If the eaves of your house are sporting a beautiful assortment of icicles, you may be well on your way to the damaging effects of an ice dam. “Most people think that icicles hanging off the gutters look pretty, but it’s usually a bad sign,” warns Normandy Designer Maury Jones. “A roof with a collection of icicles is a prime candidate for ice damming.”
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof. Often, the source of the melting snow is several feet away from the eaves, and is due to heat escaping from the home into the attic; either because of poor insulation or lack of ventilation which warms the attic space. The warm attic melts the snow and water runs off the roof to a frozen gutter, where it re-freezes. As the process repeats, the ice builds up, right back into the shingles.
“A large amount of heavy, wet snow like we’ve recently experienced, gives an ice dam plenty of opportunity to form, and cause you trouble,” notes Maury. Ice dams can cause serious damage to your home’s exterior, but they can cause even more headaches for the interior. “If you have noticed wetness from the ceiling or have water running down the inside of the wall, you very likely have an ice dam.”
There are a variety of short-term fixes on the marketplace, but the only way to permanently stop ice dams is to properly insulate and ventilate your attic. “You want your attic to be cold in the winter, and well ventilated in the summer”, advises Maury. In addition to staving off ice dams in the winter, a properly insulated attic with good ventilation will lower your annual heating and cooling expenses.
Proper insulation and ventilation may be the only permanent fix, but there are some steps you can take now to minimize your risk of ice dams. A snow rake is a tool that will allow you to clear the snow off the bottom few feet of your roof, back to where the wall meets the roof. This may minimize your risk of an ice dam, at least in the short term.
Insulating your attic is a smart investment no matter the season. If you are contemplating more sweeping changes to your home, you can set up a time with Maury to talk about the possibilities. You can also learn more about additions, kitchens or other remodeling projects at an upcoming workshop. Check out the photo gallery or follow Normandy Remodeling on Facebook and Instagram for even more home tips and inspiration.