Eliminate Your Ice Dams

Tony Grahn
Written on January 17, 2012

Here in the midwest, we get crazy weather. Sometimes we get rain and snow in the same afternoon! When there are heavy snow falls or buildup, it’s possible for ice dams to form. The dams are ice or snow on the roof or gutters which stop the roof from draining.

Why do ice dams form?

In most cases, ice dams begin inside the house when warm air leaks into a cold attic. This warm air can melt some of the snow on the roof. This melting snow slides down the roof until it reaches a colder area and refreezes. Over time, this process can create a significant buildup of ice.

If the dam continues to grow, it may force water under the shingles and into the ceiling and walls inside the home. This can lead to the decay of joists and studs, rusting of nails and screws, and the growing of mold within the walls.

Does my insurance cover ice dams?

Many contractors and home-maintenance companies will remove ice dams for a fee. Few homeowners policies will pay for this removal. However, interior and exterior damage caused by ice dams is typically covered under the special perils homeowners form.

How can I prevent ice dams?

If you live in a cold climate, here are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of ice dams forming.

  • Hire professionals to remove heavy snow from your roof. This eliminates one of the ingredients necessary for the formation of an ice dam. Professionals are also able to address emergency situations in which water is flowing into the house structure. This is accomplished by making channels through the ice dam to allow the water behind the dam to drain off your roof. However, the channel becomes ineffective within days and is only a temporary solution to ice dam damage.
  • Insulate your ceiling/roof to reduce heat loss by conduction. Some state codes require an R-value of 38 above the ceiling for new homes. In narrow spaces, use insulation products with high R-value (6–7) per inch. It is imperative that the ceiling be made airtight to prevent warm air within your home from flowing into the attic space.
  • Verify that there are sufficient soffit and gable end vents in your attic. These help to quickly vent any of the warm air that does get into the attic out into the atmosphere.