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Winter ice dams damage roof and gutters

Ice dams can cause major damage to a home. Roof leaks, gutter failure and foundation damage can all occur due to ice dams.

Ice dams can cause major damage to a home. Roof leaks, gutter failure and foundation damage can all occur due to ice dams.

Roof and gutter systems are designed to capture and redirect rain and snow away from the home, keeping your walls and foundation safe from water damage.

But each winter, the functionality of many roof and gutter systems is called into question as fluctuating temperatures cause snow to melt and then refreeze on the edge of the roof, creating a dam.

What causes ice dams?

Ice dams form when when the upper part of a roof is at a temperature above freezing for a considerable amount of time while the lower part is at a temperature below freezing. Due to changes in temperature throughout the day, snow near the top of the roof will melt and trickle down. But the water freezes again as it reaches the gutters, forming a dam.

Ice dams often occur when the attic is not properly insulated from the rest of the house, allowing warm air to escape to the attic and heat up the top of the roof. The temperature difference can also be caused by a lack of proper attic ventilation, essentially trapping ambient heat inside the attic, where it warms up the roof.

The damage an ice dam can do

As their name implies, ice dams are a barrier through which water cannot pass. This means that as more snow on the roof melts and trickles down, it gets blocked by the ice dam and forms a puddle. Since your roof wasn't designed to handle standing water, especially as that puddle grows and the water line moves up the roof, the water can then seep through tiny openings in the roof and into your attic or home.

Once the water gets into your house, the damage can be severe. Even a small leak can stain your walls or ceiling and cause mold to form. A severe leak can cause the wood in your walls to rot, resulting in serious structural problems.

For your gutter system, the ice itself can cause significant damage. The weight of the built-up ice can put enough pressure on your gutter to misalign it, meaning it will no longer effectively move water away from the roof. In extreme cases, the ice can even cause a section of the gutter to collapse.

Preventing ice dams

  • Ensure that your attic is properly insulated
  • Clean gutters in the spring and fall
  • Make sure your attic has adequate ventilation

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