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How to Handle Ice Dams on Your Roof

Although you might find the icicles hanging from your roof line during the winter months pretty, the way they form is the same way that ice dams are formed and can be a sign that there is a bigger problem behind them. If not dealt with, ice dams can cause mold and mildew, stained and sagging ceilings, warped floors, and broken gutters, costing a lot of money to repair.

How Does an Ice Dam Form?

Ice dams form when the heat loss from a home, snow fall on a roof, and outside temperature all counter interact, causing damage to the eaves of your house and damaging your roof. In order for ice dams to form, there needs to be snow on your roof and inconsistencies in temperature across the roof, with the higher portion of your roof over 32°F and the lower portion of your roof under 32°F.

As the snow on the higher (warmer) section of the roof melts, the water from the snow will fall down to the lower (colder) section of the roof and freezes. As this process keeps happening, the water from the melted snow will sit up behind the frozen ice along the eave of your house. This water will then find cracks to seep into your roof, attic, and home.

What Causes Different Roof Temperatures?

The roof temperature variations come from the heat in your home rising to the ceiling and settling unevenly along the roof surface. You can easily tell where the heat loss is coming from by looking at your roof and examining where there is and where there is not snow. The areas that are lacking snow are your areas of heat loss.

The Life Cycle of an Ice Dam

Birth: Heat rises to the ceiling in your home, collects in the attic, and heats the roof but does not effect the eaves of your home.

Growth: The snow on the higher points of your roof melts and the water collects and freezes along the eaves of your home.

Maturity: The water from snow continously melting gets stuck behind the ice along the eaves. This is where the ice dam is formed. The water that collects behind the ice will then leak into the crevices of the roof and into the house.

Preventing Ice Dams

There are various ways to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof, including:

  • Replacing and increasing the amount of installation in your attic - This wil help the amount of heat that escapes your home and eliminates uneven roof temperatures.

  • Install heated cables along the eaves of your roof - Heated cables can be attached along the eaves of your roof in a zig zag pattern with clips to help equalize the roof's temperature, combat ice dams, and prevent you shingles from lifing.

  • Remove the snow from your roof - Using a roof rake, you can remove the snow from your roof, eliminating one of the ingredients needed to create ice dams.

How to Treat Ice Dams

If you experience an ice dam on your roof, the fastest ways to get rid of it are:

  • Place a fan in your attic pointing at the area where water is leaking into your home, this will freeze the water and stop the leak

  • Removing the snow from your roof isn't just to prevent ice dams, but is also a way to treat them - using a roof rake, pull the snow off your roof to help balance the temperature differences

If you notice damaged shingles before the snow comes or need your roof repaired in the spring, give Double R All Home Improvements a call at (914) 937-4279.

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