With spring and summer just around the corner, you may be ready to put the winter behind you! But if you experienced ice damming, or excessive icicles on and around your roof this winter, the problem won’t just go away with the snow. It is important to address the underlying issues, which may have already caused permanent damage to your roof and home.

What is an ice dam?

In case you’re not familiar, ice dams are caused by warm air escaping your home through your roof, and melting the bottom layer of snow that sits there. The resulting water runs down the roof until it hits the colder edges, where it freezes. Over time, this grows into an ice dam, or a buildup of very large icicles. Since the warm air continues to melt the lower layers of the snow, melted ice becomes trapped under the dam and backs up, often forcing water under shingles.

What kind of damage can ice dams cause?

Ice dams can cause a wide variety of damage:

  • Shingles
    • When water sits on the shingles, it compromises their integrity—remember, shingles are not designed to hold water for extended periods of time, they are designed for water to flow off of them.
    • Shingles can tear, break, bend, or lose their water-tight seal.
  • Roof Decks
    • If your shingles are compromised, water can then get to the roof deck. This can lead to rot and mold, as well as can weaken the integrity of the deck.
  • Insulation
    • If water gets through your shingles and roof deck, it can and will get into the insulation. Water in the insulation can cause mold and, believe it or not, can increase the risk of fire by damaging its fire retardant.
  • Gutters
    • Excessive weight and pressure can damage the structure of your gutters, and even pull them off completely.

What causes ice dams, and how can they be prevented in the future?

  • Poor attic insulation
    • This allows the heat of the house to escape through your roof.
    • Your insulation can be completely replaced, or insulation can be added to prevent this problem in the future.
  • Poor ventilation
    • Continuous airflow helps your roof maintain a constant temperature on both the exterior side and underside.
    • Poor ventilation needs to be replaced to ensure proper airflow.
  • Exhaust/chimney pipes
    • If they are corroded, have holes, or are not up to code, they can be the cause of the heat.
    • Pipes may need to be sealed, or replaced.
  • House design
    • Homes that do not allow for inside ventilation (cathedral ceilings, finished attic rooms, etc) may not have proper ventilation or insulation.
    • In these cases, a cold roof system may need to be installed (essentially a new roof being put over your existing roof, with spacers in between them to allow for ventilation)
  • Gutters
    • Blocked gutters can result in water freezing faster, creating a “base” for ice dams, and large icicles.
    • This can be resolved by making sure to clean your gutters thoroughly. You could also consider installing gutter guards, which prevent debris from clogging your gutters while still allowing for water to flow through.

It’s important to realize that if you have experienced ice dams there is a problem somewhere in your roof system. At a minimum, this means that you will experience ice dams again, and they will eventually cause permanent issues. More likely, some damage has already been done to your roof and your home. While some damage may be obvious (a missing gutter is hard to miss!), much is limited to the roof and attic/crawl space, where you might not easily see the results.

Call a roofing professional to get an evaluation, and to fix any problems before any further damage occurs, or the snow comes back. Allstate Roofing & More, LLC always provides free evaluations and estimates to residential customers, and can help with any roof system repair or replacement. Contact us today to learn more, 585-400-7663 or office@400roof.