PROBLEM #12: What are ice dams, and why should I be concerned about them?
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Imagine waking up one morning, and seeing a strange sight in your dining room. A huge bulge hanging down from the ceiling. Upon further inspection, you discover that it is actually a large water-filled balloon that is only contained by the strength of the paint on the ceiling. This happened in my house – on a Sunday morning (go figure). I was very careful to not “pop” the water-filled paint balloon. It did eventually disappear (I still don’t know where all that water went), but I had a PROBLEM to solve. Where did that water come from? . . . hint, hint – ice dams were the culprit.
Ice dams are caused by melt-water flowing down your roof, and then that water re-freezes on the edge of your roof. This usually happens when you have poorly insulated attics or ceilings. The heat that escapes through your roof melts the snow. The water flows down the roof, and eventually reaches still frozen areas of the roof – the eaves or your gutters. It then re-freezes and forms icicles. Eventually, the ice builds up enough to form a dam. If more melt-water flows down your roof, it can’t escape. It ends up going back up underneath your shingles. If this happens, you will get water inside your house.
The SOLUTION is to prevent ice dams from forming. Other than better insulating the underside of your roof, there are two ways that I know to accomplish this prevention. I have used both methods with success.
This method involves a snow rake. Every time we had snow, I would go outside, and rake as much snow off of the roof as I could reach with the snow rake. This should be done as soon as possible before the snow starts to melt. This lowers the amount of potential melt-water that could cause you problems later. This method takes more effort, but it does work.
The second solution requires the installation of a de-icing cable. When installed correctly, this cable melts “channels” in the ice-dams. This allows melt-water to flow off the roof instead of backing up under your shingles. This type of cable can be plugged in immediately after a snowfall for an hour or so – what ever it takes to clear and prevent ice dams. Check out the link below to purchase your own de-icing kit if you are having frustrating ice dam problems.
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