Ice Dams: The Secret Enemy Of Roofs Everywhere

Homeowners work so hard to protect their roofs from falling limbs, lightning and other sources of danger that they often ignore the most common enemy of roof integrity: ice dams. These nefarious creations cause pooled water that can eat into your shingles and cause leaks. Understanding ice dams can help you protect yourself from their assault.

Meet the Enemy

Ice dams are sneaky little buggers: they form secretly on your roof without giving away their position. They form when a snow covered roof is excessively warm. This causes the snow and ice to melt and slowly flow down the roof.

However, as it rolls down the roof, the thawed water begins to escape the warm areas near the roof and cool. Eventually, it will start to freeze around your eaves and turn into ice. And as more water flows down the roof and freezes, you suddenly have an ice dam.

Spotting an Invasion

The easiest way to spot an ice dam is to look out for dangling icicles. Most roofs will eventually grow a few dangling icicles during winter, but a home with an ice dam will have excessive icicles. They will be longer and thicker than normal and will reform again and again, no matter how many times you break them off.

Dangers of Ice Dams

As ice dams form, they begin working their nefarious work on your roof. Basically, they allow water and moisture to pool up on your roof instead of flowing off. As this water sits, it begins eating into your shingles. This can lead to serious, though slowly spreading, roof damage that can lead to excessive leaks. Even worse, if an ice dam suddenly breaks, it can remove shingles, paint and siding.

Fighting Back

Now that you understand your enemy and its goals, you need to know how to fight back. Though you can physically break up an ice dam, climbing a roof in the winter can be severely dangerous. It's best to simply prevent ice dam formation by following these roof maintenance tips:

  • Seal attic
  • Close heat vents to attic
  • Check insulation thickness in attic and install more if it's less than eight inches
  • Install cold air vents in roof

Some serious combatants eliminate ice dams by removing their eaves entirely. While that is effective, it's a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Now that you understand ice dams, you should never be taken off guard by them again. However, if your prevention does little to stop ice dams from forming, it may be time to call a roofing exterior expert. They'll design and implement a solution which works best for your home and your pocket book.