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Top 6 Causes of Ice Dam Roof Damage and How to Address Them

Posted on January 15, 2024

Top 6 Causes of Ice Dam Roof Damage and How to Address Them

For homeowners in Wisconsin, winter brings the challenge of ice dams, which can quickly damage roofs if not promptly addressed. Now you might be wondering, how can ice dams cause roof damage? Simply put, ice dam roof damage happens when the snow on a roof melts and refreezes at the edges, creating barriers that prevent water from draining into the gutters. This creates a potential for permanent, expensive damage that requires more than just simple repairs, it might involve complete rebuilding. 

This blog post will explore the primary reasons behind ice dam roof damage and provide steps you can take to address and prevent these issues, offering solutions for homeowners and businesses alike.

What Causes Ice Dams? 

Ice dams can lead to major roof damage through a combination of factors. Let’s delve in to understand how ice dams form and damage roofs: 

#1. Inadequate Insulation

Insufficient insulation in homes can lead to the formation of ice dams on roofs. When there is inadequate insulation, heat escapes, warming the roof surface and causing snow to melt. The melted snow then refreezes at the roof’s edge, creating ice dams. 

With rolls or batts commonly used for attic insulation, a thickness of at least 12-inches of insulation is recommended, while solid insulation boards may require a higher thickness level. Proper attic insulation is essential to prevent ice dam roof damage because without it the attic becomes a source of heat loss, contributing to potential water damage to the home. 

Homeowners can ensure proper attic insulation to minimize the risk of snow melting and refreezing at the roof’s edge, reducing the likelihood of ice dam roof damage.

#2. Poor Attic Ventilation

If there’s insufficient attic ventilation, it can be a significant factor in the development of ice dams. Inadequate attic ventilation can worsen the melting and freezing cycle, which leads to the formation of ice dams on roofs. When warm air from the house escapes into the attic, it warms the roof decking and causes snow to melt, creating an ice dam. 

As this cycle repeats, the ice dam grows, blocking the flow of water and creating puddles on the roof. Homeowners can effectively combat ice dam formation by sealing any gaps in the decking, insulating the attic, and ensuring proper roof ventilation. 

Checking for icicles can also serve as an indicator of potential ice dam issues. But even if icicles aren’t present, ice dams can still occur.

#3. Shingle Deterioration

While old or worn out shingles do not directly cause ice dams, they can lead the way for major problems. Ice dams can damage shingles, causing lifting, curling, and gaps that lead to leaks. Curling shingles are susceptible to wind uplift and ice damage, and cracked shingles signal the need for a prompt roof replacement. The weight of ice dams can also put stress on the shingles, resulting in water seepage and roof deck damage. Additionally, water backing up behind the ice dams can enter the home, causing damage and promoting mold growth. 

Ensuring shingle integrity through regular roof inspections and timely replacement is crucial to prevent water entry and damage from ice dams. To prevent issues, take steps to stop ice dam formation, as damaged shingles increase the home’s vulnerability to water leaks. 

#4. Clogged Gutters

Clogged Gutters

Blocked gutters can lead to ice dams by trapping water and debris, creating a frozen barrier that hinders proper drainage. Leaves and debris can fully block drains, providing a space for ice to form and expand, leading to damage not only to the gutters but also to the entire home. This blockage can cause water to back up onto the roof, posing a risk to the gutters, roof, and even the foundation. The weight of the ice dams can further damage both the gutters and the roof. 

#5. Fluctuating Temperatures

Fluctuating temperatures, especially when they vary between above freezing during the day and well below freezing at night, create ideal conditions for ice dam development. This melting and refreezing cycle is particularly common in northern climates, where snow buildup melts during the day and then refreezes overnight. 

Early winter experiences lower temperatures, typically fluctuating between 30 and 40 degrees, making ice dams less likely. In contrast, later winter months are more prone to the conditions that lead to ice dam formation. To prevent ice dams, it is crucial to ensure proper insulation with ventilation in the attic, remove snow from the roof, and maintain proper maintenance practices.

#6. Snow Accumulation

The presence of excessive snow on the roof can lead to ice dams, especially when there are variations in temperature across the roof’s surface. The combination of heavy snow accumulation and inconsistent temperatures creates a repeating melting and freezing cycle, ultimately facilitating the formation of ice dams. This poses a significant risk to the building, potentially resulting in damage. Therefore, implementing preventive measures to address snow accumulation and temperature fluctuations is crucial to avoiding issues related to ice dams.

How Can You Address Ice Dam Roof Damage?

To fix the problems caused ice dams, you can do the following things:

#1. Remove Any Snow: 

Remove Any Snow

One key solution is to eliminate the water source, which involves safely removing snow from the roof. However, this task poses challenges and safety concerns due to the hazardous nature of working on such surfaces.

#2. Take Preventative Measures: 

Proactive winter maintenance, regular snow removal, proper attic ventilation, and insulation are crucial for preventing ice dams. Before winter, have your roof inspected by a professional to assess maintenance needs, inspect the attic, and provide recommendations to safeguard against ice dam damage.

#3. Address Inadequate Insulation and Poor Attic Ventilation:

When addressing ice dam roof damage, ensuring proper attic insulation, especially near the eaves, is crucial to prevent heat loss to maintain a consistent temperature. Additionally, improving attic ventilation by installing soffit and ridge vents facilitates continuous airflow, thereby reducing the risk of ice dam formation.

#4. Routine Maintenance:

To combat shingle deterioration, a thorough inspection of the roof for signs like cracks, curling, or missing shingles is necessary. Prompt replacement of damaged shingles is essential to preserve the roof’s integrity and prevent water infiltration.

#5. Clean Gutters:

Regular cleaning and gutter maintenance are vital steps to remove debris and ensure proper water flow. Installing gutter guards can further prevent debris buildup, lowering the need for frequent cleaning and reducing the risk of ice dam formation.

#6. Remove Existing Ice Dams:

Attempting to remove existing ice dams using destructive tools or applying salt or calcium chloride is discouraged, as these methods can cause further roof damage. Opt for gentle methods, such as a steamer or spraying the area with hot water, to create drainage channels.

You can effectively prevent ice dam roof damage and avoid future structural problems and water damage to your property by carefully following these steps. It’s important to put safety first and get expert advice on complicated problems like insulation, ventilation, and roof maintenance.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Roof Damage From Ice Dams?

Homeowners insurance may cover roof damage from ice dams, including repairs to the roof and walls. However, personal property coverage typically excludes damage to belongings. If the roof was already in poor condition, coverage for water damage may be limited as most policies don’t cover age-related issues or general wear and tear. It’s essential to note that ice dam removal costs are generally not covered by insurance.

Want To Protect Your Home From Ice Dam Roof Damage? Count On Us!

When it comes to ensuring protection against ice dam roof damage, relying on professional expertise is key. The professionals from Prestige Roofing specialize in addressing and preventing issues related to ice dams. With their 50 years of combined skilled expertise and experience, they offer tailored solutions, from assessing insulation and ventilation to tackling shingle deterioration and snow accumulation. 

By entrusting your home to reputable professionals, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your property is in good hands. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Prestige Roofing for the best guidance and services related to ice dam prevention. To schedule a free roof inspection in Wisconsin and the surrounding areas, reach out to us at (920) 672-1026.