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Tis the Season to Check for Ice Dams

Crisp cozy nights are on their way as the weather gets colder and the nights get longer. Every winter, your house is a haven where your whole family hibernates and hunkers down—so you want to do your best to make sure it's well-prepared for the weather to come.

One of the worst offenders of the winter season? Ice dams. To the unsuspecting homeowner, ice dams can easily creep up and cause significant issues to your home, roof, and property. So, what's an ice dam? How do they happen, and how do you prevent them from forming?

What's an Ice Dam—and What's the Damage?

Common in cold climates (like ours in the Niagara Region), ice dams present a preventable but deceptively dangerous issue for many homeowners. In simplest terms, an ice dam occurs during periods of freezing and thawing. In periods of thaw, snow melts and the run-off accumulates at the edge of a roof. When the melted snow then freezes, it forms a ridge at the edge of a roof.

Where does the "dam" part come in? Well, just as a dam across a river holds back water, an ice dam at the edge of your roof prevents water from running its natural course off your roof and down to the gutter or ground. During this cycle of thawing and freezing, the ice dam can get larger and larger. This can result in a couple of things:

Eavestrough Damage. As they get heavier, ice dams can eventually destroy eavestroughs by ripping them off the building with their weight.

Roof Damage. Because run-off now has nowhere to go, water can accumulate on your roof. Sitting water is a recipe for mould, mildew, and damage. This spells a disaster for your roof and can seriously damage your shingles.

Indoor Damage. In some cases, the water on your roof will actually seep under your roofing tiles and start leaking into your home or attic. This not only indicates your roof is severely compromised, but has the potential to cause water damage inside your home as well.

Dangerous Ice Chunks. Simply put, although icicles can be pretty, huge ridges of ice gathering at the edge of your roof can present a danger to you or any small children or pets on your property should they break off.

How do Ice Dams Happen?

Sunlight on your roof is going to melt large chunks of snow after a storm, and icy, snowy weather conditions are going to naturally play a hand. But in many cases, ice dams are made worse by uneven heating conditions which cause disproportionate snow-melt at the top of the roof. At the cooler edges of the roof, the ice freezes and accumulates. Here are some factors that contribute:

  •  Ventilation & Insulation. Attics without proper ventilation are going to heat up way quicker than the rest of the house. And if those attics also lack proper ventilation, then the heat in the attic can transfer to the roof and melt snow with unnatural speed.
  •  Poorly Designed Eavestroughs. If your home's eavestroughs are improperly installed, they can present a physical barrier that will actually catch ice and exacerbate the problem.
  • Water Permeable Roof. If your roof isn't properly waterproofed, then excess water caused by an ice dam can seriously damage both the roof and the inside of your home over time.

4 Ways to Prevent Ice Dams

The weather is outside of our control, but there are definitely some preventative measures you can take to diminish the damaging effects of ice dams.

  1. Update Attics. Ice dams are partly caused by an imbalance of heat on your roof, so it's important to make sure that your attics are properly insulated and ventilated. Installing a power or natural ventilation system can help prevent the build-up of attic heat.
  1. Install Waterproofing Membrane. With a waterproofing membrane on your roof, you'll prevent the possible water damage that can occur with ice dams.
  1. Check eavestroughs. When is the last time you've made sure your eavestroughs are properly installed and free of debris? They play a powerful role in preventing run-off from accumulating as ice, so it's key to maintain eavestroughs. Tip: if your eavestroughs are higher than the edges of your roof, it may create a greater risk of ice dams.
  1. Clear ice dams. If it gets to the point where you have existing ice dams, no need to panic. A quality Niagara roofing company will use high pressure steam to clear any existing ice dams to mitigate further damage.

Now is the perfect time to check up on your roof's integrity to prevent ice dams. Is your attic well insulated? Are your gutters clear and properly placed? Do you have a Waterproofing Membrane installed?

At Hamblet's Roofing, Siding, Windows & Doors, we have the expertise it takes to protect your house from the elements. Contact us today to speak to one of our experts about protecting your home from ice dams.


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