What Is an Ice Dam?
Ice dams can happen on rooftops when the outside temperature drops below freezing as it does in Indianapolis and many other places across the country. They happen because warmth coming from inside the house results in one part of the roof being above 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a different part being below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The water from melted snow flows down the roof from the warmer part to the colder part. There it freezes and forms a ridge of ice. This ice damn holds back other water, which then obeys the law of gravity and seeks another way downward. This can result in an ice damn leak. Ice dam water is leaking into the house and causing water damage.
Good attic insulation and ventilation are your best bets for keeping an ice dam from every forming in the first place. They can prevent that problem heat differential atop the roof.
Still, even if you have confidence in your insulation and ventilation, you should know the steps to take if an ice dam does form on your roof and you have reason to suspect ice dam water damage. Here are five things you (or a professional) should do.
Ice Dam Step #1: Get the Snow Off the Roof
To prevent an ice dam leak from sending water (or more water) into the house, the snow on the roof must go. A roof rake is the proper implement for getting it off the pitched roof typical of single-family houses. It’s best to shovel it off a flat roof.
Ice Dam Step #2: Get Rid of the Ice Dam
Next, the ice dam needs to come off the roof. The best way to do this is by breaking it into small pieces.
Ice Dam Step #3: Freeze the Ice Dam Leak
You can plug an ice dam leak temporarily by freezing it. You do this by blowing cold air into the attic and aiming the stream at the spot where you see water leaking in.
Ice Dam Step #4: Inspect the Roof and Gutters
This is a good idea whenever you have an ice dam even if it didn’t result in any obvious leaks. Working from the attic, you can take a look at the underside of the roof sheathing and roof trim. Look for dampness in the area under the ice dam. Also, see if your insulation is wet. Water stains and mold are additional indications that there’s an ice dam leak.
Ice Dam Step #5: If There Are Problems, Call In a Pro to Inspect the Roof
A roofing inspector professional will look for damp patches, damaged or missing shingles, damp attic insulation, water streaks on the side of the house, sagging boards, mold, mildew, and signs of uneven freezing and melting. These can all be indicators of ice dam water damage. The inspector will find the source of the leak and present a plan for correcting any and all problems. If the ice dam leak produced a mold problem, the plan may involve calling in an expert in mold mitigation. Since mold is a serious health hazard, you certainly don’t want to neglect this element, and you also want it in the hands of someone who knows exactly what he or she is doing.
You’ll notice we’ve left calling a professional until Step #5, but it may well be a good idea to do it earlier. Climbing around on a roof is dangerous, especially in slippery winter conditions. You can also damage the roof in the course of trying to remove snow and ice. Similarly, you may not be adept at carrying out the examinations mentioned above. As an amateur, you might miss things an expert would spot. To put it succinctly, you should call a pro if you’re uncomfortable or unsure about your ability to address any aspect of an ice dam problem.
If you’re in the Indianapolis area, we invite you to call Five Star Complete Restoration. Our experienced, certified technicians know exactly how to deal with an ice dam.