In our New England climate ice dams can be a serious problem. Learn more about them so you make the best decision on how to spend your money and mitigate the potential risks.
How it Happens:
As snow gathers on your roof, heat rising from the house causes it to melt. The water then runs down the roof towards the edge and then freezes again at the eves where the temperature is colder. The ice eventually builds up forming a dam. As more water melts off the roof it backs up behind the damn and may enter your house.
Water in the house can damage your paint and plaster as well as cause mold and rot. These are messy and costly repairs that will require workers to enter your home.
How to Prevent Ice Dams:
The first line of defense is a quality roof that is well insulated and ventilated. This will minimize the temperature difference between your roof and the outside so that less snow melt occurs.
After that you need remove the snow from your roof after each storm. Removing all of the snow can be a big job, but at the very least it is good to clear the snow from the edges where the ice dams would form. If you can’t do this yourself, it is worth it to spend the money now to avoid higher costs later on.
How to Fix it:
You didn’t get around to clearing the roof and now the ice dams have formed. At this point you will want to make sure to clear all of the snow off the roof. Now that the ice dams are in place, any additional water melting down the roof will back up behind the dams and enter your home.
The next step is to remove the ice dams. There is no great way to do this and it can be especially difficult if the dams have grown thick. Using blunt force to break up the ice is effective, but, is labor intensive and can cause damage to the roof if one isn’t careful.
Ice melt products can also be used. Calcium Chloride comes in a puck shaped tablet that is designed to melt holes in the dam to let water through. Calcuim Chloride is used b/c it won’t stain your shingles like road salt, however, it can be corrosive to some metals. It can also be harmful to plants and shrubbery that may be growing beneath your roof edge.
Steam is sometimes used to melt away ice dams. Though effective, it is a costly process and can force undue moisture into your home, risking mold and other moisture related problems.
Removing the ice completely will be the best way to prevent leaks, however, it will be labor intensive and costly once the ice has built up thick. At JP Snow Removal we like to take a mixed approach that mitigates the risk without costing too much: By first clearing the snow we make sure no extra water will gather behind the dams. Next we cut channels in the ice dam where there appears to be the most water build up. By looking closely one can obverse the water beneath, and by cutting channels the water runs through. To cut these channels we use blunt force to break up the ice, but, stop before getting too close to the roof. At this point we add the roof melt tablets to finish the job.
After this there should be minimal water melting off the roof, and some channels for the water to escape before backing up in the most problematic spots. If necessary, maintaining the channels with more roof melt and/or manual ice removal will be less of a project.
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