Now that winter is upon us we thought it best to discuss ice dams, what they are and how to prevent them and/or deal with them properly.
So what is an ice dam anyway?
An ice dam is just like it sounds, it's a piece of ice that blocks water from properly flowing off your roof. They can cause a lot of damage to your home, roof, gutters and downspouts. They are common in Connecticut which is why we offer this as a service. There are some things you can do to prevent them or reduce the risk of damage after one has already formed. There is only one real cure though and that is a combination of proper sealing, good insulation and venting in your attic and eaves.
So how do ice dams form?
Basically it works like this... when your roof gets warm enough due to rising heat from the attic it causes the snow to melt the underside layer of snow sitting on your roof. Since water always travels the path of less resistance it flows between the compacted snow and the shingles until it reaches the eaves. The issue with this is that the eaves do not warm up in cold weather because they extend beyond the house so the water here starts to freeze and if it continues to do so it will grow into a mound of ice. If your roof has a flatter pitch, it will be easier for an ice dam to form. Your gutters can also trap snow and ice and if builds inside of the gutter, it will also create an ice dam.
What type of damage can an ice dam cause?
The answer is... a lot of damage. Eventually that ice dam will melt and the ensuing water can drip into the insulation, down onto ceilings as well as exterior walls beneath the eve which can then ruin sheetrock and the paint. If an ice dam happens to break free, it can pull shingles and gutters with it which can create a huge mess and potential hazards from falling debris. It can also cause mildew which can then lead to rotting.
So what is the best way to deal with an ice dam?
If you have an existing ice dam there are things you will need to do:
1. First you'll need to remove the ice dam by breaking it in small chunks. DO NOT under any circumstances use anything sharp as you can create further unnecessary damage. Use a blunt object such as a mallet. Keep in mind that this can be very tedious and dangerous work, so it's best to let a professional handle it. You don't want to get up there and make a mistake and ruin your shingles or roof.
2. The gutters and downspouts will need to be cleared out. Obviously, this will require a ladder so again, it's best to hire a professional to do it. \
3. The troughs will need to be melted with calcium chloride. Rock salt should never be used as it will damage paint, metals and even your shrubbery or plants.
Preventing ice dams
The best way is to scrape the roof after every snow fall, but if it snows a lot that can be a lot of work. We also offer snow removal so we can come and do this for you. The best way to prevent it is to attack the underlying issue which is the warm roof caused my poor insulation and venting of the space beneath the roof. The only way to actually prevent them from happening in the first place is:
1. Seal all warm air leaks emanating from your home to spaces below the roof sheathing.
2. Properly insulate your home to prevent conduction and convection of heat through the ceiling.
3. Vent the space between the insulation and the roof sheathing, so any heat that does leak through is carried away properly.
In short, preventing ice dams is simple, in principle which is that the entire roof must be kept the same temperature as the eaves. That is done through increasing ventilation, proper insulation or adding insulation as well as and sealing off every possible air leak that might warm the underside of the roof. If you are experiencing problems with ice dams, give is a call at 203-222-7663 so we can assess the issues that is causing them.