With the snow we get in Rhode Island each winter, your property is likelyat risk for ice dam damage! At Rhode Island Restoration, we see this common form of winter property damage annually. However, many property owners don’t know what an ice dam is or the damages they cause. Here’s all you need to know about ice dams to prepare for wintertime.
What Is an Ice Dam?
An ice dam is a wall of icecreated when snow on the upper portions of your roof melts and refreezes at the roof’s edge. For this to occur, the upper section of the roof must rise above 32 degrees Fahrenheit while the lower portions remain below freezing. As the snowmelt flows down the roof, the water eventually hits a point that’s below 32 degrees, where it refreezes to form an ice dam.
Melted snow will continue to work its way down the roof surface, causing the ice dam to grow and grow until the water can no longer reach the portion that’s below freezing. When this happens, any excess water will pool behind the dam instead.The ice dam prevents water from flowing through the gutters and out the downspout. The weight of the ice dam and snowmelt can severely damage your roof and cause water to leak into your home or business.
With winter quickly approaching, ice dam damage poses a serious concern for property owners across Rhode Island.
Ice Dam Damage
If you don’t take the proper steps to prevent or fix ice dam formation, the problem may grow until a significant blockage of ice forms at the edge of the roof. The built-up water will leak through openings and cracks in the exterior roof covering and may infiltrate your attic.
Roof leaks from ice dams can cause severe water damage to both your roof and the rest of your property. The excessive weight of an ice dam and the moisture from the backed up water can lead to:
- Roof collapse and other structural deterioration from hefty snow and ice.
- Peeling paint, warped floors, stained ceilings and other cosmetic damages.
- Torn gutters, shingles and downspouts from the weight of the ice dam.
- Water leaks through chimneys, skylights, vents and other vulnerable roof areas.
- Mildew growth and mold damage to the insulation, ceilings and interior walls.
While ice dams don’t always cause damage, if you want to avoid any of the above risks, you should call a professional roofer or a restoration company to take a look at your roof and interior.
What Causes Ice Dams?
Particular conditions are required for an ice dam to form, including heat loss from the house, below freezing outside temperatures and snow coverage on the roof. Nonuniform roof temperatures are the primary cause of ice dam formation because different portions of the roof’s surface must be above and below the freezing point to set the melting and refreezing process in motion.
Most ice dams form at the roof’s edge, where the temperature is most likely to match the below-freezing outdoors. Typically, a heat source from inside the house is responsible for melting the snow coverage, warming the upper portion of the roof to above 32 degrees.
Heat can travel from the house to the roof surface in three ways:
- Conduction: Heat energy travels through a solid.
- Convection: Heat energy travels via warm air as it rises.
- Radiation: Heat energy is transferred using electromagnetic waves.
Thermal bridging problems often generate heat loss from the house to the roof surface, leading to nonuniform temperatures. For example, improper ventilation in the attic and insufficient insulation where the roof meets the walls may allow heat to escape from the house. This heat warms the roof and causes the snow to melt despite an outside temperature below 32 degrees.
Low-sloped roofs and short overhangs can also contribute to this problem.Watch for any areas along the roof where melting snow is not draining as intended. The water has likely built up behind an ice dam.
How Do You Know If You Have an Ice Dam?
The way to tell if you have an ice dam is if you notice any of these tell-tale signs:
- Your gutters aren’t draining properly or are filled with ice, and water is getting backed up on your roof.
- Snow is melting on the top of your roof (the highest point) but is still visible towards the bottom where your gutters are.
- You see interior water damage such as leaking, staining, ceiling cracks, peeling paint or warping floors.
- Condensation is developing on the walls at the back of kitchen cabinets and cupboards.
- You notice mold forming on drywall where the wall and roof meet.
- You see ice forming on the exterior walls of your property.
- You have abnormally large icicles forming from the top of your gutters or ice resembling a wave coming over the roof’s edge.
How to Fix Ice Dams
Ice dams should only be handled by a professional roofer or restoration company with the training and tools to fix an ice dam. Ice dams can cause things like water damage, mold damage or roof damage, and they all need to be handled by a professional.
If you’re wondering how to fix an ice dam on your roof, here are some methods to prevent them altogether and remove them if they’ve already formed.
How to Prevent Ice Dams
The key to ice dam prevention is to control your building’s heat loss. You can prevent ice dams by keeping your attic and roof at a cold, uniform temperature. Any hot spots will lead to bare patches in the freshly fallen snow, indicating that snowmelt has already started to run down your roof. If you see areas on the roof surface that are free of snow coverage, your roof is at risk of ice dams.
The goal is to keep the entire roof the same temperature, whether by adding insulation, increasing ventilation or sealing off possible air leaks from the home to the attic space. Before winter arrives, Rhode Islanders should take the following three steps to protect their home or business from ice dams:
- Insulate: Insulate the space between your roof and the interior of your property to prevent heat transfer. Sufficient insulation will help cut down on the heat loss from your living spaces to the attic and roof.
- Vent: Vent the area between the insulation and the final roof covering to ensure warm air cannot leak through. Proper ventilation in your attic will draw in cold outdoor air and flush out any heat.
- Seal: Seal all points where warm, moist air might leak into the attic from the living spaces. Make the ceilings airtight to prevent warm air from flowing into the attic and heating the underside of the roof.
