What You Should Know About Ice Dams

As much as people like the colder weather up North and no matter how much fun the snow can be to play in and look at during the winter time, it can cause a wide range of issues for your home, especially the roofing system. When the snow on your house begins to melt, it flows off like rain. However, if the temperatures drop again after the snow starts melting, you face a new problem: ice dams. The formation of ice dams on your roof can cause major damage to the roof and other parts of your home and can lead to extensive and costly repairs in the winter as well as in the spring when the snow and ice all begins to melt. Here at Stay Dry Roofing we have experience with winter roof care and maintenance and can assist you so you know everything you need to know about ice dams this winter.

What Exactly Are Ice Dams?

“There is a complex interaction among the amount of heat loss from a house, snow cover and outside temperatures that leads to ice dam formation. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof, and, at the same time, higher portions of the roof’s outside surface must be above 32 degrees F while lower surfaces are below 32. For a portion of the roof to be below 32, outside temperatures must also be below 32. When we say temperatures above or below 32, we are talking about average temperature over sustained periods of time. The snow on a roof surface that is above 32 will melt. As water flows down the roof it reaches the portion of the roof that is below 32 and freezes. Voila! – an ice dam” (University of Minnesota Extension).

ice on the roof

The dams form and can quickly grow because it is being steadily fed by the melting snow above it. However, the ice will only form in areas of the roof where the roofing material reaches 32 degrees or colder. When the water hit this area, it will refreeze and form the ice dam and stop the water from flowing any farther off the roof’s edge.  So, the water above the dam backs up and stays in a melted liquid state because it is in contact with roofing material that is above freezing. This water finds cracks and openings in the exterior roof covering and flows into the attic space. From the attic, it could flow into exterior walls or through the ceiling insulation and stain the ceiling finish.

This is why it is important to be mindful of ice dams this winter and why you need to be mindful of how well your roofing system is insulated and if any known damage is present before the snow and ice begin to accumulate.

Do Ice Dams Cause Damage to Homes?

Ice dams are a common cause for roof leaks, and if your roof is leaking you could end up with expensive interior damages. Leaks can lead to wet and infective insulation which only worsen the heat and air exchange between your home and the outside air. Water that gets into your home can ruin ceiling and walls and even reach to your floor where it can rot floorboard and ruin carpeting. All of this wet material can cause mold and mildew to form which can not only worsen the decay and staining but it can put you and your family at risk for health issues.  Individuals who have allergies or who are sensitive to things like old can become very sick and even be hospitalized because of the mold. Other conditions can be made worse and many people experience sinus infections, chronic coughs, and other problems because of the mold caused by a leaky roofing system.  Ice dams can make existing damage worse and can cause even more damage which is why you must be mindful of them and be vigilant during the winter and understand how these ice dams form and lead to damage.

snow on the roof

“Heat from the house travels to the roof surface in three ways: conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction is heat energy traveling through a solid. A good example of this is the heating of a cast iron frying pan. The heat moves from the bottom of the pan to the handle by conduction. If you put your hand above the frying pan, heat will reach it by the other two methods. The air right above the frying pan is heated and rises. The rising air carries heat/energy to your hand. This is heat transfer by convection…In a house, heat moves through the ceiling and insulation by conduction through the slanted portion of the ceiling. In many homes, there is little space in regions like this for insulation, so it is important to use insulations with high R-value per inch to reduce heat loss by conduction” (University of Minnesota Extension). R-value is how well the material will insulate so three inches of insulation with a 25 R-value is better than three inches of insulation with a 15 R-value. A local roofing expert, like our team here at Stay Dry Roofing, can assist you with finding the best insulation for your attic and roof so you can prepare for the coming snow and ice and so you can work to prevent ice dams this winter.

Can Ice Dams be Prevented?

The best strategy for preventing ice dams is to keep your roof cold. First, make sure you have the right kind of insulation installed, using R-38 at the very least. Next, it is important to inspect your roofing system inside and out at least once a year but two or more times a year is ideal. This will ensure you are noting any and all changes and can detect problems and damages when they are minor. Dealing with them before they have the chance to get out of hand is critical! You also should do routine checks of your roof to look for leaks where air can move between your home and the outside. These are known as energy leaks and are a prime place for roof damage to occur, especially if you do get ice dams forming. Your best bet is to work with a roofing professional to come in and test your home for energy leaks, particularly up to the roof, after which they can recommend the best course of action.

