How Ice Dams can Damage Your Roof

How Ice Dams Can Damage Your Roof

If your roof compromised by an ice dam, learn how to protect your home during the winter months.

With wintertime around the corner, it is time to consider what to do to avoid damage to your home from nasty winter elements like snow, ice, and rain. One of the severe culprits of roof damage to homes in winter are ice dams. 

What are ice dams and how do you avoid them? Allied Roofing Solutions has all the answers to your questions and concerns about ice dams. Our expert roofing professionals are here to help you prepare your home for the winter and avoid damage related to dams forming on your roof. 

What Are Ice Dams? 

If you were to picture an idyllic winter wonderland, you would likely visualize the image of icicles hanging off the roof of a snow-covered house. While this sounds beautiful in theory, snow on your roof does more than just create those pretty icicles hanging off the edge– a snowy roof can also form detrimental ice dams. 

Ice dams are masses of ice that form on the eaves of a roof. Hanging over the side of a roof, evidenced by the formation of icicles or large piles of ice, ice dams can add hundreds of pounds of extra weight to your roof. 

Ice dams form at the bottom of the roof and can cause severe damage to not only the roof, shingles, eaves, and other exterior features of your home. Ice dams can penetrate the interior of your house’s walls, floors, and ceilings if they are not taken care of quickly by a licensed New Jersey roofing contractor.

Why Does My House Have an Ice Dam? 

Ice dams are not simply caused by snowfall. You may find that both you and your neighbor have the same amount of snowfall on your roofs after a heavy snowfall, but only your house has clumps of ice hanging over the edge. 

How is that possible when you live in the exact same climate, experience the same amount of snowfall, and literally live side-by-side? The answer comes down to the individual features of your home.

The Formation of Ice Dams

After a snowfall, the snow on your roof will begin to melt at the warmest spot of your roof. This snow and water then drain down to the eaves off the side of your roof, where the temperature is colder than where the ice first melted. The water that accumulates at the eaves then melts again, forming a mass of collected ice that puts pressure and weight onto your roof’s edge. 

That large mass of ice will just continue to get bigger and bigger, leading to the need for extensive roof repairs if not treated quickly. 

As more snow begins to melt at those warmer parts of the roof, more water drains down. Now, that water is blocked from draining off the edge of the roof by the already accumulated mass of ice, resulting in that additional dripping water turning into another cluster of ice. 

How Ice Dams can Damage Your Roof

If you have not noticed this happening on top of your roof and have not done any roof inspection after a snowfall, your roof just continues to get overwhelmed by more and more ice accumulation as this cycle repeats. 

Since that water and ice cannot drain off the roof, it needs somewhere to go. As the ice melts again, water gets backed up underneath roof shingles, into the roof’s sheathing, leaking into the attic, and even reaching the insulation and drywall protecting your home. 

The Most Common Causes of Ice Dams

Ice dams do not form by chance– there is some underlying issue happening in your attic, insulation, ventilation sources, or roofing materials that result in the formation of ice dams. 

  • Thermal bridging: when one area of your roof has a higher thermal conductivity or warmer temperature than the surrounding areas of the roof, snow will not melt at the same rate. This happens with older homes where there is less insulation at the spots where the roof and walls meet. 
  • Air leakage: caused by air entering and exiting the home in uncontrolled ways, air transport heat to the ceilings that transport upward to the attic, permitting heat to reach some parts of the roof but not others. 
  • Ventilation equipment: older homes would sometimes store ventilation equipment in the attic, though that is seen rarely in more modern homes. These furnaces, air conditioners, and air ducts in the attic have a direct impact on the way heat is dispersed on the surface of the roof. 
  • Pot lights: recessed lighting that is potted into your ceiling often allows room for air leaks that can leave your roof vulnerable to ice dams. 
  • Snow, sun, and wind: while it may seem obvious that snow causes ice dams, it is sometimes the snow buildup is more or less prominent on different parts of the roof. Wind will blow snow off and into different spots randomly, exposing some parts of the roof more easily to the heat of the sun. This then begins the process of forming an ice dam. 

How Can I Avoid Ice Dams on My Roof? 

The best way to protect your home from ice dams or other damaging elements that could result in roof repairs or full roof replacements is to focus on prevention and protection. 

Improve Ventilation 

If your home has good ventilation and circulation, particularly in the attic, your home should be safe from forming ice dams. Although you may be used to the idea of keeping your house warm in the winter, the attic specifically should be a colder temperature. A warm attic is a sign your roof is vulnerable to ice dams. 

Along with your attic’s insulation, the insulation within your home’s walls, ceilings, and floors is equally important. Having good insulation in your living space prevents heat from rising to the roof deck which will melt snow-created ice damming. 

Install a Waterproof Membrane

Another place to focus on is the roof’s underlying, protective materials. Installing a waterproof membrane underneath your roof covering at the bottom edge of the roof aids water to safely and properly drain off the roof and avoid backups that form ice dams. 

Schedule a Roof Inspection

The best way to avoid damaging roof dams on your roof is to have a certified roofing professional inspect your roof and assess the protective nature of the insulation in your living space and attic.  

What To Do If You Get Ice Dam Damage to Your Roof

Whether there was some light snowfall, a heavy storm, or any accumulation of water and ice on your roof due to extreme weather, there will be some signs that your roof is suffering from a roof dam. 

The most common signs there are ice dams on your roof are:

  • Interior water damage
  • Ice on exterior walls
  • Gutters not draining
  • Icicles on the roof or edge of the gutters
  • Snow melting high up on the roof, but not down below

If you notice these signs of ice damming on your roof, you can try to remove icicles off the eaves or even use a rake to try to get some of the heaviness of the snow off of the roof’s surface. However, if your roof has already experienced damage caused by a roof dam, the best course of action is to hire a professional expert in roof repairs to assess, troubleshoot, and fix your roof. 

New Jersey Roofing Experts Will Get Rid of Your Ice Dam 

Do you think your roof has an ice dam? It’s important to have your roof inspected at the first sign of a roof dam to avoid further damage to your home. 

At Allied Roofing Solutions we are ready to winter-proof your roof and help you with any damage associated with snow and ice! We serve New Jersey residents in Bergen County, Essex County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Morris County, Passaic County, and Somerset County.  Please call us at  201-773-0633 or fill out our free estimate form to schedule your roof inspection or repair to survive the winter cold with a roof that will keep you warm all season long.