Ice Dams: What Are They? PLUS: 3 Of The Most Common Ways They Can Cause Damage To Your Home!

Ice Dams: What are they? Plus: 2 of the most common ways they can cause damage to your home!

You might worry about winter storms tearing shingles off your roof when it’s cold out. However, there’s a common winter roofing problem of which you might not be aware. Ice dams can form during winter, leading to extensive roof damage.

As a homeowner in Southeastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island, your roof can be vulnerable to ice dams. Knowing what these are, how they form, and what kinds of damage they do can help you better understand why they’re so hazardous.

What Ice Dams Are

Ice dams are ridges of ice that develop along the edges of roofs. These ridges are thick enough to form blockages that trap water and prevent snow from sliding off your roof. Ice dams are a common roofing problem for homes in northern climates during winter.

Why Ice Dams Form

When your area has a heavy snowfall, the snow on your roof melts as temperatures heat up during the day. When temperatures drop below freezing at night, this melted snow can end up freezing again. This melting and re-freezing causes thick ice ridges to form near or at your roof eaves.

Ice dams can grow larger or thicker when you have a few or more days of melting and freezing. The melted water that gets trapped behind ice dams can end up causing damage to your home. The ice dams themselves can also cause damage.  

Types of Damage from Ice Dams

What kinds of damage can ice dams cause? When you have ice dams on your home, you might experience the following types of damage to varying degrees. Damage is more likely to occur if ice dams go unresolved for several days.

Shingle Damage and Soffit/Fascia Damage

Ice dams can cause damage to your roof shingles. The melted snow that gets trapped behind ice dams causes water to back up under the shingles. As the water re-freezes into ice, it expands, lifting the shingles, cracking them, or moving them out of place. This puts your attic and interior at risk of water damage while also damaging your roof shingles. You might need to have shingles repaired or replaced if damage occurs.

Ice dams can cause damage to the soffit and fascia of your roof. Exposure to water from ice dams can lead to wood rot and other water damage. If severe damage occurs, you might need to replace the soffit and fascia.

Gutter Damage

Ice dams are thick and have a lot of weight. This weight can pull on your gutters, which can cause severe damage to them. Your gutters might pull away from your home, which increases the risk of water damage, especially in the spring. Ice dams might also cause dents or other damage to your gutters.

Gutter damage makes it harder for melted snow to flow away from your home. If the water cannot drain properly, it will seep in right next to your house, causing foundation issues. You might need to have your gutters reattached, repaired, or replaced, depending on the kind of damage that occurs.

Snow Load Damage

Having ice dams at the edges of your roof means that snow that falls from the peak has nowhere to go. Instead of covering your roof evenly and dropping off the edges into the gutters as it melts, snow and water can pile up on top of your roof.

A heavy snow load can put tremendous strain on your roof, which could lead to structural damage. Having ice dams removed helps prevent this from happening.

Ice Dam Prevention

You can lower your risk of having ice dams form in several ways. Adding insulation to your attic can help stop heat from reaching your roof and melting snow quickly.

Ventilating the ridge and eaves can also help since this causes cold air to circulate under your roof. With cold air circulating, snow won’t melt as quickly and freeze again at night at the edges of your roof. 

Other ways to help prevent ice dams include removing debris from your gutters. This gives melted snow a clear path away from your home. Using a roof rake to remove snow from your roof can also help reduce the risk of ice dams.

What to Do About Ice Dams

When you have ice dams on your roof, you should avoid trying to chip away at them with a chisel or other tool. This can cause additional damage to your roof and put you at risk of injury.

If you have problematic ice dams on your home in Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, or Rhode Island, please get in touch with Couto Construction. We can repair damage from ice dams and help you prevent them from becoming an issue again!