If your home is due for some remodeling or repairs involving the roof or siding, take the opportunity to find and seal air leaks and upgrade your insulation.  You may also want to consider a new roof or a major upgrade to ensure your roofing system is ready for the winter cold ahead. Preventing ice dams from forming will save you money overall, by increasing the lifespan of your roof, keeping your roof in good condition, maintaining the integrity of your home’s structure, and keeping insulation in peak working condition. For a professional inspection or for emergency help in the event of an ice dam, contact Stay Dry Roofing today and let us help you with the best local expert roofing care available. Call now to get started and protect your home from ice dams this winter!

Understanding the Risk of Snow and Ice Accumulation on the Roof

Extreme winter weather is bad for people but is also poses a serious risk for your roofing system as the risk of snow and ice accumulation grows the deeper into a brutal winter we get. Roof care for the winter months is critical to keeping your roof in good shape all year round. It is also the biggest contributing factor to prevent roof damage and roof collapse due to snow and ice accumulation. “Snow and ice can collapse roofs, especially on older buildings. Older buildings have a greater risk of corrosion, which can weaken its structural integrity. Newer buildings that have roofs made of light-weight metal, roofs that are flat, or roofs that do not have a lot of supports are more likely to give-in under the pressure of excess snow and ice. Snow drifts on a flat roof that have projections, a lower roof, or other equipment can accumulate snow that has drifted with the wind. This can cause vulnerability unless additional strengthening supports are added. One should contact a professional about safely removing excess snow and ice from a roof” (Polygon Group).

winter roof care in Indianapolis

Prepare Before the Snow and Ice Hits

“There is a complex interaction among the amount of heat loss from a house, snow cover and outside temperatures that leads to ice dam formation. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof, and, at the same time, higher portions of the roof’s outside surface must be above 32 degrees F while lower surfaces are below 32…The snow on a roof surface that is above 32 will melt. As water flows down the roof it reaches the portion of the roof that is below 32 and freezes…The dam grows as it is fed by the melting snow above it, but it will limit itself to the portions of the roof that are on the average below 32” (University of Minnesota Extension).

You can make sure your roof is in the best shape possible to handle the snow and ice that is coming by inspecting it now and taking care of any damage or issue before winter hits. To help keep ice off roofs that are sloped, and to reduce the rate at which the ice accumulates on the roof, it is important to make sure attics are well ventilated so the snow won’t melt and refreeze as ice. When the attic isn’t properly ventilated the hot air of the home accumulates and causes the melting and freezing that creates dangerous ice dams. Melted snow and ice can enter a roof via the eaves and flat roofs can experience water damage if ice dams form and prevent water from flowing into drains on a roof. Gutters can also fill with snow and melt that refreezes into ice which can weigh down the eves and cause problems when the weight load gets too heavy. Preventative maintenance is crucial during the winter months to help avoid costly repairs and one of the biggest examples of the risk of snow and ice accumulation that exists is the sheer weight that can accumulate on the roof!

preparing for winter roofing needs

 

Estimate How Much Weight Your Roof Can Support

Snow may seem light and fluffy, but if you have ever been trapped under snow or have sunk to your waist in a snow drift than you know how heavy it can be. Now think about 5-10 feet of that sitting on your roof after a few months of weekly snow storms and snowfall. It is easy to see how the weight can get a bit excessive, but just how heavy can it get? Here are some figures to help put it in perspective:

  • Unless the roof has been damaged or weakened somehow, most modern roofing systems 10 years old or younger should be able to support 20 lbs of weight per square foot of roofing space before it gets to a dangerous level.
  • In some areas of the country where heavy snows and long brutal winters are common, the snow loads used in home design may be considerably higher and can withstand a much larger load before becoming stressed.
  • If you live in a high snow area, you can probably check building codes and look up the reports for when your home or office building was built and see what the specs were for the roofing system that you currently have.

risk of snow and ice accumulation

Evaluate Your Risk of Rooftop Snow/Ice Accumulation

  • Melting snow will drip off steeply sloped roofs faster, giving it less chance to refreeze as ice and build up under the snow load. This is why the roofs of many northern homes and those in high snow areas are usually built with a steep slope.
  • Ice and snow will accumulate much faster on low slope and flat roofs because it has a much longer time in contact with the cold snow and can refreeze before it all has the chance to run off the rooftop and will build thick layers of ice.
  • Poor ventilation of the home and attic will also make you more prone to ice and snow load damage. Heat from the home can melt the snow so it liquifies or turns to slush, but it will quickly refreeze when temperatures dip at night.
  • Older roofing systems are at an increased risk of snow and ice accumulation because older roofs are not often designed to withstand heavy loads. They also may not be designed to reduce the chance of ice accumulation and snow load.

