By John Norman
When the weather warms up a bit this Saturday and the water starts pouring in, a lot of people will be calling us about their roof or gutter problem; but actually it might not be something that a roofing or gutter professional could have prevented. Ice dams are often unpreventable when weather conditions are just right. I even have icicle on my roof! So let’s see what’s going on and discuss how to lessen the impact now and in the future.
The Cause (short version)
Ice dams are commonly caused when snow melts from heat loss in the attic; water then runs down the roof underneath the snow blanket and re freezes at the edge of the roof. This frozen melt water eventually forms a dam preventing the escape of further water which backs up under the roofing and leaks into the soffit, wall cavities and living space. The deeper the snow, the bigger the potential problem, piles of snow equal gallons of water, waiting to drain into the unfortunate victim’s house.
Make it stop! Without killing yourself.
It is difficult to stop this process once it has started. Removing the dam that blocks the water would be great if only it was so easy. Chopping at built up ice is nearly useless, (it refreezes and reforms quickly), and every spring we see roof edges damaged by frantic homeowners who have attacked their roofs with sharp objects at great risk to their personal safety. Wielding an ax while standing on a snow covered ladder, is asking for a trip to the ER. Some get mixed results throwing salt up on the roof; the downside is certain damage to the plants and possible corrosive damage gutters and flashings. Removing built up snow will lessen the available future melt water, and using a roof rake designed for the purpose makes it fairly safe. Blowing cold attic air at the worst spots from inside the attic with a box fan may help to refreeze the lake that has formed behind and under the ice dam.
It is always safest and best to have a professional roofing contractor remove built up snow, call us, we can help, we’ve been doing this since 1949.
Make next winter better step #1 stop the heat loss.
The contractor with the most to do with stopping future Ice dams isn’t your roofer but your insulation contractor. Heat loss from the living space that warms the underside of the roof is the number one controllable cause of ice dams. Look at unheated garages, no heat, no melting and no big icicles (a sign of ice damming). A good insulation contractor can use an infrared gun to find hot spots where heat is escaping into the attic space, causing ice dams and wasting energy. Sealing these air leaks, and insuring that the insulation blanket is up to snuff, will save money and do the most to lessen the return of lake ice dam.
Make next winter better step #2 ventilation
Once the attic blanket is in great shape the next thing is to make sure that there is great ventilation. Even with a well-designed insulation blanket you need ventilation to keep the roof cold from top to bottom, here we can help. All Lindholm Roofing project managers take recurrent training to stay on top of the latest in ventilation technology and are ready to suggest solutions that will improve the attic environment in both winter and summer, saving money, energy, and lowering the odds of future ice dam damage.
Make next winter better step #3 a new roof
When it is time to get a new roof, be sure to call us, and be sure to mention the winter ice problems. It is best to tear off the roofing to check for damaged sheeting, and there may be problem areas that would benefit from extra ice-shield membrane. There are heat mats designed to be installed under a new shingle roofing, cold roof deck designs, or even the traditional heat cables for problem houses. While we can’t keep all ice dams from forming, with the right steps we can make them a lot less likely.