If you have giggly little children, this is not a blog to read aloud to them, unless you want to hear a lot of snickering. Yet, this is an essential blog for Indianapolis-area homeowners who need to deal with rooftop ice dams. What are roof ice dams? How do roof ice dams form? More importantly, do you know how to prevent roof ice dams?
Dam, Dam, Dam
Our neighbors to the north in Minnesota have to deal with ice dams even more than we in Indianapolis do, so we will turn to the University of Minnesota Extension service for the official word on ice dams:
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water which backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.
Indeed, rooftop ice dams may have you muttering a few choice words, at least one of which sounds a lot like “dam.” Ice dams can destroy your home, starting at the roof and extending down into interior walls and ceilings.
Dammed and Dangerous
The ice dam on your roof forces water behind it to pool and pond, so the water sits and saturates your roof. Most Indianapolis homeowners are unaware that no roof is waterproof; it is water resistant, which is a huge difference. Sitting water on a residential roof — what roofers call a steep-slope roof — will definitely soak through the outer roofing material (whatever it is; slate, metal, tile, or fiberglass-asphalt shingle) and saturate the underlayment.
Soon, with the water having nowhere to go, the sheathing will get soaked, then water will drip through onto attic insulation and joists. Only days may be needed before drywall on ceilings and walls turns damp, discolored, and damaged.
Ice dams can be insidious, too. They form at your roof’s lower edge, so damage begins at the eaves and just above your exterior walls. These are places that are not easily accessible in your attic, so you may look in vain for signs of water leaks. Yet within days, your exterior walls may get water dripping down within the walls, destroying your exterior (siding) and interior (drywall) at the same time.
Ice dams are not only inconvenient nuisances. Roof ice dams are dangerous since standing water will ruin your roof, attic, and interior living space. You can expect mold and mildew to flourish in the damp attic. You may be putting your furnishings, artworks, and furniture at risk, too.
Ending Dangerous Dams
To put a stop to rooftop ice dams, you and your residential roofer must deploy two lines of defense:
- Insulation — Proper insulation in the attic will allow attic air to stay completely cut off from interior, treated air so the roof is roughly the same temperature as the outside air; this makes periods of freeze and thaw unlikely and ice damming a minimal risk
- Ventilation — Good attic ventilation keeps humidity levels and attic air temperatures roughly equal to outside conditions, so the roof does not suffer unequal temperatures or wild fluctuations
Your whole house requires adequate insulation to make the interior living space largely airtight and cut off from the attic air. If not, warm, moist air rising from your home’s interior into the attic heats the roof, allowing snow to melt and then refreeze at the lower edge. Result: ice dams.
Who Can Do It?
Your whole Indianapolis home needs a whole-house solution to ice dams and frosty rooms:
- Roofs and attic insulation are the responsibility of your local, trusted residential roofer
- Interior wall insulation, weatherstripping, and caulking are for other contractors or, possibly, do-it-yourselfers with good skills
Stay off your home’s roof, especially in winter when an already-slippery surface becomes even more treacherous. If you have active ice dams, your first step is to invest in a roof rake to remove as much rooftop snow as possible — from the ground. Even a tiny glimmer of sunlight may warm the ice dam enough to help it break up.
If your roof is actively leaking, call your helpful residential roofer. Skilled roofers, using safety equipment to allow them to work on the roof without risk of falling, may make channels in the existing ice dams to allow water to drain. They may also put tarps over the roof to prevent further snow and ice from accumulating. Your roofer may suggest other remedies, too. You can have no better ally for your Indianapolis-area home for your roof than Moss Roofing. Contact us today so we can help defend your home’s roof against all that Mother Nature tosses at us, from heavy rains to damaging ice dams and more.