What Are Ice Dams?

If you live in Colorado, you know what an ice dam looks like. Colorado’s awkward winters seem to breed them. Everywhere you look, you see, hear, and avoid their fall during the blistery months from October to as late May. Ice dams are a dangerous component that roofs seem to love during the cold months, especially in areas prone to rain, sleet, and snow. Let’s learn more about ice dams and how to prevent them in order to protect yourself and your property.

More About Ice Dams

Ice dams are a rapid phenomenon that occurs during rain, sleet, and snow storms. Ice dams form when the snow melts and begins dripping off the roof. The snow and ice can melt because the roof’s insulation is holding heat, despite the freezing temperatures outside. Once the water runs off the roof and begins to fall to the ground, the cold freezes it in places creating one long stick that’s called an ice dam. An ice dam can grow in size, becoming so large they become deadly if not dealt with.

The best way to deal with ice dams is before they start forming, especially when you have a multi-story home or building where you can’t safely break the dam while it’s still small. If you want to prevent ice dams, you can invest in a sealed attic or roof space, along with well-insulating the space between your attic and roof is key. These are items that are done when the home is built, but they can often be added after a house is built depending on the space.

Electric heating elements, shoveling, chipping, or applying an ice shield coating to your roof all can prevent and deal with ice dams before, during, and after they’ve begun to grow. When breaking an ice dam to deal with it, you want to stand as far away from it as possible. Do not ever stand below the ice dam, especially if they’ve grown quite large. Ice dams can cause injury and death if hit in the head with one, so cautious is necessary to prevent this from happening to you or bystanders.

How to Prevent Ice Dams On Your Roof

There are several enemies to your roofing system such as wind, hail, mold and more. One prevalent enemy to your roofing system, especially if you live on colder states is ice dams. Let’s look at what ice dams are, what kind of damage they can cause and what you can do prevent them.

What Are Ice Dams?

To put it simply, ice dams are dams of ice that can form on the lower portion of your roof along gutters, eaves and other structures. They are formed when large amounts of snow and water freeze on these lower portions of the roof, creating a dam and blocking water from running off of your roof property. You can easily recognize ice dams, they are simply big blocks of ice on the lower portion of your roof and are often accompanied by icicles. Icicles may look pretty but they are often an indicator that water is not properly draining off of your roof.

What Kind of Damage Do Ice Dams Cause?

The runoff that typically drains out into your gutter system and off the roof has nowhere to go when an ice dam blocks its path so it finds the next easiest route means the water and moisture wants to go into the interior of your home. Ice dams mean leaks and excess moisture in the home, both big enemies to the homeowner. The swelling of ice may also damage other portions of your roofing system like gutters, fascia, soffit and more.

What Can I Do to Prevent Ice Dams?

The best thing you can do to prevent ice dams is to make sure your insulation and especially the roof ventilation system are built for the task of handling ice dams. A proper ventilation system will produce a continuous flow of intake and exhaust that helps to regulate the temperature of the attic and the roof itself. This regulated flow and temperature will keep ice dams from forming in the first place. If you have ice dams forming and you want to do something about it its best to contact your local roofing consultant, they will be able to expertly examine your roof and decide the best course of action.