Don’t Let this be You: Ice Dam Edition

With winter just around the corner, most of us are thinking about our favorite winter sports and activities– skiing, skating, sledding, warm fires on cold nights, decorating our homes for the holidays, etc. But let’s not neglect to acknowledge that winter is also ice dam season and do what we can to prepare.






What are ice dams and how do they form?

Ice dams form when heat escapes from the attic and intersects the cold outside air. When this happens, snow up against the roof begins to melt but quickly refreezes. This process happens repetitively until a large layer of ice builds up along the roofline, inhibiting the gutters from carrying water away from the house. Over time, this water creeps up underneath the shingles. In situations where there is a compromised moisture barrier, water easily penetrates the building’s envelope and causes interior water damage.






What kind of damage can ice dams do?

In addition to interior water damage, ice dams can cause destruction in a number of ways:

  • Wood can rot: This includes roof decking, framing, sheathing and rafters.
  • Mold can grow: When water enters a building’s envelope, it often goes unnoticed for a long period of time during which the moisture can induce mold growth.
  • Icicles can form: On account of persistent snowmelt against the roof (due to heat escaping from the attic), icicles can form and grow to enormous sizes, eventually breaking off of the house or building and taking chunks of the gutters or shingles with them.
  • Insulation can lose its effectiveness: When insulation becomes saturated, it compresses and can’t regain its loft. This dramatically reduces its effectiveness, increasing the possibility of heat loss through the building’s roof and increasing the likelihood of future ice dams.

Preventing Ice Dams

Ultimately, the primary goal is to maintain a cold roof. This means replacing old insulation or adding more insulation to your home or building’s attic, if necessary, and making sure the base of all roofing penetrations are properly sealed. It’s also important to extend all ventilation systems through the roof as opposed to venting them into the attic space. Additionally, make sure you have a proper vapor barrier installed between the roof decking and shingles.

Unfortunately, there will be times when there is little you can do to keep ice dams from forming. On days – typically in late winter – when daytime temperatures are slightly above freezing and nighttime temperatures plummet far below freezing, snow will melt during the day and freeze at night. There’s no way around it. The best measure you can take during these fluctuating winter days is to use a roof rake and remove as much snow from your roof as you can which will minimize the amount of ice that will form.

Did you know that All Elements offers ice dam removal services?

That’s right. This winter, if ice dams get the best of you, give us a call. We’re happy to come out and take care of them so they don’t wreak havoc on your home (or your peace of mind!) Give us a call at 763.314.0234.