A cold attic and uniform roof temperatures might not be the perfect solution for all homes. Some roof types are difficult to insulate and vent. Particular sections may be impossible to keep cold. Meanwhile, angled ceilings, low-sloped roofs and buildings without attics pose their own unique challenges. Winters with heavy snowfall sometimes cause ice dams no matter the temperature of your roof.
While it’s essential to improve the insulation and ventilation of your attic space, there are secondary strategies and products you may have to rely on to help prevent ice dams on your roof. These additional preventative actions for ice dams include:
- Scheduling a professional to remove icicles, snow and ice routinely.
- Raking off the snow that has fallen on your roof after a heavy snowfall.
- Clearing downspouts and gutters of all debris before winter arrives so they’re unobstructed.
- Purchasing ice melting heat cables to keep gutters warm in spots where ice dams regularly occur.
- Applying a de-icing agent before the cold weather hits to keep water flowing through the gutters.
- Installing a waterproof membrane below the final roof covering to drain water from underneath shingles.
- Keeping the upper floors slightly cooler to reduce the risk of warm air rising.
How to Remove Ice Dams
Typically, ice dam removal is best left to a professional roofer or restoration company. They can repair subsequent water damages and correct the heat loss problem that created the ice dam in the first place. All interior and roof repairs must be done together with the ice dam removal. Otherwise, the damage will continue to occur.
If you see the signs of ice dam damage and require an immediate solution, you can use temporary ice dam fixes to cover the symptoms until professional help arrives to address the underlying problem. Quick solutions for existing ice dams may include:
- Raking snow off the edge of your roof: When using a roof rake or push broom to remove snow from the roof’s edge, be cautious to avoid damaging the shingles and other roof materials underneath. You can only use this method on single-story buildings because roof rakes are dangerous to use on a ladder.
- Aiming a box fan at active water leaks: Box fans provide a targeted stream of cold air and a great short-term fix. When aimed at an active leak on the underside of your roof, the water may freeze and plug up the hole. This method prevents the damage from worsening while you wait for a professional inspection.
- Melting channels through the ice dam: Fill a tube of cloth or pantyhose with calcium chloride ice melter and tie off the top. Then, lay it vertically across the ice dam so it overhangs the gutter. It will slowly melt its way through the blockage, creating a path for water to flow freely into the gutters or off the roof.
In an emergency where water is leaking into the house, making troughs through the ice dam is an excellent short-term solution, even if it cannot remove the entire blockage. The channels allow the excess water built up behind the dam to drain from the roof quickly. After a few days, the path will become ineffective, so it’s only a temporary fix to reduce the amount of water damage.
Remember, avoid substituting salt rock for calcium chloride. It will cause more damage to the paint, metals and plants beneath than it will prevent water damage to your property’s interior.
When it comes to removing heavy walls of ice, many professionals rely on heated steam to safely melt the snow and allow the water to run entirely off the roof. While there are several temporary ice dam solutions, the best method of ice dam repair is to hire a professional restoration company. Rhode Island Restoration is a professional roofing solution to repair and restore your property, as well as prevent future ice dams from forming.
Does Insurance Cover Ice Dams?
On most insurance policies, ice dams will be covered by insurance. The damages from ice dams will also be covered, such as water, mold and roof damage. As of 2019, the Insurance Information Institute found that around one in 50 insured homes had coverage for property losses caused by water damage and freezing, accounting for over 29% of all personal property insurance claims. It’s crucial to get your ice dams fixed right away because lack of treatment could be cause for denial of your claim by your insurance company due to negligence.
What Your Insurance May Cover
Insurance may help cover damage caused by ice dams in certain cases. When water builds up behind an ice dam, it may leak through the roof and cause water damage to the insulation, ceilings, walls and other areas. Personal property coverage may help pay to repair water damage and freezing. Depending on your policy terms and limits, this coverage could extend to mold damage repairs as well.
Roof collapse is another concern that sometimes results from ice-related damage. Occasionally, a roof might collapse under the weight of a heavy ice dam or backed-up snow and ice. Insurance may help cover the cost of roof repair and replacement after a collapse. If the destruction has left your house uninhabitable, your homeowners insurance policy may include additional living expense coverage for hotel bills while the restoration company repairs your property.
What Your Insurance Might Not Cover
Coverage limits and terms will apply for ice dams, so it’s essential to check your policy and review what it covers. There are some situations when insurance might not cover ice dam damage.
Typically, dwelling coverage doesn’t protect against damage to personal belongings. While it may cover water damage to your ceilings and walls, your personal property coverage may not pay for ice dam damages to any items stored in your attic. Even if an insurance loss is covered, policy terms and limits will still apply. Additionally, your insurance likely won’t cover any services to remove the ice dam itself.
Failure to take preventative measures, such as cleaning gutters or clearing off ice and snow from the roof, may impact your cause for a claim. At the first sign of concern, consider hiring a professional roofer like RI Restoration. We’ll help correct the problem and repair the damages that caused your claim. First, you’ll want to call Performance Adjusting to help you get the most money for the ice dam damage.
What to Do After an Ice Dam Develops
After an ice dam develops on your roof, call your local ice dam restoration company or roofer that specializes in fixing ice dams. Rhode Island Restoration is the local expert in removing ice dams and repairing the water damage they cause. We’ll be able to come out to your property to determine the extent of the damage caused by the ice dam and begin the restoration process for roof leaks, water damage and mold damage before it gets too pricey or dangerous.