The Dangers of Ice Dams

ice dam

The icicles hanging from your roof give your home that iconic winter appearance.

Their appearance, however, means something else if you recognize them for what they are: a tell-tale sign of an ice dam. If you have an ice dam on your property, you need to eliminate it as quickly as possible.

What makes ice dams dangerous?

Ice dams are formed by winter moisture trapped in a specific area, such as a crux in the home's roof. The potential for damage exists wherever this water collects. An ice dam can also spread water and ice on the ground beneath it, creating hazardous walking conditions along the home's exterior. Those beautiful icicles pose another very real danger to anyone walking beneath them.

Most often, however, the greatest danger posed by ice dams is to the home's gutter system. While any of these potential hazards is reason enough to remove ice dams from your home, the danger posed by ice dams to the home’s interior is usually the most detrimental and expensive.

When an ice dam forms, it applies pressure on the structure and channels water from the home’s exterior through the building’s envelope (the term used to describe the home’s roof, exterior walls and floor). Once water has entered this space, it becomes more difficult to detect and remove.

Damage caused by this stagnant water can include:

  • Rotting in the home’s roof decking, exterior and/or interior walls, and rafters.
  • Mold growth, which can affect the health of people in your home.
  • Peeling paint caused by the presence of water in the wall cavity. This damage can actually appear after the ice dam has disappeared if the water remains and festers in the wall.
  • Reduction in the effectiveness of the home's insulation. Wet insulation performs poorly compared to dry insulation; if the insulation becomes wet enough, it may never dry out correctly.

Removal of an ice dam should be an immediate to-do for homeowners. While the icicles may be beautiful, they’re also a warning sign of problems that lie beneath.

In the next post, learn how to prevent ice dams from forming on your home.

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