During this frigid time of the year, an unseen culprit may lurk above sleeping families in homes across colder parts of the United States and Canada. Silent, stealthy and patient, this destructive force goes about its work slowly, content to build day after day, week after week, until a home suffers serious damage. Often, the first noted signs that something is wrong indicate significant problems are already in place.
Ice dams occur in colder climates on homes (and other structures) with sloping roofs. It is essentially a small glacier creeping down the roof, as opposed to down the side of a mountain. As outside temperatures drop and snow accumulates on the roof, attics with air temperatures above freezing cause this snow to melt. It then runs down the sloping roof to gutters and eaves. There, away from attic heat, it refreezes. This cycle then repeats, over and over, each time snow falls. Little by little, layer of ice builds upon layer of ice until it tops the gutters. At this point, the meltwater has nowhere to run-off or drain and ponds on the roof itself, slowly working back up under the roof covering. Like a beaver builds a dam to block water, in this scenario, ice builds a dam.
Water, aided by gravity in its search for permeable materials, now invades the attic, soaking timber, insulation and walls. This water will continue to seek out dry materials until the ice dam is fixed and normal drainage can occur.
This process can and often does cause serious water damage to a home. A leaking roof, ineffective insulation, stained walls and rotted structural timber are a few of the outcomes. How can one protect a home against ice dam damage?
- Ensure attic air temperature is below freezing (this can be done by installing air barriers and more insulation)
- Locate and seal air leaks (called “attic bypasses”) including areas around plumbing, wiring, chimneys and lighting)
- Improve attic insulation to help move warm air out and cold air in
- Do not chip at ice in gutters or on the roof (this can cause damage)
- Do not use salt or calcium chloride in gutters or on the roof (corrosive and can cause damage)
- If you suspect your home has suffered water damage, contact your nearest Rainbow International franchise location by visiting www.rainbowintl.com
By keeping a watchful eye and following a few simple steps, homeowners can help guard their dwellings from the dangers and potential financial loss caused by ice dams. As the cold weather stretches on and we look forward hopefully for signs of spring, knowing the space above our heads is secure and protected can go a long way towards beating winter doldrums.