How to Prevent and Remove Ice Dams
Ice dams are hard to avoid in the wintertime, especially during the beginning and end of winter. They can be pretty to look at but can cause critical water damage to the interior and exterior structure of your home. But with the implementation of proper insulation and venting, they can be avoided. Here are some tips on how to prevent and remove ice dams from your home.
About Ice Dams
Winter brings with it many great things, such as the holidays, sledding, snowboarding, skiing, and warm nights by the fire. But it also brings the potential for water damage and flood disasters like frozen and burst pipes and ice dams.
Ice dams are large chunks of ice that develop along your roof margins. They tend to develop when the temperature of the roof is uneven as ice and snow will melt over warmer areas of the roof and refreeze when it reaches the colder edge of the roof. The ice ridges that are formed prevent the melted ice and snow from draining off of the roof, forming pools behind the ice that can seep underneath your roof shingles. Water can often make its way 5 and even 10 feet behind the shingles.
After seeping through the roof, the water drips into the soffits (your outside overhangs), ceilings, and walls. The first sign of damage will be rust spots on drywall fasteners, peeling paint, stains on windows and around doors, and sagging drywall. Creating thousands of dollars in damage, this is one of the top repairs that insurance companies pay out during the wintertime. To make matters worse, their payments are never enough to cover all the time and stress spent in having everything fixed.
Preventing Ice Dams
The best time to prevent ice dams is now, before winter hits. Here are some tips on how to prevent ice dams to your home.
1. Prevent warm air escaping through the attic.
The average home loses 1/3 of its heat through the attic. The majority of it is caused by air leaks from unblocked walls, drywall gaps, cracks in light fixtures, chimney, pipes, access hatches, and other ceiling fixtures. When heat escapes through the attic, it warms up the roof and melts the snow and ice that then create ice dams.
While air leaks are tough to patch, you can pull or rake back the insulation in your attic and plug the leaks with caulk or foam. Low roof angles can also make some air leaks difficult to reach, but only work on these areas during cooler temperatures as it can get hot when working. Also don’t forget to wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to avoid skin irritation from the insulation.
2. Measure your attic insulation level
Check the depth of the insulation in your attic. Standard codes require 12 – 14 inches of fiberglass or cellulose, but if you have less than 8 inches and have noticed ice dams in the past, adding more is an easy fix to your problem.
3. Add roof and soffit vents
The ventilation in your attic pulls in cold air from outside and pushes out warm air, cooling down the attic and roof. The minimum size of the openings should be one square foot for each 300 square feet of the ceiling area, when half the vent area is low and the other half is high. Installing the roof and soffit vents can also be very complex, so it’s recommended to have a professional handle this task.
4. Install IC rated Light Fixtures
Insulation contact, or IC light fixtures are used in insulated ceilings to prevent the risk of excess heat flowing to the attic as well as fires. Use these to decrease the amount of heat passing through your attic.
Ice Dam Removal
While it’s best to prevent ice dams from forming on the roof, don’t hesitate to take action and remove them. Just don’t try to remove them yourself with a shovel or hammer as this can be both dangerous and result in additional damage to the roof.
Check out the following tips for removing ice dams from your roof:
- Use Cold Air: Introduce cold air into the attic by putting a box fan under the leaking area of the roof so that it blows cold air to the area and encourages the water to freeze.
- Use a Roof Rake: Using a roof rake, you can remove both ice and snow from your roof. These rakes are designed with a long handle and wheels to allow you to rake your roof while standing safely on the ground. Most roof rakes are also made from aluminum and shouldn’t damage your shingles. For homes that are two stories, it is recommended to hire a snow removal professional to address areas that are too high to reach when standing on the ground. Never climb up on the roof to remove snow with a shovel.
- Use Deicer: Deicers are used to melt some of the dam and create a path for water to flow off the roof. An effective way to create the path is to add calcium chloride deicer in a paint hose, laying it across the ice dam so it hangs over the gutter. The path allows the water to flow into the gutter and away from the property for proper drainage.
- Call a Professional: If these DIY ice dam solutions do not remove the ice dam, you can call a professional that provides ice dam removal services. These professionals use low-pressure, high temperature steam that effectively melts the ice without causing damage to your roof or gutters.
Water Damage Restoration
If you have already noticed signs of water damage in the interior structure of your home, such as in your attic, walls, or ceilings, don’t hesitate to contact a water damage restoration specialist as well as a professional that can remove the ice dam. These professionals are available 24/7 to respond to areas of water damage caused by ice dams.
As soon as they receive your first call, they will be on their way with all water extraction and restoration equipment needed to restore your property. Either drying out the affected structure or removing soiled building materials, they will effectively return your property to its original condition. If any personal items were affected such as storage boxes or valuable artwork, they will have them dried and cleaned to prevent permanent damage.
They will also work to prevent the spread of mold growth by applying anti-microbials during the drying process as mold can appear in as little as 24 hours.
Finally, these water damage restoration professionals will work with your insurance agency during the claims process to allow for additional peace of mind.