Ice Dams Threaten Homeowners

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Ice Dams Threaten Homeowners

With this year’s winter storms, snow accumulated just about everywhere, including the roof of your home.
However, the large sparkling icicles that hang from gutters this time of year may be holding back a hidden
and potentially destructive problem.

“The primary issue is that attic floors are not fully insulated,” explained Grinnell Mutual Corporate Loss Control Director Larry Gallagher. “Heat from the living areas below escapes into the attic and  warms the roof from below. Snow accumulated on the roof begins to melt and runs down the roof. When it gets to the edge of the roof where the temperature is below freezing, an ice dam forms and prevents other melting water from leaving the roof.”

Meramec Valley Mutual would like to remind homeowners that the pooled water may leak through the roof into the home, damaging insulation, ceilings, and walls if the ice dam is not removed in time.

Removing ice dams

When an ice dam has formed, it’s important to remove the pooled water without climbing onto the roof. The snow, water, and ice make the roof slippery and dangerous for walking. The key is to open a channel in the ice that allows the water to run off the roof. Homeowners can use various tools, such as a chisel or battery-operated screw gun with drill bit, to accomplish this. Another preventive measure is to use a roof rake to pull snow from the roof.

“Whatever method is used, extreme caution should be taken to prevent injury to oneself and to avoid damaging the roof. A roof rake used side to side, for example, may damage the shingles,” said Gallagher. “We also don’t recommend using heat tape to solve the problem. In addition to being a fire hazard, heat tape has not proven effective at preventing ice dams.”

Preventing ice dams

For a long-term solution, homeowners should ensure there is both adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic. “Insulation on the floor of the attic area prevents heat from escaping the living area of the home while proper ventilation keeps the attic cool. Together, these help prevent heat in the attic from melting accumulated snow and causing ice dams,” said Gallagher.