What Are Ice Dams

With cold weather fully upon us and official winter swiftly approaching, homeowners have to be aware of a whole slew of issues that come tied to the season. With rising heating bills and harsher weather, it’s a time to keep an eye on the kind of winter maintenance that not only keeps your bills low, but also protect your home from possible long term damage that harsh winter weather can cause. For many of these issues, you may not spot them until it's too late and your roof needs repaired.  But there are some external symptoms you can keep an eye out for. One such symptom is ice damming on your roof. You may have heard the term before and not have known what it meant, or you’ve seen an ice dam and didn’t know what causes them, so today we’ll try to bring some clarity to this common homeowner issue. 


What Is an Ice Dam?

Ice dams occur on sloped roofs with heavy snowfall. Snow higher on the roof melts and begins to flow down, but then hits a “dam” of unmelted snow and ice on the edge of the roof. This water then sits on the roof, cycling through refreezing and melting as the heat cycles of the day go by, eventually causing damage to your roof, which isn’t meant to have standing water sitting for such an extended period of time. 


What Causes Ice Dams?

If you’re seeing ice dams repeatedly forming on your roof, the root cause is usually tied to insufficient insulation below your roof. As heat radiates out from your home, as we learned in school, heat rises, so most of it escapes out through your roof. As this heat reaches the higher points in your roof, it melts the snow on your roof from below. As the melted snow slides down your roof, eventually it reaches a point where less heat is radiating out from your home’s interior, and it’s overtaken by the below freezing temperatures outside, causing it to freeze and form an ice dam.  Beyond insufficient insulation, ice dams can also be caused by improperly installed or improperly maintained chimneys for ventilation, both of which can cause warm air to collect just below your roof, exacerbating the factors that lead to ice damming.


What should you do?

If you’re seeing ice dams repeatedly forming inside your home, it’s time to schedule a roof inspection. We’ll identify any damage the roof damming may have caused and recommend the best resolution. It’s also a good idea to review your insulation as well as any ventilation installed in your attic or crawlspace. If you only see occasional ice damming, be careful to break up the ice dams safely, and consider a deicing system to prevent further issues. For any roof issue you may experience, contact us and the New Heights crew will be ready and eager to get you the answers you need!

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