Temperature fluctuations, ice dams and the risk to your home

2014-02-22T08:00:00Z Temperature fluctuations, ice dams and the risk to your homeMichelle Krueger Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 22, 2014 8:00 am  • 

Snow, freeze, melt repeat.

Icicles are everywhere, threatening anyone who walks below them if they break free or as they melt and the water re-freezes into a sheet of ice on the pavement below.

They can also indicate an ice dam that has the potential to cause serious damage to both your roof and the inside of your home.

An ice dam can form when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roofline. Without roof snow removal, the ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. The water can then back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home.

Ultimately, the best prevention for ice dams is to eliminate the conditions that make it possible for them to form in the first place.

Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting-and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.

When replacing your roof, make sure to install a water membrane underneath the shingles. This acts as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside your home.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, experts recommend removing snow from your roof, preferably after every storm. There’s actually a device called a roof rake you can use to clear measurable snow from your roof to prevent ice dams from forming.

While the amount of snow and ice that a roof can handle varies depending on a number of factors such as the roof type, age and condition of the structure - a good rule of thumb is if there is more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice on your roof, you should remove it.

Keeping downspouts clear is also important. They allow gutters to drain as the snow melts - giving water an easy way to drain off your roof as temperatures rises on sunny days.

Not all ice dams will result in water penetrating your roof, but it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on areas that may reveal damage.

To determine if you have damage, watch for water stains or moisture in the attic or around the tops of exterior walls on the top floor of your home. You can also look carefully at large icicles. If the icicles are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, this does not indicate the presence of an ice dam. However, large icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off. Try to safely knock the icicles off from the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them.

If you see any signs of potential damage from ice dams, consider hiring a contractor to help remove any lingering snow and ice. They can also offer suggestions for preventing ice dams in the future. It’s a good bet that the cost of snow removal will be considerably less than the cost of roof/interior damage caused by water leaks.

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