Ice dams. If you live in Eastern Nebraska, you don’t have to drive around long before you see houses (maybe even your own) with giant icicles hanging from the gutters. It looks pretty, but obviously it’s not an ideal situation. What you are seeing isn’t just icicles! You have an ice dam issue!
What causes ice dams?
Ice dams occur when there is a large quantity of snow built up on your roof followed by multiple days and evenings of a freeze/thaw cycle. As snow melts on the upper areas of your roof, the water travels down to the gutters. If the gutters are already full of snow and ice, the water pools behind the ice. It either gradually flows over the top (creating the “icicles”) or backs up under the shingles as it re-freezes. Both situations can be problematic. The ice in (and overflowing over) your gutters becomes incredibly heavy, which can negatively impact how the gutters perform going forward. The ice that creeps up under your shingles can cause a “leak” when it re-melts, resulting in moisture in the attic and water spots on your ceiling.
What can I do about this?
As far as what to do in the present? There isn’t a whole lot you can do, to be honest. I’m advising most people that are calling me right now (except in extreme cases) to let nature take its course this time around. However, going forward, there are ways to prevent ice dams:
- Attic ventilation. While it may be counterintuitive, you want your attic space to be as close to the outside temperature as possible. This will aid in the snow melting from your roof at a more natural pace than if the attic is too warm (see illustration). It will also prevent interior condensation inside the attic.
- Clean your gutters. When the snow on your roof does melt, it has to go somewhere. If the gutters are unable to do their job, they will fill up, freeze, and add to the ice dam problem.
- Free up your downspouts. Make sure that the end of your downspouts are not buried in snow and ice. The water needs somewhere to go, or it will back up into the downspout. The chain reaction will cause your downspouts and gutters to become a block of ice.
Prevention moving forward
As Ben Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. My general advice for now? CAREFULLY remove snow and icicles over traffic areas (doorways, garage, etc.) to prevent problems from falling ice and snow. But unless you are experiencing significant issues, let nature take its course for the remainder of this winter. (If you aren’t sure if you are an extreme case, give us a call at 402-330-0999 for help – it’s better to be safe than sorry.) As for the preventative part, contact us when the weather clears up. We would be happy to go over your ventilation, gutters, and other roofing system components to help you find ways to prevent ice dams in the future.