Ice dam buildup can cause serious problems over time.

How To Spot – And Remove – Ice Dams

October 31st, 2016 by

Ice dam buildup can cause serious problems over time.

As long as your roof is in good shape, you probably aren't too worried about snow buildup this winter. Sure, you might try to brush some off after a particularly heavy storm, but anything less and you'll likely leave it in place, just like most homeowners.

This might be a mistake. Depending on how your roof was constructed and what state of repair it's in, that snow might develop into a much more serious problem – an ice dam. And there are few things that will ruin your winter faster.

What Is An Ice Dam, And How Do I Spot One?
Ice dams are large masses of ice that accumulate in gutters and on roof edges. To casual observers, they may seem like icicles. But ice dams can pose big problems, causing significant water damage to roofs and walls when they eventually melt. 

When a significant amount of snow falls on homes that are not insulated well enough, the rising heat from the interior may push the temperature of the roof surface slightly above freezing. This means that the snow will melt and flow down the side, where it cools again and forms large icicles. This ice then blocks the flow of water. If this process continues, water could be forced inside your home.

After major snowstorms, you'll want to keep an eye on your roof to make sure that such things aren't developing. Here are some things to look for when spotting ice dams from the exterior and interior of your home:

  • Icicles that appear to be trapping water. Take a closer look at the icicles that have formed on the side of your home. Has the ice completely frozen in the gutter? If so, additional snow melt may be blocked from draining away.
  • Wet spots sighted inside the home. Ice dams won't necessarily cause flooding, so you might not notice the damage right away. But if you see any wet spots in the winter, they could be the cause.

How Do I Address Ice Dams And Prevent Future Ones?
If ice dams are not taken care of, the constant leaking could lead to more serious water damage and mold growth. Here are some tips for preventing their development.

  • Use roof rakes, early and often. If you see icicles building up along the edge of your roof, knock them down. In addition to forming ice dams, they can also pose a hazard to those who walk under them
  • Keep your gutters free of debris. During the fall, leaves and other objects can get stuck in gutters, lowering their effectiveness. Keep them clean so any melting water flows away before it can freeze in place.
  • Insulate your roof. If your home is losing heat through the roof, it's time for better insulation. You won't just prevent ice dams – you'll also save on your heating bills! Plus, adding ventilation under the roof deck can help balance the heat disparities that cause ice dams.

You won't have to deal with ice dams every winter. They tend to be more common when there is a great deal of snow, and also when temperatures fluctuate enough to facilitate quick melting and freezing. But it's better to be safe than sorry. Keep that roof clear you can enjoy your cozy home interior!

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