Ice Dam Prevention Orange County NY What is an Ice Dam? An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas. Figure 1 shows a cross section of a home with an ice dam.What causes ice dams? There is a complex interaction among the amount of heat loss from a house, snow cover, and outside temperatures that leads to ice dam formation. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof, and, at the same time, higher portions of the roof’s outside surface must be above 32°F while lower surfaces are below 32°F. For a portion of the roof to be below 32°F, outside temperatures must also be below 32°F. When we say temperatures above or below 32°F, we are talking about average temperature over sustained periods of time. The snow on a roof surface that is above 32°F will melt. As water flows down the roof it reaches the portion of the roof that is below 32°F and freezes. Voila!-an ice dam. The dam grows as it is fed by the melting snow above it, but it will limit itself to the portions of the roof that are on the average below 32°F. So the water above backs up behind the ice dam and remains a liquid. This water finds cracks and openings in the exterior roof covering and flows into the attic space. From the attic it could flow into exterior walls or through the ceiling insulation and stain the ceiling finish. Preventing and dealing with ice dams In all communities, it is possible to find homes that do not have ice dams. Ice dams can be prevented by controlling the heat loss from the home. Immediate action: Remove snow from the roof. This eliminates one of the ingredients necessary for the formation of an ice dam. A “roof rake” and push broom can be used to remove snow, but may damage the roofing materials. In an emergency situation where water is flowing into the house structure, making channels through the ice dam allows the water behind the dam to drain off the roof. Hosing with tap water on a warm day will do this job. Work upward from the lower edge of the dam. The channel will become ineffective within days and is only a temporary solution to ice dam damage. Long-term action: First, make the ceiling air tight so no warm, moist air can flow from the house into the attic space. After sealing air leakage paths between the house and attic space, consider increasing the ceiling/roof insulation to cut down on heat loss by conduction. Both of these actions will increase the snow load that your roof has to carry because it will no longer melt. Can your roof carry the additional load? If it is built to current codes, there should not be a structural problem. Roofs, like the rest of the home, should have been designed to withstand expected snow loads. In NY, plans showing design details to meet expected snow loads are usually required to receive a building permit. Our thanks to the University of Minnesota for this information. Read the entire article online here The photo here shows a home we recently worked on. The front shows the area that we insulated; the porch was not insulated. A picture really is worth 1,000 words, isn’t it? Call on Northern Windows, Siding, Roofing and Insulation for a free, no-pressure estimate on your ice-dam prevention program.Read more about our insulation process here. We also can give you an estimate on roofing, if that’s a concern or problem, as well. Want more information/ FREE estimate? Call 845-294-4444, or visit our showroom: 2537 Rte 17M Goshen NY 10924.