Once cold weather hits, you may start noticing large icicles forming on the eaves of your roof. If so, you’re likely dealing with an issue that can cause your home a lot of costly problems—ice dams. These solid, heavy blocks of ice can be rough on roofing, siding, gutters, and even sidewalks and people (if they crash to the ground).
Here’s why you should be concerned if you’re seeing ice dams on your roof, and how to spot damage that needs to be addressed to keep your home safe and sound.
What Is an Ice Dam?
Ice dams are large chunks of ice that form at the edge of roofing. They develop when your roof accumulates snow, sleet, and freezing rain during stormy weather.
This frozen precipitation can melt under the heat of the sun, as well as the heat rising through your attic. But when the temperatures drop, the moisture can refreeze, especially at the edge of the roof. The resulting ice dams that form can lead to serious problems that require costly roof repairs.
In a well-insulated, secure roof with working gutters, snow and ice tend to melt and drain safely away from your home, ensuring its safety. But when your roof is aging, or you have problems with gutters or insulation, ice dams are more likely to form. Proper home care can help you avoid them in the first place.
Ways Ice Dams Can Damage Your Home
Just how problematic are ice dams to your home? Take a look at the major issues that can arise because of them, and you’ll see why it matters to prevent them.
One of the biggest concerns with ice dams is that they are a sure sign that moisture has nowhere to safely drain away atop your roof. So, snow, ice, sleet, and rain are all potentially sneaking into and behind your house’s wood structure.
That moisture can end up in the attic, behind your siding, and in the walls, where the moisture rots away your wood and weakens your home’s structural integrity. And this issue can go on for months undetected, until you end up with huge repairs to make.
Damaged Roof Shingles
As ice hits your roof, melts, and refreezes, it can be rough on your roofing. Ice can wear away at your roof shingles, scraping away their protective granules and making them more susceptible to damage. If shingles are cracked, moisture can sneak in and cause the cracks to worsen.
Since the integrity of your roofing is essential to a structure that keeps your home safe from moisture damage, heat loss, and exposure, damaged shingles are no joke and should be addressed promptly.
Since ice dams mean moisture is trapped on top of your roof and potentially leaking inside, you’re likely to experience the growth of mold and mildew. These growths love the excess moisture and humidity of a leaky home.
Mold and mildew can ruin fabrics, furniture, papers, and other stored items in your attic. And they make your home’s air unhealthy to breathe, promoting asthma and other breathing problems.
When ice dams form at the edge of the roof, they may begin to melt during the daylight hours and then refreeze at night. This produces icicles—sometimes quite large ones. And eventually, those icicles will break.
There are a number of issues that can result, including broken glass furnishings, cracked concrete, and even injuries as family and guests walk beneath them.
Another issue caused by ice dams is damaged insulation. Remember, ice dams mean your roof isn’t properly draining away moisture. Eventually, the water makes its way inside, and since insulation in the attic is usually exposed, it can be quickly ruined.
This means you need new insulation, which can be pricey. On top of that, you’ll be facing higher utilities costs because your home isn’t energy-efficient. And wet insulation breeds mold and mildew too.
Excess moisture from ice dams not only affects your roof, but it affects your exterior too. Your paint won’t last as long, peeling and blistering from too much exposure to moisture. Plus, nails are more likely to rust, and wood siding or window trim will be exposed to rot.
Ice dams form at your eaves, meaning they’re in or on top of your gutters too. The added weight can crush them, make them crack, or push them out of place. All of these issues mean the same thing in the end—your gutters won’t function as they should, resulting in even more moisture damage not just on your roof, but around your foundation too.
A Few Tips to Help Deal with Ice Dams
If you’re experiencing ice dams, remember that you still need to be gentle with your roof. Don’t apply salt or try to hack away at the ice. Instead, focus on preventing wood rot, heat loss and moisture leaks. Solutions include installing a water-resistant metal roof, ensuring proper ventilation by installing vents and sealing air leaks, and adding thick insulation to help your roof avoid the hot-cold, freeze-thaw cycles that promote ice dams.
Prepare Your Roof for Winter with Great Upkeep
As you get your home ready to handle another icy, snowy Chicago winter, you may notice issues with your roof, such as ice dams, cracked roof shingles, missing flashing, or just old age. Siding & Windows Group has served Chicago area homeowners with home exterior care, including roofing, for over 30 years.
Check out our roofing options, and let us know how we can help!