An ice dam is a layer of ice that forms at the edge of your home’s roof and prevents melting snow from properly draining. The melting snow creates conditions where water backs up behind the dam and leaks into a home causing damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and potentially other systems within the home.
The causes of ice dams are complex; conditions have to be just right for this phenomenon to occur: heat loss from the house, snow cover on the roof, and outside temperatures must be in concert for the dam to form.
The dam grows during the daytime by the melting snow from above it. This melted snow (water) finds openings in the exterior roof covering, flows into the attic, and eventually into the spaces below. The services of a Weatherization Contractor should be sought out to diagnose and correct deficiencies related to ice dam formation. These are professionals who can deal with the heat transfer problem that creates ice dams.
A study done by the University of Minnesota where ice dams are common, suggests the following:
- Remove snow from the roof. This eliminates one of the ingredients necessary for the formation of an ice dam. A “roof rake” and push broom can be used to remove snow, but may damage the roofing materials.
- In an emergency situation where water is flowing into the house structure, making channels through the ice dam allows the water behind the dam to drain off the roof. Hosing with tap water on a warm day will do this job. Work up from the lower edge of the dam. The channel will become ineffective within days and is only a temporary solution to ice dam damage.
- First, make the ceiling air tight so no warm, moist air can flow from the house into the attic space.
- After sealing air leakage paths between the house and attic space, consider increasing the ceiling/roof insulation to cut down on heat loss by conduction.
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