Common Causes of Roof Ice Dams and How To Prevent Them

Ice dams on the roof occur when snow melts and forms ice around the gutters, creating a blockage (hence the name: dam) that prevents water from traveling down the side of the home or building. It’s a problem. When water, snow and ice are backed up on a roof, it opens the doors to a wide range of problems for the homeowner. Whether you live up north or down south, you need to be aware of the common causes of ice dams on the roof so you can prevent it from occurring on your home.

Problems Associated With Roof Ice Dams

  • Water gets underneath shingles and leaks into roof
  • Damages or event rots wood
  • The weight of a massive ice dam may cause some gutters to break under pressure
  • Creates a serious hazard for anyone walking underneath
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Severe ice dam on roof: photo by State Farm.

Watch Your Roof Temperatures!

The single most common cause of roof ice dams is a hot roof. When snow falls onto a hot roof, it begins to melt into water, at which point it runs down to the gutters at the edge of the roof where it refreezes back into ice. As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to maintain a normal roof temperature to reduce the chance of an ice dam.

So, how do you control the temperature of your roof? The secret to keeping your roof cool during the winter is to make sure your attic is well insulated. Allowing the warm, moist air from inside your home to leak into the attic will naturally heat up the roof. Take a few minutes to inspect the insulation of your attic. Look for areas where insulation is missing, torn, ripped or otherwise damaged. You can purchase insulation from your local home improvement store to fill in the gaps by yourself, without the need for a professional contractor.

roof-ice-dam-02Moisture Also Plays a Role In The Formation of Roof Ice Dams

Temperature isn’t the only contributing factor in the formation of a roof ice dam; attic moisture may also encourage its development. There are several different elements which may create moisture in the attic, some of which includes poor insulation, faulty air conditioning condenser, roof damage, bathroom exhaust fan venting to the roof, etc

The bottom line is that homeowners need to make sure their attic is properly insulated and isn’t suffering from high humidity levels. Allowing these two problems to go unaddressed could result in ¬†severe roof ice dam.

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