What is an Ice Dam?

This mild weather has caused the snow on your house and driveway to thaw and freeze, freeze and thaw. You may have noticed dripping from the edge of your roof and in mild weather, this is pretty normal. If you have icicles hanging off your roof, and it seems like there is melting snow up there when the temperature is well below freezing, you could have an issue. You could have an ice dam.


What Causes Ice Dams?

Ice dams form on the edge of your roof when the underside of your roof in the attic is warming the roof surface and causing the snow to melt. The water from the melted snow runs down your roof to your eaves, passed the exterior wall, and hits the unheated roof edge where it freezes. The ice dam will grow as the snow accumulates on your roof all winter. The more the melted snow hits the dam, the larger and larger it becomes.

Why is the snow melting off your roof in the dead of winter? That happens when there is heat escaping from your nice warm house, into the attic and out the roof. Heat escape can occur when there is improper ventilation in your attic, your attic insulation needs to be upgraded, or if your lighting and ductwork is causing heat loss.

Damage Caused by Ice Dams

If you think you have an ice dam you must deal with it immediately or you could see far worse problems in the near future. Ice dams can tear off gutters, loosen shingles and allow water to seep in through the roof and into your attic. This might result in peeling paint, warped floors, and sagging or water stained ceilings. It will damage the insulation in your attic, reducing its R-value and potentially causing dangerous mold build up.

How to fix an Ice Dam?

The first thing you need to do is find out why your house is losing heat. This could mean searching your attic for air leaks in the ceiling, checking around ducts, bathroom vents, chimneys and light fixtures. It most likely means you need to upgrade your attic insulation, install proper ventilation and in the summer, likely repair your roof and eaves.

Older homes are notorious for having thin layers of wood chip or newspaper-like materials. These older materials are not properly insulating your home, especially in a Canadian climate, and should be replaced. They offer an R value of 4 to 8. In Alberta, Climate Change Central suggests your attic’s R value should be at R50.

Contact a professional insulation installer and have them inspect your attic. Alternatively, avid do-it-yourselfers can visit their local hardware store to purchase upgraded insulation and rent an insulation blower. Whatever you decide, remember that climbing onto your roof and attempting to shovel or chip away the edge from the edge of your roof is dangerous and not recommended.

Ice Dam Quick Fixes

This Old House offers a few tips for fast ice dam fixes, intended to hold you over until you can permanently solve the problem.

  • Blow in cold air where the roof is actively leaking. This targeted cold air will freeze the water and stop it from coming into your house.
  • Rake off the snow with a long-handled aluminum roof rake while you stand safely on the ground.

Find what you need at www.renovationfind.com

Whether you need an insulation contractor, an insulation materials and supplies store or a roofing contractor to come fix the damage, you’ll find the best of the business on RenovationFind.com.  All of the home improvement companies on our directory have gone through a background check and screening process to ensure their workmanship, professionalism, and products are top-of-the-line.  Click on your city and start browsing the categories today!

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