What Are Ice Dams?

22 Dec What Are Ice Dams?

ice damIce dams are an unfortunate side effect of winter weather, and they can be a major hazard to your roofing. Read on to learn how to identify them and what you can do about them.

Ice dams defined

An ice dam, in short, is a buildup of ice on your roof. Ice dams usually accumulate at the eaves of your roof—those spaces at the edge of your roof where the roof projects beyond the side of the building. An ice dam begins to form when an accumulation of snow on a sloped roof melts. The snow melting is typically caused by inadequate roof insulation, heat leaks, and inadequate ventilation in upper, heated spaces in the home. Then this melted snow flows down the slope of the roof, under an insulating layer of snow. When this melted snow reaches the below freezing temperature air at the eaves of your roof, it freezes back into ice, forming a dam.

The problem with ice dams

Ice dams become problematic when the snow that melts on your roof later cannot drain properly through the dam, and thus it has no means of draining from your roof. Ultimately this can lead to leaks in your roofing material, causing damage to your ceilings, walls, or roof structure and insulation. You might even see damage to your roof—or injury to yourself—when the ice dam does eventually fall off of your roof.

How to prevent them

Roofing specialists today are become more and more skilled at preventing ice dams in the first place. A skilled roofer will be sure to provide adequate insulation and ventilation when building your roof, and in some cases a roofer might be able to add extra insulation and ventilation to an already existing roof.

It also helps to remove snow from your roof before it has the chance to melt and potentially form an ice dam. A roof rake is best for removing snow from your roof, but in order to be successful, you must remove all of the snow from your roof. This means that you need either a ladder for reaching the uppermost parts of your roof, or you need to walk on your roof in order to remove the snow completely—both of which put you at significant risk for injury. Removing the snow from your roof yourself, then, is not the most ideal option for preventing ice dam formation. Instead, it’s best to rely on a professional for your snow removal needs.

Finally, certain materials when installed on your roof can also help prevent ice dam formation. An ice belt installed on the eaves of your roof, for example, can prevent ice dam formation by creating a low-friction surface where ice dams are likely to form.

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