What are Ice Dams?
Ice dams are blockages of ice that are formed in your gutters after a snowfall. During and after a snowfall, the snow on the roof of your home can be warmed two ways leading directly to snowmelt. One way is through the sun’s rays which are refracted through the ice crystals of the snowflakes that have collected on your home’s roof creating warmth and melting the snow. The other way is through the heat from the inside of your home escaping through the attic and warming your roof decking, also leading to snowmelt. When this snowmelt reaches your home’s cold gutters it can freeze into ice. This process of thawing and refreezing creates ice dams in your gutter system. These dams can cause water to back up under the shingles of your roof or behind the fascia boards where it can lead to damage to the roof decking, wall sheathing or the ceilings and walls of your attic.
While this process is taking place, most of the damage that ice dams can cause does not occur or will not be seen until several days after the storm when the snowmelt has thawed and refrozen several times. Here are 6 facts you should know about the damage these ice dams can do to the integrity of your gutter system and your home.
6 Damaging Facts About Ice Dams
There are many things to keep in mind when protecting your home from ice dams and their damage.
- Ice dams can happen even when there is little to no snow on your roof. Ice dams are less about if or how much snow has fallen. It is really an issue of ice and freezing temperatures.
- It doesn’t take much actual moisture to form an ice dam. While heavy snowfalls can create ice dams more quickly, any amount of snow or freezing precipitation can cause damaging ice dams.
- Gutters are not the only place where ice dams form. Blocked or clogged gutters can fill with ice and provide the foundation for an ice dam. But ice dams can form on a cold edge of a roof on a home without gutters. Additionally, ice dams can occur even when your gutters are perfectly clean, so make sure to watch out for ice dams and contact a professional even if you’ve recently had your gutters serviced.
- Gutters can be damaged by ice, even without the formation of ice dams. Ice is heavy. A blocked gutter filled with 50 pounds of ice will be damaged, with or without the formation of an ice dam. Make sure to remove any ice deposits in your gutter before any damage can be caused.
- Ice dams are not always visible from the ground. Often, ice dams are easily identifiable by the icicles hanging from your gutter. They may also form in harder-to-see areas such as above skylights or in roof pan areas that are out of sight.
- Ice dams can cause damage even when they are very small and thin. The slope of your roof matters here: a steep roof will generally be ok with a thin ice dam, while a lower-pitched roof can incur significant damage from even a 1-inch thin ice dam.
3 Ways to Prevent Ice Dam Damage
While there are clearly many ways that ice dams can damage your home there are also a few ways to prevent ice dams from forming:
- Perform regular maintenance on your heating system. By keeping the attic and roof of your home cool you can minimize the amount of snowmelt that occurs. Make sure to have your heating system checked for any weak points that might lead to unintentionally warming your attic.
- Keep up with the health of your attic. Make sure that your attic floor is properly insulated and that your attic itself is well ventilated in order to maintain uniform roof temperature. Check to make sure your ceiling is correctly sealed and that there are no leaks of hot air into the attic.
- Protect your roof by installing water and ice shield under the shingles at the edges of your roof, at the chimney and skylights and around any vents. You can also have heating coils installed at the edge of your roof to keep any snow from refreezing.
Ice Dam Prevention and Maintenance
If you are worried about possible ice dam formation on your home, call the professionals at Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning® to have your gutters and roof checked for any possible issues.