Winter Ice Dams

  Ice Dams on your homes roofing can be a very big cause of roof leaks during colder months.  Ice dams usually form on the eaves of your home as snow & ice melt and refreeze on your roofs surface.  We have also seen ice dams occur on upper sections of roofs in and around valleys and other areas not only on the eaves. However for the most part they tend to form on the eaves of homes. They may also occur  after ice storms such as when we have accumulating freezing rain.

        Once a ice dam forms water from subsequent melting snow and ice is trapped by the ice blockage and may leak into your homes ceiling and walls.  Water stains on ceilings and walls, wet carpet or water dripping out of window headers, light fixtures, door frames and exterior walls can be a indication you have a ice dam.  Many times this will cause heavy leakage into your home during the day as the snow & ice melt with little or no leakage at night as the water on your roof refreezes.  This process can repeat itself daily until either the ice dam is removed or it melts sufficiently to allow the trapped water to drain off the roof.

         Hiring a roof professional to remove part of the ice blockage can sometimes help in stemming the flow of water in to your home temporarily.  Be aware that trying to remove large ice dams can cause damage to your roof since the ice is frozen to your roof shingles. Care must be taken to minimize any roof damage while removing ice dams. We recommend homeowners do not attempt removal since this can be quite a dangerous job best left to the professionals.

        Several factors can contribute and exacerbate the formation of ice dams.  One very big contributor to ice dams is captured heat that escapes from the living area of your home up into your attic.  This warm air if it remains in your attic helps to warm the roof decking which in turn can melt the snow and ice on your roof.  The melted snow and ice refreeze on the cooler eaves and overhangs of your home creating ice dams.  This same warm air escaping form your living areas also contains moisture that can contribute to the humidity level in your attic causing a host of other problems.  Poorly vented attics, improperly installed bath fans, HVAC units located in attics, recessed lighting, chimney flues, furnace flues and insufficient attic insulation are just a few contributing factors in attic heat & moisture.  After realizing what a detrimental effect heat and moisture have on your attic you can begin to see how important proper ventilation of your homes attic really is (see our page on Attic Ventilation for more information). 

        Checking the R-value of your attics current insulation is another step you may want to consider.  Insulating professionals can make recommendations for your attics insulation needs.  Just a side note on attic insulation.  Make sure your attic insulation does not block your soffit vents on the eaves of your home.  Many homes especially with blown in insulation have blocked soffit vents.  Have your attic insulator install baffles before they blow in any additional insulation if they are needed.

        A well ventilated attic in combination with snow & ice shield underlayment is one of your best defenses against ice dams.  If you are having problems with this type of leak I would recommend having a roofing professional take a look at your current roof configuration and suggest options for ventilation along with snow & ice shield applications.   One of the best times to upgrade your homes current ventilation along with snow and ice shield applications is during the re-roofing of your home.  Maryland Shingle Roofing & Siding contractors can show you many affordable options for application on your home.  Please feel free to contact us if we can be of any assistance.

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