The first snow storm has hit New England and although it is beautiful, the snow load also brings with it the possibility of ice dams and resultant damage to property. Ice dams are common in areas that receive heavy snow buildup.
What exactly is an ice dam?
An ice dam is an accumulation of frozen water in the gutter system and at the edges of the roof. This accumulation prevents subsequent drainage of melting snow from leaving the roof and gutter system.
How do ice dams start?
Most of the time, ice dams actually begin inside the house, when heated air from the main floor rises up into the unheated attic. When warm air leaks up into the attic, it creates warm areas on the roof, which causes the exterior snow to melt. That melting snow moves down the slope of the roof until it reaches the cold overhang, where it re-freezes. This process repeats itself causing causing ice to build up along the eaves and forms a dam. Eventually, this dam forces water to back up under the shingles and sometimes into the ceiling or wall inside the home.
What kind of interior damage can an ice dam do?
When water from an ice dam gets under shingles and backs up inside the building, several things can happen.
- Structural framing members may decay
- Metal fasteners may corrode
- Mold may form in the attic and on wall surfaces
- Water damage may occur to ceilings, walls and floors
What can property owners do to reduce the chance of ice dams?
There are steps that homeowners and commercial property owners can take to reduce the change of ice dams, including the following:
- The services of a professional should be employed to remove heavy snow from your roof.
- Increase insulation in the ceiling/roof to reduce heat loss. It's important that the ceiling be made airtight to prevent warm air from within your home/building to flow into the attic space.
- Use a professional to verify that there are sufficient soffit and gable end vents in your attic. This can help to quickly vent any of the warm air that does get into the attic, into outside air.
You can also download this helpful infographic "Everything you need to know about protecting your home from an ice dam" from our friends at The Andover Companies.
Thankfully, ice dams are preventable. With early detection and mitigation, you can avoid damage from ice dams.