Ice Dams

Ice Dams: What Causes Them, and How They Can Be Prevented

Every winter, millions of houses across the country are affected by a process known as ice damming. Ice dams are a major problem in northern latitudes, and can cause expensive damage to homes of all kinds.

Understanding the risk of ice damming — and determining whether your roof shows signs of ice damming — is important if you want to avoid a mid-winter call to your local roofing company. To that end, here is a brief explainer outlining how ice dams form is and how you can prevent them.


The Main Causes of Ice Damming

Ice dams occur when warm air rises from within your living space and melts the snow near the ridge of your roof. This meltwater flows down the shingles, and freezes when it reaches the colder sections of the roof overlying the eaves.

Over time, this causes a ridge of ice to form, which acts as a dam preventing the meltwater from reaching the gutters. This in turn creates a feedback loop where the ridge becomes larger and larger, making it increasingly difficult for your roof to drain. This often manifests in the formation of a heavy crust of ice over gutters and long icicles hanging down from the eaves.

Pitched roofs are designed to channel water off, and when water sits on the shingles for a long period of time, it can leak into the roof deck, which leads to rot and water damage. In some cases, these leaks can even reach your main living area.

Modern roofs are designed to counteract this process by providing an extra layer of protection beneath the shingles and by having plenty of air vents to ensure the warm rising air has somewhere to go.

How to Prevent Ice Damming

Unfortunately, once an ice dam has formed it can be quite difficult to remove, which is why most professional roofers encourage homeowners to be proactive about protecting their houses against ice dams.

But in some extreme cases, an ice dam may pose an immediate threat to the integrity of a roof, or threaten the safety of passers-by. In these situations, the ice dam will need to be dealt with immediately.

If you have had your roof inspected and been told that your ice dam problem to be sufficiently serious, you will need to contact roofers in Pickering immediately to have the dam removed.

This is usually done by using calcium chloride, a chemical that melts the ice without damaging the roof itself (road salt or sodium chloride should never be spread on a roof as they will have a corrosive effect that weakens the shingles and decreases your roof’s lifespan).

Once the calcium chloride has melted the ice dam away, Pickering roofers will probably recommend taking the further step of installing ridge vents to help channel warm air out of the attic and decrease the likelihood of another dam forming. In some cases, repairs to gutters and eavestroughs may also be necessary.

Ice damming is one of the perennial problems facing residential roofs in northern climates, and while installing proper ventilation while the weather is warm is ideal, if the problem has gotten to the point where the roof has begun to leak, taking immediate action is essential.

If you’re worried that ice dams are causing damage to your roof, be sure to get in touch with a local roofing company today.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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