An ice dam is a mass of ice that forms along the edge of a sloped roof when certain winter conditions occur. If not removed, an ice dam can damage your roof, gutters, and downspouts, and lead to water damage inside your house.
What causes an ice dam to form?
An ice dam forms when winter conditions are just right. Sunny days during the winter cause melting of the snow on a home’s roof. At night, when the temperatures dip below freezing, the water that settled on the roof and eaves during the day freezes and builds up as ice.
Ice dams are also caused by warm temperatures from inside the house, specifically, from the attic space just under the roof. So, even when outdoor air temperatures are below freezing, accumulated snow on a sloped roof can melt from underneath due to those warmer interior temperatures.
Water from melting snow seeps between the layer of snow on the roof and the roof shingles. Gravity pulls the water toward the eave of the roof which, because it overhangs the exterior wall of the house, remains cold and causes the water to freeze. In time, ice builds up into a mound. As ice forms at the same time snow continues to melt, water is pushed up under shingles where it leaks through the roof below.
The ice buildup at the eave combined with melting water from farther up the roof results in improper drainage. Snow and ice trapped in gutters also serve as the starting point for additional ice buildup, and also lead to an eventual backup of water. With nowhere to go, the water seeps under shingles and through the roof, where it can drip into insulation, through ceilings, and down walls. Potential harm exists outside, too. If a chunk of ice buildup drops off the roof to the ground, it can damage the gutter and hurt whatever it falls on below.
Interior damage from an ice dam
Water damage inside your home that can occur from an ice dam can be minor – or it can be costly and dangerous. You may see water stains on a ceiling or wall. Not all water damage is readily visible, however. Out of sight in the dark and hidden recesses of your attic, dampness occurs that, in time, can lead to the growth of mold. Even if you believe the damage is minimal, don’t be fooled. Hire a professional to perform a thorough check of the area for problems.
What can I do to fix an ice dam problem?
Heat leaks and insufficient roof insulation are the main culprits responsible for an ice dam starting in the first place. Proper insulation and sealing of leaks from the inside help a roof maintain its temperature outside. Thorough insulation of a home’s living space will ensure heat is not drawn through the ceiling into the attic space. Lastly, venting the attic will keep warmer air moving, rather than directed at a single roof location.
Because of the dangers involved, removal of ice buildup on a roof should only be performed by a professional who has the proper equipment to work safely and without damaging your roof or gutters. If water damage has occurred inside your home, hire a reputable contractor to inspect the entire affected area and perform proper repairs and/or take steps to prevent a re-occurrence.
The professionals at Sovereign Construction Services know all about water damage caused by ice dams and a leaky roof. Sovereign Construction Services is a full-service home renovating and remodeling company that can fix water-damaged walls and ceilings and take other precautionary steps to prevent future damage. Owner Steve Rush brings his years of expertise to every job he completes. For more information, call Steve directly at 610-639-2986.