Snow and ice on your roof make a pretty picture, but beware–they can also result in an expensive home repair caused by an ice dam. When warm air from the attic melts the undermost layer of snow on your roof, the meltwater runs down to the eaves and the gutters, where it re-freezes when it hits cold air. Those elegant icicles forming at the edges could be pointing an unsuspecting homeowner to professional roofing and gutter repair if ice damming causes leaks, or worse.
Here’s how an ice dam wreaks havoc on your home: As the ice builds over several days of a melt-freeze cycle, the meltwater trickles behind the ice mounds, then finds it way under your shingles and into the house. Heavy ice dams, as well as slabs of snow melting off the roof from underneath, can bend your gutters and downspouts, or even cause them to tear away from the house.
Your attic could be part of the problem
Ice dams happen when insufficient attic ventilation and/or insulation enables warm indoor air to heat the roof deck enough to melt the snow. Clogged gutters stop the free flow of meltwater and provide a foundation for ice to build up.
What not to do
Homeowners should not try to remove ice dams from the roof and the gutters themselves. It’s simply not safe. When there’s a compelling reason to get ahead of Nature’s timeframe for complete melting, you can call on professionals who are equipped and trained to manage the job efficiently and safely.
The good news!
The conditions that promote ice dam formation are correctable. Cleaning your gutters after autumn leaves have finished falling is an essential pre-winter chore, especially when there are several trees near your home. Scheduling a home energy audit that includes assessing the attic for proper insulation and ventilation is a great overall pro-active service. Be sure to tell the technician if you’ve had ice damming issues in the past.
Where to find more info
Here are some resources that will help you prevent hazardous ice dams.
Energy Star Home Advisor for background information and a DIY assessment.