Ice dams are a common problem in the Chicagoland area, but they are not unavoidable. Check out our Ultimate Guide to preventing and maintaining ice dams.
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Many homeowners in the Chicagoland area experience problems with ice dams forming on their homes during the winter months. Ice dams can be extremely dangerous and can lead to many expensive problems. Without proper prevention and maintenance, ice dams can damage your roof, insulation, drywall, and gutters. This is why we’ve put together an ultimate guide to managing ice dams and keeping your home safe from damages during the harsh Midwestern winters.
Ice dams are what form when ice in gutters prevents water from draining out and away from your home. When there is a heavy snowfall, the snow on your house begins to melt from the heat escaping through your roof. However, the snow only melts from the top of the roof and then refreezes at the eaves, the area near the gutters where the roof becomes cold again. This causes build-up of ice and snow that can prevent your gutters from properly draining. If left untreated, the excess water can form mold spores in your insulation, drywall, and attic and can also cause damage to your shingles and gutters.
As mentioned before, ice dams are caused by a differentiation of heat on your roof. The quality of your roof installation does not cause the ice dam; it is actually a result of poor insulation in your attic and along your heating ducts and lighting fixtures. Because of this, a significant amount of heat rises up to your attic space and through the roof, which then causes the snow on your house to melt.
As the melted snow works its way to the edge of your roof and into your gutters, it is exposed to colder temperatures again because the attic space is not directly below, and it can quickly harden and create an ice dam.
Without proper care after the formation of the ice dam, more snow could fall and make the ice dam worse and, as a result, may cause damage to your home. According to an article published by This Old House, water from the melting ice and snow can flow underneath your shingles and into your home, leaving you with additional problems like drywall and flooring damage. Early prevention and quick maintenance is crucial when battling ice dams in the winter.
It is important to start prevention early so that ice dams don’t become a problem for your home in the first place. The most effective solution to preventing ice dams is reducing or eliminating heat sources from your attic space. The temperature of the underside of your roof should be the same as—or very close to—the temperature on the outside of the roof.
In his article, Battling Roof Ice Dams, Bob Formisano lists a few potential sources of excess heat in your attic:
Another way you can prevent ice dams is by attaching electronic heating cables along your roof’s edge. Read more about heating cables and other heat-based ways to combat snow and ice here.
It is important to fix insulation problems and keep your gutters clean in order to prevent an ice dam from forming. However, if there is already an ice dam on your home, there are some methods you can use to remedy the problem before damages occur. These include:
Ice dams can cause a lot of stress for Chicagoland homeowners, but they can be easily prevented and maintained. Prevention is key to protecting your home, but if you find that an ice dam has already formed, try to alleviate the situation as quickly and as safely as possible. By keeping your gutters and roof clear of heavy snowfall, you and your family can have a safe and worry-free winter.