NEW HAMPSHIRE ICE DAMS: What are they? And how to fix them

About the Author

Chris Caisse is a Certified Master Inspector® / Owner of Platinum Home Inspections, located in New Hampshire, USA.

Polar Bear on iceberg

Why don’t ice cubes ever win arguments? Because they always crack under pressure! It’s still cold out there, and ice dams have been wrecking havoc.

What IS an Ice Dam?…

Ice dams are ridge-like formations of ice that can form along the edges of a roof, typically near the eaves, during winter. They occur when snow on the upper, warmer portion of the roof melts and runs down to the colder eaves, where it refreezes due to colder temperatures. Over time, this process can lead to the buildup of ice dams, which can pose several risks to homeowners.

FORMATION

Ice dams form when snow melts on the warmer upper portion of a roof and refreezes at the colder eaves, creating a ridge of ice.

CAUSES

Inadequate insulation and ventilation in the attic, along with fluctuating temperatures, contribute to the formation of ice dams.

CONSEQUENCES

Ice dams can cause water backup under shingles, leading to roof leaks, water damage to ceilings and walls, and even structural damage if left untreated.

Why are they dangerous?

WATER DAMAGE

The most significant danger posed by ice dams is water infiltration into the home. As ice dams block melting snow from draining off the roof, water can back up under shingles and penetrate the roof, causing leaks and damage to interior spaces.

STRUCTURAL DAMAGE

Prolonged exposure to water from ice dams can lead to structural damage to the roof and other parts of the home, including ceilings, walls, and insulation.

MOLD AND MILDEW

Moisture trapped in the home due to ice dams can create conditions conducive to mold and mildew growth, posing health risks to occupants.

So how do we prevent Ice Dams?…

IMPROVE ATTIC INSULATION

  • Ensure that your attic is adequately insulated to minimize heat loss through the roof. This helps maintain a consistent roof temperature and prevents snowmelt.
  • Seal any gaps or air leaks in the attic to prevent warm air from escaping into the roof space.

ENHANCE ROOF VENTILATION

  • Proper attic ventilation helps regulate the temperature of the roof and prevents the buildup of heat that can lead to snowmelt and ice dam formation.
  • Install soffit and ridge vents to facilitate airflow through the attic space and along the underside of the roof.

REMOVE SNOW AND ICE

  • Safely remove snow from the roof using a roof rake or other snow removal tools after heavy snowfalls. Clearing snow reduces the likelihood of ice dam formation by preventing snowmelt from accumulating and refreezing at the eaves.

What if I have a currently active Ice Dam?…

BREAK UP THE ICE DAM

  • Use a blunt instrument, such as a rubber mallet, to carefully break up existing ice dams. Work from the edge of the roof toward the center to avoid damaging the shingles.
  • Avoid using sharp tools or chisels, as they can cause damage to the roof surface.

CLEAR GUTTERS AND DOWNSPOUTS

  • Remove any ice and debris from gutters and downspouts to ensure proper drainage. Use a roof rake or other tools to clear pathways for water to flow off the roof and away from the home.

APPLY DE-ICING PRODUCTS

  • Use calcium chloride or other deicing products to melt ice dams and create channels for water to drain. Apply the deicing agent directly to the ice dam, following manufacturer instructions carefully.
  • Exercise caution when using deicing products, as some may cause damage to roofing materials or vegetation.

PLEASE SHARE!

Prevention is key. It may be necessary to consult with a professional roofing contractor or home improvement specialist for assistance.