What Is Ice Damming?

Okay so you may or may not have heard about ice damming. This article will help you understand what it is, why its bad, and how to stop it from happening.

Ice damming is a condition that occurs when snow starts to melt on your roof and then freezes again when it reaches the cooler bottom edge. The ice slowly builds up creating a dam that prevents water from shedding off the roof.

So why is ice damming a problem?

The problem with ice damming is the build up of water on your roof. Most roof systems are designed to shed water, not hold it. Puddles of water pool up behind the dam and start to leak behind the shingles and into the attic. As water enters the home damage will follow. The areas that tend to be the most effected by ice damming are the eves and gutters of the home.

How to prevent Ice Damming

1. The best thing you can do is correct the insulation or ventilation in your attic. The reason this should be your first choice is that you will not only prevent ice dams but you will also stop energy waist and reduce your heating and cooling bills in the future. This isn’t as easy to do as it sounds so it will probably be in your best interest to hire an expert to properly balance your attic space.

2. Adding a heat cable. You may have seen those black wires that zigzag across the edge of a roof. Those are heating cables and are great for preventing ice dams. They do have two draw backs, they will add to your energy bill and in order for most brands to work properly they need to be on before they ice. The low heat they produce will not sufficiently melt the dam.

3. Hydronic roof melt system. These systems use pipe and hot water that comes from a boiler. They are most frequently used with metal roofs and are accompanied with driveway and sidewalk melt systems. A hydronic system is very effective but it has to be professionally installed and is normally done when a house is being built.

4. Melting socks. Believe it or not but these are exactly what they sound like, socks stuffed with melting ice. All you need to do is fill some nylon stockings with calcium chloride (ice melt), tie the end, and install them in your gutters or at the edge of your roof. The positives for this method is they are cheap to make and easy to install. The down side is that they can blow off of the roof and are not a permanent solution.

5. Roof underlayment. The last defense to ice damming is a water proof roofing material made to be installed under shingles. Ice and Water Barriers provide excellent protection against water infiltration resulting from freeze/thaw cycles wind driven rains and normal water flow around eaves, valleys, vents, chimneys and skylights.

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