What Is an Ice Dam, Anyway?
When it’s freezing outside, a ridge of ice can form at the edge of the roof. This ice dam keeps water from draining. The water backs up instead.
To put that in more detail, you get ice dams when the roof temperature isn’t uniform, that is to say, when parts of it are above 32 degrees Fahrenheit and parts of it are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a prolonged period of time. (Naturally, that only happens when the temperature outside is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but in our Indiana winters, that’s a common occurrence.) When that’s the case, there’s an unfortunate interaction of heat loss from the house, snow cover, and the cold temperature outdoors. Snow from the warmer part of the roof flows down to the lower part and freezes when it gets there, thus forming the ice dam. The ice dam grows as still more water flows down to it and freezes, but the water that backs up encounters the warmer sections of the room and remains liquid.
Generally speaking, it’s heat coming from inside the house that creates the heat differential. The heat reaches the roof via convection, conduction, or radiation. Air leakage from the attic, the heat from exhaust systems that discharge on the roof, and chimneys can also be contributing factors.
Does It Mater if I Have an Ice Dam?
Unfortunately, it definitely can. That backed-up water is trying to obey the law of gravity and go somewhere. It’s liable to get inside the house where it can damage insulation, ceilings, and walls among other things. The dampness is conducive to the growth of mildew and mold that can cause serious respiratory and allergic problems.
Ice Dam Prevention
In a nutshell, you prevent ice dams by avoiding heat loss from the house. Good insulation can eliminate heat loss due to convection, conduction, and radiation. You can also get the snow off the roof. A roof rake and push broom can help with this but at the risk of doing some damage to roofing materials.
Long term, make sure the ceiling is airtight.
Natural attic ventilation can also reduce the likelihood of a roof where temperatures aren’t uniform. Mechanical attic ventilation, however, isn’t a good fix. You’re likely to wind up with attic moisture problems and possibly negative pressure in the house.
New homes built to code should have a number of features that constitute ice damn remedies. They should have plenty of insulation and an effective air barrier through the ceiling. They may also have complicated roof designs, attic heating ducts, skylights, and recessed lights, however, that actually increase the chances of ice damn formation. Thus it’s a good idea to pay attention to these features.
Ice Dam Remedies
If you see an ice dam has formed on the roof of your Indiana home, you can make channels through it to allow trapped water to escape. You can hose with tap water on a warm day proceeding from the lower edge of the dam upward. Be aware, though, that if the ice dam remains, the channels will eventually close up again.
If the worst has happened and the ice dam has resulted in water invading the house, get rid of the water source and clean up the house as soon as you can. Dry the wet portions of the interior to combat the growth of mildew and mold.
Ice Dam Solutions
The best way to get a handle on ice dam solutions is to call in a professional. We’ve mentioned the possibility of getting up on the roof to remove snow, but the truth of the matter is that getting up on a snowy, slippery roof is dangerous to you and the roof as well.
When you’re not dealing with an immediate crisis, the professional knows how to go about restoring the house to normal and how to keep an ice dam from recurring. For example, he or she knows not to repair interior damage until the walls and ceilings are dry and that from that point forward, interior repair and fixing the heat differential problem that produced the ice damn should be done at the same time. A pro also knows how to ensure that after a structure is “tightened up,” combustion devices, exhausting devices, and ventilation systems still get enough air to function as they should.
The certified technicians at Five Star Complete Restoration have the training and experience to provide ice dam solutions efficiently and effectively. If you live in the Indianapolis area and are having trouble with ice dams, we invite you to give us a call.