Ice dams may not be something the average homeowner has ever heard of, but they occur all too frequently during the winter months, resulting in costly damage. Left unaddressed, water seepage from ice dams can ruin ceilings, walls, attics and roofing.
Ice dams usually form when heat from inside a home causes snow on the roof to melt and trickle to the roof's edge, where it refreezes on cold eaves, blocking gutters and drains. Since water cannot flow over the built-up ice, it backs up behind the ice, creating pools, and seeps into the home under the shingles.
"A typical U.S. winter will generate more than $500 million in property damage from ice dams," according to MetLife Auto & Home. "By taking a few proactive measures in the fall, homeowners can often prevent ice dams and save themselves a lot of time, money and frustration."
Steps to take in the fall:
* Keep all gutters and downspouts clear. Make certain that leaves, sticks and debris are removed completely from your home's gutters and downspouts.
* Keep your attic chilly. The most effective way to eliminate ice dams is to stop snowmelt by making the roof colder. This can be achieved by preventing air infiltration into the attic space by insulating the floor of the attic and by blocking all bypasses where warm air from the interior of the home can rise into the attic.
* Identify water entry points within the home. You may wish to contact a contractor or infrared specialist to locate these entry points and take the appropriate actions to create a waterproof barrier.
* Protect your roof with some extra help. If you're still getting ice dams after insulating and ventilating, consider installing extra protection along your eaves. An ice belt, a solid, metal flashing, allows snow to easily slide off it while providing a barrier for melted snow. Electrical heat tracing can help if an ice dam starts forming, melting it away with one flip of a switch.
Steps to take in the winter:
* Keep a lookout for giant icicles. One of the first warning signs of possible ice dams - and definitely poor insulation and ventilation - are giant icicles hanging from the eaves.
* If possible, keep snow off the roof with a roof rake. Carefully, use a roof rake or push broom to reduce the amount of snow that could melt. Do not climb on the roof to clear the snow as serious injury may result. Also, be cautious of electrical wires.
In an emergency situation, where water is seeping into the house, the best advice is to notify an infrared specialist or professional contractor to locate the leak so you can begin taking corrective action.