Watch out for ice dams

Watch out for ice dams

With colder weather blowing through and winter on the horizon, it’s time to think about how to prevent ice dams. Ice dams can form at the edge of a roof, causing water from melted snow to back up behind the dam, leading to possible leaks that can damage ceilings, insulation and walls.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, ice dams are caused when the upper areas of a roof have an average temperature higher than 32 degrees Fahrenheit while the low-hanging areas maintain an average below 32 degrees. When the warmer water flowing down the roof reaches the freezing surface below, it refreezes, causing the dam.

Seeking a release, the water backed up behind the ice dam seeps into cracks in the home’s exterior, leading to structural damage and mold growth.

You can inspect your roof for ice dams by looking for areas that are free of snow, but reside above areas that have heavy snow buildup. Icicles, though beautiful, also can be a sign of a hidden problem.

The University of Minnesota Extension and the Department of Building and Construction Technology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, offer the following suggestions to combat ice dams:

  • Prevent their development by carefully using a push broom to remove snow without damaging the roof shingles.
  • A temporary solution to damming that already has occurred is to create channels in the ice with warm tap water so the melted water can flow through. Because going to the roof itself carries the risk of injury, it may be best to leave any tasks requiring attention to a highly qualified roofing contractor.
  • In the interior of your home, increase insulation and check sources of air leaks that can reach the roof and seal them.

Going up on the roof during the winter time can be extremely dangerous, especially if it’s covered in snow and ice. Hiring a licensed roofer can be a safer alternative to removing and preventing ice dams. Sign in to Angie’s List to find a highly rated roofing contractor in the Chicago area.


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