According to Insurance Information Institute calculations, one in 55 insured homes has a property damage claim caused by water damage or freezing each year. The average homeowner claim for such damages was $5,531. Ice dams are responsible for cracked plaster ceilings and walls, peeling paint, soaked carpets, and buckled wood floors. Less visible but no less destructive effects include drenched insulation, rotting joists, and the formation of mold. The most common form of ice dam damage is collapsed rain gutters, which can cost $100 to $300 per side to repair.
As a general contractor, one of the most prominent winter calls is in regard to ice dam formations. Lets discuss the reason behind an ice dam, how to spot the signs of trouble, and how to prevent ice dams BEFORE they turn into an insurance claim nightmare.
Starting from the beginning, ice dams are a result of poor insulation and heat loss in the roof. Heat loss within the home tends to happen most at the center of the home or ridgeline. Here, the heat loss melts snow on the roof. However, because the heat loss doesn’t affect the lower area of the roof deck at the eaves, the snow and ice accumulates here. What this most commonly looks like are hanging icicles along gutters and eaves. Many of us see this on other people’s homes but aren’t aware of the hidden meaning. As meltwater continues to run down, it gets trapped beneath the ice collected at the eaves and runs behind the shingles and into the home.
The deeper the snowfall, the worse ice damming becomes. Each inch of snow on a rooftop adds a layer of insulation over a roof with heat trying to escape. This trapped heat has nowhere to go and spreads to heating the roof sheathing in a larger area, creating more melting, re-freezing, and water with nowhere to go but inside.
So, now that we know how an ice dam begins and what it looks like, how do we prevent this condition or fix it once it has begun? We look only to the logic of how it began. Homes with heat loss have issues with proper insulation and/or ventilation. A licensed contractor can provide you advice on how to insulate and vent to ensure that the heat within your home isn’t lost through the roof to the degree it melts snow. A roof that maintains the proper ambient temperature will never create this condition.
There are electrical cables that can be used to heat trouble roofs from the outside. However, many homeowners report that the cables often just back up the ice dams higher up the roof, shorten the life span of shingles, and run up electrical bills.
A licensed contractor can also help with an ice dam after it has begun by employing roof rakes and/or steam to melt snow and ice, relieving the pressure on the roof. Preventing snow accumulation on the roof of a home with heat loss will help prevent these incidents. However, many homeowners cannot access all areas of a roof or safely do so. A licensed contractor does this for a living.
If your home has an ice dam and you need help, call Capstone General Contracting today. Don’t wait for an insurance claim. 508-799-4463!