Ice dams are common this time of year when temperatures warm up during the day and then get much colder at night. Because heat rises, the air in your attic is always warmest at the top and coolest down by the eaves. With nowhere else to go, the accumulating ice backs up under the shingles, roofing felt or sheathing and as it melts, causes interior leaks. Prevention is the key when dealing with ice dams. The Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recommends the following:
• Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris.
• Seal the places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic: vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures are all possibilities.
• Have a professional inspect your roof and attic for proper ventilation and insulation.
• Look for signs of inadequate ventilation: rust spots, rusty nails or a mildew smell are all signals that moisture has formed on the inside of your roof.
• If you have soffit vents in your eaves, make sure they are not blocked and the insulation surrounding them is secured so that air can flow easily.
• If you do not have soffit or ridge vents, you can have them installed or install them yourself fairly easily.
• Install snow and ice slides. These are metal strips about 24” wide installed as a retrofit solution over the existing roof to prevent ice and snow from bonding to the lower roof.
• Install a rubberized ice and water shield beneath the roof shingles for the first three to six feet from the eaves up.
• Consider installing heating cable along the eaves to melt ice. While generally effective, heat cables can cause pooling behind the ice if the snow pack is very heavy or if the cable is not turned on early enough.
Installing slides and shields can be effective in treating the symptoms of ice damming. However, you should recognize that these methods only treat the symptoms, not the disease itself. Only proper ventilation and insulation prevents ice dams. Talk with a professional to discuss the best options for your home. You should also speak to your agent to review your homeowners coverage.
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