Ice Dams – Think About this Winter Problem in Summertime

Can you believe it’s already September? It’s been a great summer, although the weather in many parts of the country has been slightly crazy. We at the MasterShield Blog team don’t really like thinking about winter and its problems when it’s still in over 80 degrees, any more than you do. But when we saw a really great article in finehomebuilding.com, it jolted us into thinking about one of the worst winter problems a homeowner can face – the dreaded ice dam.

How Ice Dams Form

It can happen to you. If you live in a part of the country where it snows, you are at risk of getting an ice dam. The upper portion of your roof, which can collect the wandering heat from your living room, is probably warmer than the outer parts like the eaves and the gutters. Snow melts on the upper warmer roof, runs down to the eaves, and then refreezes when the temperature drops below freezing that night. If you wake in the morning, see a frozen winter wonderland on the side of your house, and think “Oh, no!,” you’re right to be concerned.

Ice Dam on Roof

In this picture you can even see the uneven way the snow is melting up the roof from too little insulation. This has caused the ice dam to form on the gutter.wake in the morning, see a frozen winter wonderland on the side of your house, and think “Oh, no!,” you’re right to be concerned.

The Damage Done

Remember how we’ve told you that water damage can cause some of the costliest home problems? Well that goes double–make that triple–for ice dams. Ice dams can force shingles off the roof, damage plaster and ceilings, and leak into and soak the insulation in your attic, which could lead to rotting wall cavities. Gutters filled with ice and sagging ever lower, peeling paint that will take you by surprise in the spring after the ice has gone–the list of problems is long and none of them is pretty. And here’s one you might not think of in time – if you use a snow shovel too forcefully, you can damage the shingles. You can get more detail on the visible and invisible damage caused by ice from this article posted by UMass Amherst, where they know ice!

What’s a Homeowner to Do?

Well – research. According to Scott Gibson, there are three basic strategies: air seal, insulate and ventilate. He gives a balanced assessment of the pros and cons of the three options and combinations of them that you can use in his article.

And don’t forget your gutters! “Contrary to popular belief, gutters do not cause ice dams. However, gutters do help concentrate ice and water at a very vulnerable roof-eaves area. As gutters fill with ice, they often bend and rip away from the house, bringing fascia, fasteners and downspouts in tow.” (U Mass Amherst)

For those who live in the northern United States, a leaf guard designed to pitch with the roof can help mitigate the formation of dangerous ice because it won’t create a shelf or trough where the ice can accumulate. Ever see a home in a state that gets lots of snow where they install a metal edge on the last few feet of the roof over the eaves and soffit? They do this to help pull the snow forward and off the roof to try to minimize ice dams from forming. By installing a gutter guard designed to mirror the roof line, you create a small version of that metal edge.

A little forethought as summer ends can help prevent the winter water damage blues. So as you add more ice cubes to your lemonade this week, don’t ignore the ice and snow on the way. Planning ahead can save time, trouble and money.

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