The presence of ice dams almost always indicates problems with your attic’s insulation or ventilation, or air leaks from the ceilings into the attic. The dams themselves pose a danger should they break off from the eaves, and they can also deteriorate your home’s exterior and the attic. Preventing them not only maintains the home’s structural integrity, but improves its energy efficiency.
Formation and Damage
An ice dam can only form when temperatures in the attic are warm enough to melt the snow on the roof. The heat inside the attic will seep into the roof decking and melt the snow. As it trickles down, it can collect on a gutter or build on the eaves. As the ice melts, it saturates the eaves, the roof, or the attic, causing wood rot or mold growth.
Use a licensed contractor to diagnose the problems causing ice dams and fixing them, or investigate the attic if you’re comfortable doing so by:
- Test the temperature inside the attic on a cold day. It should be close to the outdoor temperature, especially on or near the roof sheathing. Anything over 30 degrees F can melt the snow on the roof.
- Look for gaps in the insulation or unequal distributions. If you have less than 16 inches of insulation in the attic or it shows signs of mold or compression, you may need to add more or remove the damaged insulation and replace it.
- At the same time, look for gaps between the ceilings and the attic floor. Common places for leaks include recessed lights, vents from kitchen or bathroom fans, and a chimney or flue from the furnace. Ducts running through the attic may also leak warm air. Use caulk or flashing to stop the leakage. Use metal tape or mastic on ductwork leaks.
- If you notice that the air vents in the attic are obstructed, remove the blockages. Inadequate airflow keeps the attic warmer.
The pros at Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing can provide more information about ice dams. We provide trusted HVAC services for homeowners in Grand Traverse County and the surrounding areas.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about preventing ice dams and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.
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