What is an Ice Dam?
Ice dams form when heat from the inside of a home escapes into the attic and warms the roof decking in the winter. This heat, along with heat from the sun, can melt snow on your roof. Melting snow on the roof and valleys will then run down towards the eaves as water. Once this water reaches the cold eaves and gutters, it refreezes. The continual thaw and freeze process is what creates an ice dam. This results in water backing up under shingles and behind fascia. Ultimately it will soak through the roof deck and cause damage to attics, ceilings and walls.
The appearance of icicles is your official warning that an ice dam has formed.
Now that we know what an Ice Dam is, how do we defend against it?
Fixing Ice Dams / Ice Dam Repair:
There are three ways to help defend against ice dams and the damage they cause; proper insulation, ventilation and water-proofing shingle underlayment more commonly known as Ice and Water shield. The insulation helps to keep the heat from escaping into the attic, ventilation helps remove the heat to keep the roof deck cool and the water-proofing shingle underlayment seals directly to the roof deck and does not allow water through.
Did you know that homes can lose up to 40% of their heat through their attic? Attics that are insulated to today’s current standards minimize heat escape through the ceiling which virtually eliminates the possibility of snow melting and refreezing at the eave of the roof. If your home was built before 1980, you most likely will need more insulation. In Wisconsin, it is recommended to insulate to an R-49 value – or roughly 18 total inches.
Now that your house has the correct amount of insulation, it is time to find out if you have proper ventilation. Ventilation is critical to your roofs life expectancy. Any heat loss from the home should be drawn up through the attic and ultimately out of the attic through roof vents. One great benefit of having proper attic ventilation is that it allows for moisture that rises into the attic from things like bathing, cooking and laundry to escape. Moisture that does not get ventilated properly can lead to and promote mold, mildew and wood rot.
Visit our Importance of Ventilation webpage.
Waterproofing Underlayment – Your last defense
As mentioned earlier, it is resistant to water and is a critical last line of defense against damage ice dams can cause. It prevents water from getting into your home at your roofs most critical points. Please note that Waterproofing Shingle Underlayment DOES NOT prevent the formation of ice dams. Only proper insulation and ventilation can help defend against ice dams.
Even with all this work to help prevent against ice dams, there are certain situations where Mother Nature will always win. All we can do is take all necessary steps in order to help minimize them and eliminate any damage once they do occur.
If you want to remove your own ice dams, do not do any of the following:
- Do not routinely remove snow from the roof. It will likely lead to shingle damage.
- Do not attempt to "chip away" the ice of an ice dam. It will likely lead to shingle damage.
- Do not routinely use salt or calcium chloride to melt snow on a roof. These chemicals are very corrosive and can shorten the life of metal gutters, downspouts and flashings. Runoff that contains high concentrations of these chemicals can damage nearby grass and plants.
- Do not forget to clean your gutters twice a year. Keeping the gutters clean of leaves will not reduce the occurrence of ice dams. However, clean gutters can keep them from overflowing and spilling rainwater next to the house.
Ice Dams are already causing damage inside my home. What can I do?
If ice dams have already formed on your roof, we first recommend to remove the snow above the ice dam (usually at least 6 to 9 feet) then carefully create a water channel to allow the backed up water to flow in between the ice. Using calcium chloride in this situation should help and the rare usage of it should not create any future problems. The only quick and effective way to remove an ice dam that is causing damage is by calling an ice dam removal company that uses steam machines.
Reducing the possibility for future Ice Dams is a larger project that normally includes redoing roof work as well as insulation. We can properly evaluate the cause of the ice dam and recommend permanent solutions to help reduce Ice Dams in the future. Paragon Exteriors, LLC is certified by AirVent Incorporated, a leader in the ventilation market.
If you are worried about future Ice Dams occurring and causing damage, call Paragon Exteriors, LLC at 262-565-8282 or fill out the form below.