Having to repair a damaged roof is an expensive process. If ice dams cause your roof damage, it can be worthwhile to check with your insurance agent to see if they cover the costs of these repairs. However, eliminating the need for repairs in the first place is a much better option.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent ice dams and the damage they cause before it becomes an issue. If you live in an area with cold winters, read on to learn more about protecting your house from snow and ice.Do you live in an area where it snows? Follow these techniques for removing the ice dams immediately—before the damage is done. Click To Tweet
Why Are Ice Dams Bad?
You might have a mental picture of a quaint home in the wintertime, with icicles hanging off the eaves. It evokes thoughts of staying indoors with hot chocolate and a cozy fire. It's a classic, picturesque scene. Unfortunately, it's also a sign of roof issues.
When ice builds up around the lowest edges of a roof, it can become an ice dam. These ice buildups cause water to pool up behind them when snow higher up on the roof begins to melt. When this water can't flow into the gutters because of ice damming, it will likely seep into the roof and cause water damage to the roof structure and the home.
Water leaking into the attic and ceilings can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which may present health problems to the home's inhabitants.
Ice dams can also grow to be quite large and heavy. This excess weight can cause damage to the roof materials it's sitting on.
When ice dams grow too large, they may also break loose from the roof and crash down. They often take the gutters with them, which leads to preventable repairs.
Anything unfortunate enough to be below the ice dam when it falls will also be subject to intense force. Preventing ice on gutters is an important step in protecting your roof and keeping your home dry.
What Causes Ice Dams?
After it snows, look around your neighborhood at the roofs of all of the homes nearby. You will likely notice that some roofs are entirely bare while others remain covered with snow. It might seem that the roofs with no snow are less likely to develop ice dams, but the opposite is actually true.
Roof snow melts quickly when the space directly below the roof is warm. It then refreezes as it reaches the eaves, which have exterior air on both sides. If this space is an attic, this is an indication of insufficient insulation. This means you're losing heat — which you've just paid to generate — and you're also melting the snow on the roof.
This snow can melt and refreeze in icy weather before all of the water can flow off the roof. Over time, this thawed snow that refreezes along the roof edges will build up into large enough ice chunks to begin damming the water above them.
If you notice that you have ice dams on your roof, you'll want to eliminate them immediately. Using force to break up the thick ice is unsafe, but you can carefully take steps to melt the ice.
You'll want to begin with a roof rake that can help pull the loose snow off the top of any ice buildup. Once that's done, calcium chloride can melt the ice and create water paths to flow off the roof.
Once you've cleared away any existing ice dams, you can focus on preventing them in the future.
How Can You Prevent Ice Dams?
Keeping your attic space as cool as possible is an excellent first step in ice dam prevention. Have a professional add insulation to your attic. This will keep your home warmer, reducing your heating costs, and prevent the snow on your roof from melting on cold days. To qualify for home insulation grants read Warma UK’s full guide on how to qualify for an insulation grant under the ECO scheme.
If you have attic fans, can lights in the ceilings below your attic, or pocket doors in the walls below your attic, seal the tops of these. They are an easy path for warm air to take directly into your attic space.
Another way to keep your attic air cool is to be sure that all of your home's exhaust fans are ducted all the way through the roof or walls. Bathroom fans, kitchen exhaust fans, and dryer vents all move warm, damp air out of the home, and this air should not be deposited in the attic.
If you are unable to perform the needed repairs to protect your roof from ice dams, or if the work you've done hasn't been sufficient to keep ice dams from forming, you'll want to keep on top of your roof maintenance every time it snows.
After every snowfall, using a roof rake to clear all the snow off the lower three to four feet of the roof will prevent buildup, reducing the risk of ice dams. Even if you do this task, be sure to watch your roof for ice buildup.
If you notice barriers beginning to form on any part of your roof, you can use heat and calcium chloride to melt the dams early and prevent significant damage.
Taking care of your roof after winter storms will help your roof last a long time and prevent water from entering your attic space. Remember that if you see those icicles that look beautiful, beware. They're actually a sign that ice dams are hurting your roof.