The same snow that creates good winter fun now presents a dangerous and damaging problem for your home. That very same weather can cause ice dams leading to various problems.
What is an ice dam?
An ice dam is a build up of ice along the edge of a roof. The ice prevents water from flowing off the roof. The water back up can lead to water under the roof shingles, which can penetrate several layers and eventually lead to water damage.
Spotting or identifying an ice dam is simple. Look for a bulging block of ice attached to the overhang of your roof. The pretty icicles hanging over the side of your roof are a sure sign. You may also experience rain gutters overflowing with ice.
Ice dams are typically covered with several inches of snow which could prevent you from noticing them. Under that frozen snow is melting snow and ice that can lead to water entering your home. If there is already interior damage it may be accompanied by a wet ceiling and/or wall, or water flowing into windows.
Under the dam invisible damage is occurring in your attic and walls. The wood framing is wet and undoubtedly beginning to rot. Your insulation is now soaked and inefficient. This can also allow for mold, mildew, and odor problems.
The now-soaked framing and insulation will continue to cause wall damage and interior moisture problems until things finally dry out completely. Leaving these problems untreated can cause serious structural damage.
How to prevent ice dams
The damage that the melting water from an ice dam can cause is due to excess heat leaking from your home. Putting an end to the escaping heat will help cut down on potential problems.
Insulation: Properly insulate your home to ensure that you are not releasing excess heat from your home. Eliminate gaps or openings and make sure to insulate attic doors as well.
Hot Air Bypass: Seal all openings that allow for hot air to bypass into the attic. Warm air rises and will subsequently try to escape from your home. It can cause heat loss leading to rising utility costs and moisture problems in the attic. Weather strip the attic door better than any other door in the house. Also make sure that exhaust fans does not empty into the attic to avoid excess moisture.
Ventilation: Avoid blocking any vents with insulation. Increasing the ventilation will cool down your attic and eliminate unwanted moisture. the best system is a combination of low-intake ventilation and high-exhaust vents on the attic roof. There should be a minimum of 1 square feet of ventilation for every 300 square feet of attic space. Extra ventilation won’t hurt, only help.
If you already have ice dams you can remove them. It is possible to chip away the hanging icicles. Use caution because this is an extremely dangerous process. In extreme cases you can use chemicals (not rock salt) to melt the excess snow and ice. You can also fill an old sock or nylon stocking leg with the chemical and lay it across the dam to melt the ice.