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Generally, in certain parts of the U.S, ice storms or severe snowfalls are not experienced much. However, when it eventually occurs, leaks, in this case, known as ice dams, are observed.

More often than not, people reach out to their local roofing companies to fix their roofs, thinking that the roof itself could be the cause of the problem but eventually finding out that it's not. This leakage comes from above and often happens because most house owners don't prepare themselves enough to handle ice damming.

This is why this article is filled with adequate information about how ice dams form and how you can handle them to help you deal with this disaster if or when it happens. After reading this article, you will be mentally equipped on what ice damming is, its causes, how you can prevent it, and whether or not your insurance covers it.

What Is An Ice Dam?

Ice damming is a situation that occurs when ice freezes down a roof or when there is a blockage on a roof caused by ice or snow. This forms a sort of dam that stops the ice from flowing adequately through the drainage systems when the snow finally melts. This makes the water remain on a surface that can't let water flow.

The water eventually starts dripping into your home until the ice is heated enough to melt away. While waiting for the complete melting of the ice, you will need some kind of container to stop the water from drenching your home because the amount of water that comes through can be immense.

Where Ice Dams Are Found On Your Roof

Ice dams are mostly found on your roof and in gutter lines. On your roof, the melted snow gradually gets beneath your roofing materials and eventually causes water to enter your ceiling. You can also find ice damming around deadpan valleys, roof crickets, and roof valleys.

Roof valleys are usually built to keep water flowing in the direction it's supposed to. When ice poses an obstacle to this flow, it flows towards an area that isn't supposed to accommodate sitting water and remains there, leading to water dripping into your home.

What Causes Ice Dams?

Heat bridging via walls

Many homes have inadequate heating systems or insulation, especially in areas where the walls and roof join. This issue is seen in most cases of short overhangs and slope roofs that are low. The transfer of heat is done via framing members, where it melts the snow on the roof deck, and the water flows out till it gets to the overhangs where there's no more heat and refreezes.

Leakage of air via walls

Transportation of heat can be done by air. This happens through the ceilings, which raises the attic's temperature and gives rise to the same kind of melting as described above.

Ventilation equipment

This involves equipment like air conditioning and furnaces. The equipment can cause ice damming as it can sometimes lead to unnecessary heating and freezing of the ice. This eventually creates room for an ice dam.


It may be a bit tough to understand, but the R values of snow range between 1 & 2. Therefore, a large quantity of snow on roofs helps warm the attic and heats up the air inside, leading to snow melting. The reabsorption of the yielded water into a part of the snow aids in turning it into ice.

Sun and wind

The wind helps blow off snow from the ridges, so when the roofing materials are faced with sun exposure, it leads to the melting of the available snow in its surroundings and, subsequently, the thawing out of water.

Are Ice Dams Dangerous?

As aforementioned, ice dams can be regarded as disasters and are dangerous. They can cause all sorts of damage to your home. Besides, they are hazardous to have hanging on your roofs because of the shape they assume; they can, on a few occasions, fall as icicles and, because of their sizes and weight, can pose a considerable threat to lives.

Ice dams also hang on your gutters, and since they are bigger and heavier than even icicles, they can fall and cause potential harm to you and other people moving on the driveways. They have to be removed or, better yet, prevented from forming to avert damage to lives and property.

How Can You Prevent Ice Dams?

Preventing ice dams is something that must be taken with all levels of seriousness. When the cost of the possible damage it could lead to is considered carefully, especially with regards to insulation, damages to electrical work, and even your attics and, most importantly, lives, it's only safe for specific preventive measures to be taken.

Thermal bridging

You can avoid the issue of thermal bridging by ensuring that the roofs have proper overhangs. This will give room for adequate ventilation and insulation.

Ventilation of attics

Always ensure that there's proper ventilation in your attic.

Insulation of attics

Make sure your attic is adequately insulated. This is done to ensure that there's no escape of heat via the roof.

Water and ice shields

When reshingling your roof, build a membrane that helps to shield water and ice.

Gutter sanitation

Sanitize your gutters and drainage systems, and clear off debris, leaves, or objects that would hinder the flow of the melting snow.

Roof sanitation

Make time for snow removal from your roof using a roof rake (not advisable to do on your own as you can cause damage to your roof, and it's a massive safety risk), or obtain the services of a professional to help you do it.

Some of the causes of ice damming (e.g., wind and sun) are unavoidable as these are natural phenomena. With that being said, the best and most proven way to avoid water damage arising from ice damming is to use a waterproof membrane beneath your roof covering. This helps to drain the water safely.

The waterproof membrane is something that has dominated the roofing market in the last 14 years and has proven to solve almost all problems associated with ice damming. Be that as it may, a large amount of money is injected into making this work.

Does Insurance Cover Ice Damming?

Typically, it's expected that your insurance company should handle whatever damage is being caused to your apartment, especially one caused by water to your home interiors. However, this, in most cases, depends on the policy you have with the company. This insurance policy will also determine whether or not they will cover the cost of taking care of the problem caused by the ice damming to your roof.

Removing Ice Dams

It is essential to let you know that you are advised not to try to remove ice dams yourself. This is because you may create holes in your roof if you try removing ice with a hammer or even an ax. If you decide to use chemical means for ice dam removal, you can also cause grave problems to your gutters or even shingles.

Regardless of how good you are with these things, it is always recommended that when it comes to ice dams, you try as much as possible to obtain the services of a professional, as they will offer seamless services with zero damage to your property.

Although a roofer can sometimes do close to nothing to stop the ice dams when it has already been formed, the roofer can help with ice dam prevention, and that's why you should always be on the lookout. You can also hire a roofing contractor to look at your roof and roofing materials to ensure it hasn't been compromised after the water has flown out.

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