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Ice Dams on the Roof: Dangers and Prevention

Fran Beaulieu

March 30, 2021

If you've envisioned what the incoming winter has in store for you and your family, you might have thought about a stunning winter wonderland with mountains of fresh snow and sculptured icicles hanging from your roof. While this sounds like a picturesque scene, there might be potential problems lurking around the corner. The very same conditions needed to produce icicles can also result in what's known as ice dams. This phenomenon can cause major damage that might even result in the need for a roof replacement from a qualified residential roofing contractor.

What's An Ice Dam?

As you might be able to guess from the name, an ice dam is a considerable build-up of ice that's stuck on your home's roof. Unless you're looking for an excuse to perform some residential home improvement, it's important to pay attention to these ice dams in winter. If you live in an area that experiences freezing temperatures throughout the cooler months, you should pay even more attention as you might be at a greater risk.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams develop following a significant amount of snowfall on your roof. A residential roofing contractor understands how the roof being released from your home's attic melts this snow. As it slides down your roof in liquid form, it eventually refreezes near the edge of your roof. This is a prime position to cause the kind of damage that will threaten a need for a roof replacement. As the classic and timely snowball effect tells us, this process will repeat itself and result in bigger ice dams. Your residential home improvement efforts should definitely be focused on this potential issue.

Can Ice Dams Hurt The Roof?

Yes! As any residential roofing contractor will tell you, ice dams can cause significant damage to your roof and your home overall. In fact, you might even be forced into an entire roof replacement or other residential home improvement expenses depending on the kind of damage that results from the ice dam. It's important to keep in mind that the problems caused by an ice dam might not all show up at the same time. You can expect some problems to present themselves more quickly while others take a while to notice.

Short-Term Problems:

  • Broken Gutters
  • Loose Shingles
  • Roof Leaks

Long-Term Problems:

  • Damp Insulation
  • Cracking Paint
  • Warped Flooring and Ceilings

While these are tangible problems that a residential roofing contractor will need to assess, a potential roof replacement isn't the only issue you face. There are some other signs to keep an eye out for this winter. First and foremost, if you see your utility bills skyrocket without an obvious cause, ice dams might be to blame. If your home is experiencing insufficient insulation and leaks, it will need to work overtime and burn more energy to maintain the same temperature. An increase in vermin, in the form of insects and rodents, might also be a sign of damage from ice dams. Small cracks are the perfect invitation for small critters to come into your home for the warmth and protection it provides. The build-up of water also creates a nice damp location where some of these animals thrive.

Can You Get Rid Of Ice Dams Once They've Formed?

It's not advisable for homeowners to attempt to remove ice dams on their own once they've formed. This is something a residential roofing contractor or other residential home improvement specialist should handle. You don't want to run the risk of causing further damage to your home or even worse causing physical injury to yourself. This is something that requires expertise, experience, and the right tools. However, you don't have to feel completely helpless. There are some steps you can take to decrease the chances of ice dams forming in the first place on your roof.

Tips for Preventing the Development of Ice Dams

  1. Reinforce your attic's insulation - Insulation acts as a barrier between the temperatures inside your house and the weather outside. This is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle as you head into the winter and more extreme weather is expected. You should check your insulation often to make sure it's up to snuff and add insulation when necessary. In general, it's advisable to have around 12-14 inches of cellulose or fiberglass insulation.
  2. Enhance ventilation on your roof - Another important factor in limiting the build-up of ice dams is ventilation. More ventilation can help pull in cooler air while pushing out warmer air. Ventilation strips and soffit vents can make it easier for your roof to stay at a cooler temperature more consistently
  3. Take heat sources away from your attic - As heat rising from your attic is a contributing factor to the development of ice dams, it's ideal to limit the amount of heat reaching this area of your home. You can do this by reducing the traffic in the attic while also taking away sources of heat. This means turning off unnecessary lights and not opening doors to keep the area cool.
  4. Seal any undesirable air leaks - Any space where air can leak from your home unintentionally can make it easier for ice dams to develop. In order to avoid associated problems, you should look regularly for potential leaks in drywall, light fixtures, windows, chimneys, and around ceiling openings.

Calling A Professional

If you’re experiencing some of the telltale signs of an ice dam or you’re concerned about one potentially developing on your roof, a residential roofing contractor will be your best friend. These professionals are experts in residential home improvement and know what it takes to help preserve the integrity of a home to avoid the cost of a roof replacement. Feel free to reach out to Beaulieu Home Improvement for your roofing needs. With years of experience and unrivaled customer service, we have the experts to answer all of your questions.

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