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In years gone by, it was the norm to see images of ice dams and icicles of various sizes all lined up along the edges of a rooftop. They were viewed as pretty and a natural part of winter. Today, now that homeowners are aware of the reasons behind these winter sculptures, it’s not such a welcome sight. (Well, other than those faux “icicle” outdoor Christmas lights.)

What is the root cause of ice dams on roofs?

Ice dams are formed in a very specific and predictable way.

Let’s break it down:

  • After a snowfall or ice rain, the roof area is covered with an icy or snowy layer.
  • Escaped heat that may be emanating from various areas on the rooftop and then melts this first layer.
  • After the snow or ice slides away from the heated portions of the roof, it then refreezes and creates a “dam” on the colder, unheated parts of the roof, such as the awning or overhang areas.
  • This accumulation-melting-refreezing cycle continues in that order.
  • This results in what is known as an ice dam. Ice dams do exactly that –dam up and restrict any natural run-off.

When left unattended, the ice dams will continue to build up as more precipitation is added. When the ice accumulation has nowhere to exit, it starts to move back on itself. This is where extensive damage will occur. The ice will make its way up and under the roof shingles and will eventually displace them. You then have ice on the bare unprotected part of the roof’s membrane. Again, this is where ice dams will wreak the greatest havoc – water will enter the home. This, of course, will have an adverse effect on any attic insulation. If the insulation is fibreglass, once wet, it will be useless and now prone to mould or mildew. The home’s ceilings and walls would be next in line when water enters through the roof.

Some DIY homeowners will try and solve their ice dam issue on their own.

Actions such as chipping and breaking up the ice is extremely dangerous, especially if they’re up on a ladder and attempting to break up the ice. Both the homeowner and the integrity of the roof is in danger. The other popular “quick fix” of filling up a sock with rock salt and throwing it up on the roof in the hopes of melting the ice accumulation and creating a thin run-off path is creative and (if it actually shows results) is a mere temporary fix at best. So, when you see odd ice formations on your roof and icicles dangling, it’s like a canary in a coal mine –– a sure sign that your home is in need of attention. An Insulation professional, such as AM Insulation Solutions, will work with you and solve your ice dam problems once and for all. We can help with a brand new insulation plan that includes spray foam insulation. Spray foam is a superior insulation product that forms a custom fit that will surely seal up all of your roof’s energy leaks.