Estimate How Much the Snow on Your Roof Weighs

Using these guidelines from The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety you can use the following to see if your roof is supporting too much snow and ice weight:

  • Fresh snow: 10–12 inches of new snow is equal to one inch of water, or about 5 lb per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 feet of new snow before the roof will become stressed.
  • Packed snow: 3–5 inches of old snow is equal to one inch of water, or about 5 lb per square foot of roof space, so anything more than 2 feet of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.
  • Total accumulated weight: 2 feet of old snow and 2 feet of new snow could weigh as much as 60 lb per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity of most roofs.
  • Ice: 1 inch of ice equals 1 foot of fresh snow.

winter roofing experts

Snow Removal May be Necessary to Avoid Roof Collapse

“If you are in the “danger zone” …or if the loads you estimate based on the thickness of the various types of snow and ice exceed 20–25 psf, you should consider removing snow from your roof. For safe removal that won’t endanger you or damage your roof, use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground or hire a snow removal contractor” (Disaster Safety). The risk of snow and ice accumulation and the danger it poses to your roofing system is not something to ignore or take lightly. A roof collapse is a serious event and can lead to loss of property and possessions and can even result in loss of life!  It is not a risk that you should take!

Stay Dry Roofing is Here to Help

To get the best wintertime roofing care and to find out more about what you can do to reduce your risk of snow and ice accumulation this season, contact us today!  Stay Dry Roofing is ready to help you with all of your roofing needs and now is the time to have your roof inspected and damage dealt with before the winter chill sets in and the snow and ice begin to accumulate. Contact our team now for a consultation appointment and to learn more about protecting your roofing system from snow and ice damage this winter!

preparing roofs for winter

Ice Dams and Ice Formation

While some homeowners in certain states experience home hazards like flooding and hurricanes, and others deal with earthquakes or tornadoes on a regular basis, much of the country faces a major threat every winter. In the northern states, blizzards, freezing rain storms, heavy snowfalls, hail and ice, and subzero temperatures can cause havoc on even the best-built homes.  Understanding how ice dams and ice formation affects your home, particularly the roof, will make it easier to see what your best options are for dealing with ice dams if you experience them this season.

What is an ice dam and how does it form?

Ice damsIce dams are one of the major telltale signs that a homeowner is suffering from poor roof performance. Snow accumulation and large ice dams can severely damage your roof and basically form when ridges of ice and icicles form on the lower part of the roof as thawing ice and snow from higher on the roof run down and refreeze at the edge of the roof. Although ice dams and icicles that accompany them create beautiful shimmering sights that can be eye-catching, they can be very dangerous – to both the homeowner trying to clear the ice and to the roof as it bears all that heavy weight. Damage from ice dams could cost up to several thousand dollars in roof repairs and could also result in serious injury or even death if the ice sheets suddenly give way and hit someone standing below.

ice damn on the roofThree things have to be present in order for an ice dam to form: snow, heat that will melt the snow, and cold which will refreeze it. Snow will accumulate on a roof from storms and regular snow falls. If the attic of the home is not well insulated, the heat from the home will warm up the roof enough to melt that snow cover. The melted water trickles down the roof and can leak into the shingles. It will also begin to puddle at the lower edges of the roof where it will form ice sheets. The melted water will refreeze which can split and damage shingles and add to the ice accumulation. As this process continues, the ice builds up thicker and thicker and it can eventually destroy the roof components if left for too long.

What to do if you have an ice dam?

major ice dam damageLarge icicles that form from the gutters and the eves are often one of the first signs of an ice dam.  While they can form just from a temporary warming and then cooling of temperatures, large and long icicles will form only from with ice dams and massive ice blocks. Ice dams and ice formation go hand in hand and abnormal ice formations will indicate that you may be dealing with ice dams. Another sign of ice dam accumulation is water leaking through the windows or ceilings.

winter roof maintenanceThe best way to deal with an ice dam is to begin working on removing the snow. Us a special snow rake to begin raking snow down off the roof while standing on the ground. Never walk on a snow-covered roof- the risk of a slip and falls are too great and the results can be deadly. Make sure that if you need to get up higher on a level with the roof that you work on a ladder. Also, do not put rock salt or sodium chloride on your roof to try and melt the snow- it will get rid of the snow but the salt and chloride will be left behind and will damage your shingles and any that falls to the ground with the meltwater will kill the grass and plants below. Potassium chloride or calcium chloride are the only options that are safe to use on your roof to speed up the ice melting. Removing an ice dam on your own is often risky for a homeowner and can be quite dangerous. It is best that you hire a professional to remove snow and ice from your roof so that is can be done safely.

Contact us at Stay Dry Roofing

Here at Stay Dry Roofing, we are committed to helping all of our customers with their winter roof care and maintenance. Understanding how ice dams and ice formation affects your roof is an important step in keeping your home and your family safe this winter. For answers to all of your winter roofing questions and for help dealing with ice dams give us a call! We are here for you in any season!