Ice Dam

With all the snow and freezing weather we’ve been having here in Sioux Falls and Mitchell, South Dakota, let’s take a minute to talk about what all of that white stuff may be doing to your roof.

Ice Dam? An ice dam is a blockage of ice that forms at the edge of the roof, typically at the gutters or soffit. They act as a dam for the water created by melting snow and prevent it from draining into the gutters. When this is the case, water can find its way into your house.

What causes ice dams?
For an ice dam to form, there must be snow on the roof. The surfaces close to the peak of the roof must be above 32°F, and lower surfaces below 32°F. A dam will grow on the parts of the roof that are below freezing as melt water runs down your pitched roof. Poor ventilation and temperature control in the attic can also cause ice dams. Excess warm air in the attic can cause the snow on the roof to melt regardless of the temperature outside. Recessed lighting, skylights, complex roof designs and heating ducts in the attic increase the chances of an ice dam developing.

Ice Dam - East River Home Inspections
What to look for?
All those cool looking icicles may be a sign of ice dams. Having icicles doesn’t necessarily mean your roof is harboring an ice dam. Small icicles are usually harmless. The telltale sign to watch out for is seeing ice where it shouldn’t be, like on the edges of your roof, through your soffit, or behind your gutters.
If not addressed early, the water ice dams let into your house can damage insulation, rendering it ineffective. When the water freezes it can cause structural damage, lifting shingles and pulling gutters off the house.

Steps you can take for prevention:
Properly winterizing your roof is the best way to prevent ice dams. Consider these precautions.
• Always keep your gutters clean.
• Keep your attic well ventilated, so it stays cold, and properly ventilate the roof and eaves.
• Insulate the attic floor to reduce the amount of heat rising from within the house.
• Rake or shovel snow off the roof before it freezes or hire a professional roofer to clear your roof.
• Create an air barrier between the house and attic with a foil-faced cover over an uninsulated attic hatch or whole-house fan opening.
• Install a water-repellent roof membrane.

Improperly ventilated attics, as well as inefficient and clogged gutters and downspouts are deficiencies that can be found during a home inspection. So, if you are buying your new home in Sioux Falls or Mitchell South Dakota, make sure that your home inspector is checking these items.