Ice Dams Versus Roofs: Can Ice Dams Cause Roof Leaks?

By Millstream Construction

Ice Dams Versus Roofs: Can Ice Dams Cause Roof Leaks? When considering solutions to reduce the possibility of ice dams causing roof leaks, remember that involving a trained and certified roofing professional provides expert guidance. A knowledgeable and experienced roofing contractor understands the unique intricacies of your roofing system and which options ideally fit your situation

What Causes Ice Dams?

In regions where snowfall commonly occurs, the likelihood of ice dams forming on a roof’s edge increases substantially. After a snowstorm, an accumulation of snow should remain on a roof if the home has adequate insulation in the attic. Heat inside the home rises through the ceilings and reaches the attic. Assuming the attic does not have sufficient insulation or ventilation, heat will collect under the roof deck.

This gathering of heat near the surface of the roof results in snowmelt. The cold water rolls down the roof to the eave, refreezing as ice before it can leave the roof, resulting in an ice dam at the roof’s edge. Unfortunately, this process traps newly melted snow behind the ice dam. A pooling effect takes place, causing substantial stress on the roof.

How Do Ice Dams Cause Roof Leaks And Damage A Home?

 ridge ventsWhen an ice dam forms, snowmelt pools behind the dam. Because this water has no place to flow, moisture will often interfere with the roof materials and leak into the home’s interior areas. Leaks often enter the attic space, and sometimes advance through the walls and other openings. Ceilings, insulation, siding, windows, doors, and gutters face a significant risk of damage due to an ice dam.

Additionally, an ice dam, and any pooling snowmelt behind it, place excessive weight on a concentrated portion of the roof. Eaves should not have pressure on them because they hang away from the house and the roof’s primary support. Consequently, the roof  faces the risk of localized sagging or collapsing. Structural issues to the home may also result from a persistent weight placed on its roof by an ice dam.

What Can Be Done To Prevent Ice Dams In The Short Term?

Remove excess snow from at least the first three feet of the roof edge to manage accumulating snow effectively. Generally, a roof rake enables you to reach the roofline safely from the ground or a ladder. Never enter or climb on top of the roof on foot, especially in winter when walking conditions on the roof make it difficult to navigate without slipping or losing your balance.

Safety matters, particularly in winter, when slip and fall accidents are much more common. Avoid using sodium chloride or rock salt. They contain chemicals harmful to asphalt shingles.

What Can Be Done To Prevent Ice Dams Over The Long Haul?

Roof with Severe Ica DamsThe #1 way to reduce or eliminate ice dams from forming is to control the heat loss from the home. The attic must be well insulated so that heat is trapped at or below that level, and can not escape to the roof deck. Similarly, the attic needs unobstructed ventilation through the proper channels. A knowledgeable roofer knows how much insulation to add and the most effective ways to ventilate the attic.

Additional options to prevent ice dams include the following practical solutions:

  • Add soffit venting to circulate air upward to venting near the roof ridge;
  • Insulate all heating ducts in the attic;
  • Remove debris from gutters and downspouts before winter

Who Can Help Me Avoid Ice Dams?

Not all possible ice dam prevention remedies make sense. A particular method or technique may work for one home, but might not ideally suit a different home. Discussing your dilemma with a roofing professional, who will provide you with answers to your questions. They can develop an effective and, ideally, permanent solution.

For all your residential roofing needs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, contact Millstream Construction today. We understand the ins and outs of ice dams, including how to remove and prevent them. Our knowledgeable guidance will give you peace of mind that your home is secure for this winter and future years.

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