Stopping Ice Dams
by Steve Vacha
If a home has a history of ice damming, fall is the time to try to prevent further problems.
Ice damming occurs with heavy snow on the roof starts to melt. The melting is usually caused by inadequate insulation in the attic. Too much warm are in the attic area warms the underside of the roof or the sheathing, which causes the snow on the roof to melt..
The snow melts and drips down the roof until it reaches the part of the roof that overhands the house and is not warmed by the attic air. This water that freezes slowly backs up, literally creating a damming affect which grows up the roof from the gutters. This can often create a roof leak which can show inside the home at ceilings near exterior walls.
It is never a good idea to get on a roof and chip off the ice once damming has occurred because it is dangerous and can do more harm than good. We will periodically find roofs where homeowners have damaged their roofs when trying to chip off ice.
It is best to take preventative measures and stop the warm air leakage into the attic. If the underside of the roof is the same temperature as the snow will not melt in the first place and start the ice dam.
Seal air leaks coming in from the interior of the house and through duct leaks in your attic to stop warm air leakage (the source of the problem). After sealing leaks, add additional insulation as needed in your attic. Provide adequate attic ventilation and make sure attic insulation is not blocking roof ventilation. Clean leaves and other debris from gutters before the first snow to help prevent ice build-up in the gutter. Consider hiring an energy specialist, who carries diagnostic equipment that is useful in a proper diagnosis of your home’s needs.
The key to preventing ice damming is to keep your attic temperature the same temperature as the exterior. And remember to stay off icy roofs to prevent any dam accidents.