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Ice damming can cause damage to your roof and home

November 24, 2014

Winter introduces your home to many potential hazards. While most of these can be alleviated with proper precaution, others can be more difficult. One of these winter dangers that can linger and cause damage without you even realizing it is the formation of ice dams on your roof.

What is ice damming?

Ice damming occurs when snow settles on your roof and then begins to melt. However, this melting is not because the temperature outside is getting warmer, but because your home's upper levels are melting the snow from underneath the roof. If your upper level is an attic, then chances are it isn't insulated as well as the rest of the home. This lack of insulation can allow heat to travel upwards and through the roof, melting the snow on top.

Icicles can be a sign of ice dams occurring.

But as the snow begins to trickle down your roof, it freezes before it has a chance to drip off. The edges of your roof probably have no heat reaching them at all, especially if there are ridges or gutters. The melted water will pool in these places and refreeze. After a time, an ice dam will have built up and not allow any more water to escape. When this happens, the snow will continue to melt, but it will find a way to travel underneath your shingles and into your roof, as it will have nowhere else to go.

You might not notice this for some time, as the leak might not reveal itself. In many cases, the slow, steady dripping of water into the ceiling will create mold or can destroy what little insulation is in place.

There are ways to identify ice damming before it becomes a problem. One way is to pay attention to icicle formation. If you have icicles forming at the edge of your roof but your neighbors don't, this is a good indication that ice damming is occurring—or at least there is potential for it to occur.

Avoiding ice dams

You don't have to wait to see if there is a problem before doing something to fix it. You can prevent ice dams from occurring. And while you should make sure your home insurance covers your house from damage ice dams can cause, you still don't want a leak infiltrating your home during winter.

Consider these tips below for preventing ice dams from forming:

  • Insulate your roof:  If your upper level has thin insulation, then you should add more. Insulating your roof not only keeps the cold out, but it also keeps the warmth in. If your heat is contained, then the snow on your roof is less likely to melt.
  • Turn your heat down:  Keeping your heat at a lower temperature upstairs can also prevent snow from melting. While you may not be fond of the idea of keeping your home a little cooler during winter, trust that it beats the alternative of having a leak in your roof.
  • Hire professionals: Ice dams are not a new thing. There are professionals who will remove ice dams as they form on your roof. Don't try to remove them yourself, as this can be extremely dangerous. Call the professionals and get it taken care of.
  • Remove trapping spots: Limit the amount of places the melted water can pool. Make sure the gutters are clean of any debris so water can escape.

Ice dams can be damaging to your home and dangerous to your health if you don't realize it and the moisture turns to mold. Make sure your home insurance covers you for this type of damage and that you stay ahead of ice dams forming on your roof this winter.