How to Prevent Ice Dams from Forming

Ice dams grow steadily and silently, as snow accumulates on top of your roof, on an icy winter’s day. It happens even without you becoming aware of it. Your home is warm and comfortable, whilst the temperature outside is falling to temperatures below freezing. The real enemy in this scenario is the warm air escaping from your living space into the attic. The warm temperature in the attic will gradually warm the roof.

Your warm roof will cause the build-up of snow to slowly melt, starting from the bottom layer. This process then forms rivulets that start to run down your roof. Once this water makes contact again with the ice-cold air, it will refreeze.

Some of the previous snow sitting on your roof has now been transformed into ice, sitting along your eaves and gutters.

Continued rivulets trickling down have nowhere to go and this cycle of melting and freezing continues. The ice dam grows as new arrivals are being deposited next to, behind, or on top of previously frozen rivulets.

Of course the water doesn’t freeze in an instant, and whilst it is still trapped, it comes into contact with various components of your house, soaking them in the process. Water damage can now easily start occurring. If this situation is left to continue unabated, the cycle of damage will reoccur and increase in its intensity. This happens because of warm air that keeps escaping from your home.

The natural cycle of thawing and freezing can never be avoided completely, but you can begin to manage the situation to prevent damage. Icicles will still be part of winter, but instead of fighting Mother Nature, rather change your strategy to work alongside her. The best steps to take in this situation is to install an ice and water shield, ensure that your attic is properly ventilated and check that your insulation is effective. Have a professional conduct an insulation inspection and try to locate the route alongside which excessive heat is escaping. If your attic is getting too hot, there is a definite problem.

Diagnostic Tests

Run a diagnostics test, conducted by residential energy auditors or home performance contractors. They can conduct a variety of tests, including the “blower door test”. This involves hooking up a huge fan to a door in the house to conduct pressurization and depressurization tests. The connected pressure gauge will determine how insulated or leaky the house really is.

Another available test is via infrared camera. This test can follow the air paths, identify attic cold spots, determine any gaps in the insulation and other areas that are allowing air to escape.

Milwaukee/NARI advises homeowners to hire a specialist to carry out an energy assessment from time to time.

Instead of just increasing the amount of insulation in your home, or regularly hiring residential snow removal companies, there is another more effective approach. Running diagnostics tests to identify and determine the exact locations of the leaks, will help you to employ a sound strategy to fix any issues.

For instance, a single house can have 40 places where energy leaks occur. There are many types of insulation material available, all with specific added purposes, like fire-retardant foam board, fiberglass insulation, dense-pack cellulose, and spray insulation to fill crevices. You can also turn to a qualified contractor, who can be a reliable source of information regarding tax breaks, rebates and other homeowner incentive policies available in your area.

Ice Dam Myths

While it is impossible to control the winter weather, homeowners can manage problems more efficiently by separating fact from fiction. The following list of ice dam myths and facts can assist.

Myth 1: The sun can cause ice dams due to heating the roof enough to start the runoff process.

Fact: With very few exceptions, the winter sun has very little impact on the temperature of your attic. Typically, the cause is the warm indoor air that rises from the living areas.

Myth 2: Ice dams only affect older homes.

Fact: New homes are also susceptible to ice dams.

Myth 3: The west side of the house, which receives the afternoon sun, sees more ice dams.

Fact: Each side of the house can easily be affected.

Myth 4: Ice dams can be solved through the process of shingles snow removal and chipping away at ice dams.
Fact: Chipping should be avoided in winter. Due to the cold temperatures, it causes roofing materials to become more brittle. Chipping away at shingles can cause damage. Make use of professional snow removal companies to cut a few runoff slots, for increased drainage and water flow. Allow the professionals to carefully remove the snow on the roof, above the ice dam.
Contact McKinley Snow & Ice Removal Services for professional snow removal services and expert advice.