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Some things you should know about ice dams

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Now is the time to be on the look-out for ice dams. They may seem innocent-looking, and perhaps even pretty, but they pose serious problems for your roof and your home. If you’re unfamiliar with ice dams and the problems they cause, here are some things you should know:

What are they? Ice dams are the ridges of ice that accumulate along the edge of your roof. They prevent snow melt from escaping off your roof. When ice dams grow large enough, icicles may even begin to form along the edge of your roof.

Why are ice dams harmful? When ice accumulates around the edge of your roof, the melting snow has nowhere else to go. Pooling water can seep beneath the shingles. As this water refreezes it expands and makes gaps in your shingles where even more water can get in. This leads to roof leaks and interior water damage.

Why do ice dams form? Ice dams form when warm air from inside the home escapes into the attic space and melts the snow on the roof. When this melted snow reaches the edges of the roof which are colder, it freezes and slowly builds up. You can have ice dams even if there is no snow on your roof. In fact, this is often the case because the snow has already all melted due to warm air in your attic space. Contrary to what you might think, the lack of snow on your roof is often a sign of ice dams, especially if all the other homes on your block do have snow on the roof.

How do you prevent ice dams? Ice dams have everything to do with the insulation in your attic. Simply adding more insulation won’t fix the problem, however. All the insulation in the world won’t prevent an ice dam if it’s insulated improperly. It’s best to hire a professional to make sure the job is done right. Only when no air can escape into the attic can you be sure that ice dams won’t form. Ice dams aren’t synonymous with icicles. While icicles are a tell-tale sign of ice dams, not every ice dam is large enough to cause icicles to form. Ice dams can be very small and may not even be visible from the ground. These smaller ice dams can be just as problematic
for your home.

How to take care of ice dams? It’s always better to prevent ice dams in the first place. But if the damage is already done, your first priority is to get rid of the ice dams before they cause any more damage. Don’t chip away at the ice as you can damage your shingles. Rock salt and other snow melt chemicals can damage some roofing materials. It’s best to hire a professional to take care of ice dams.

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