Hello spring, goodbye ‘Ice Dams’! – Causes and Repair

General 23 Apr 2015

Ice dams are a common problem in colder climates, and unfortunately, they’re not easy to fix. Some homeowners struggle with ice dams for many years.

Understanding Ice Dams

To fix a home’s ice dam, you must first understand what causes ice dams to occur. It begins with inadequate insulation in the attic. Hot spots form on the roof as warm air from inside the home rises to the rafters in the attic. As snow melts on the warmer parts of the roof, water rolls down the shingles to the eaves where it then cools and freezes.

As the ice begins to build along the edges of the roof, icicles form off the eaves and ice begins to back up into the attic. As water penetrates the sheathing, the wood begins to rot and the leaks grow worse. Over time, an ice dam can result in wood rot and serious roof damage.

Methods for Repair

Knowing how to stop the ice dam and reverse the problem can prevent the damage from spreading. The best way to prevent an ice dam from forming, or to fix an ice dam that has formed, is to keep the roof cold enough that all ice and snow on the house will melt at the same rate. The following methods will help you control the temperature of the roof to ensure that the snow melts at the same time.

  1. Increase the insulation. If your attic is properly insulated, warm air from the lower levels of the house should not be able to reach the upper levels of the house. This will prevent the snow on the roof from melting prematurely. When insulating the attic, pay close attention to vulnerable areas like old skylights, which are uninsulated and energy inefficient. To adequately insulate your attic, replace older inefficient skylights with new, energy efficient skylights like those available from Wasco. Wasco offers several energy efficient glass and glazing options within their skylight products; eMAX3 (EMT), eMAX3 Laminated (EML), 30-30 Triple Glazed (TGT), and Lumira® Aerogel Panels (LA). Each of the aforementioned technologies will significantly reduce heat loss through the skylight area of a roof and in turn reduce the potential for ice dams. More information relating to the glass and glazing options is available on the US Building Products website frequently asked questions pagewasco-residential-glazings
  2. Improve air flow. Add vents in the attic to improve air flow and allow the cold air a chance to circulate. This will give the warm air an outlet that is not through the shingles of the roof. Proper venting of an attic space requires at least two louver vents (one on each end of the house) if the roof is capped (not vented). If a roof has a ridge vent installed the house should have several vents along each soffit to allow air to flow through the attic space.

With spring on the way, it will soon be the perfect time to fix ice dams once and for all. With proper insulation and adequate ventilation, ice dams may be permanently repaired.

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