What Causes Ice Damming? Hint: This Doesn't Involve Your Gutters

What Causes Ice Damming? Hint: This Doesn’t Involve Your Gutters

ice dams

Oh no!...few things are worse than coming home from a long day of work to discover a waterfall streaming down your walls or massive pools of water on your hardwood floors. You call a plumber because there's obviously a problem with a busted pipe or something. To your dismay, the plumber discovers no plumbing problem and simply points northward to your roof. 

Upon closer inspection, you realize the culprit is an ice dam gone wild that has caused water to seep through the eaves of your home. It has damaged your shingles, seeped under the roof sheathing, soaked your insulation, destroyed your drywall, and warped the hardwood floors — leaving thousands of dollars of repairs. While commonly associated with gutters, ice dams can form for a number of reasons. Let's take a look at the most common non-gutter causes of ice damming. 

What Is an Ice Dam and How Can they Form? 

Before we begin discussing the most common non-gutter causes of ice damming, it's important you have a clear understanding of what an ice dam is. An ice dam is nothing more than a buildup of ice on the eave of your roof. Ice dams can occur on any heated building situated in an area prone to heavy snowfall and fluctuating temperatures. 

Ice dams form when snowfall builds and creates an insulating layer of snow and ice. Instead of the building heat escaping through your roof, it melts the insulating snow at the highest points of the roof, which causes melted water to drain down until it arrives at a frozen surface - typically at the lowest points on the roof. 

This location is usually at the point in the eaves where no building heat can warm the roof surface. Once the melted water reaches the frozen surface, the water will accumulate and begin to form a growing dam that impedes additional meltwater from running off your roof. 

How to Spot Ice Dams?

There are a few different warning signs you should be on the lookout for that may indicate you have ice dams. Some of the most common warning signs for ice dams include:

  • You noticeably have water dripping down the exterior surface of your home.
  • You noticeably have ice forming on the outside of your home.
  • Your roof and/or gutters have icicles forming and hanging.
  • Your gutters and/or roof have ice developing along the overhangs.
  • Your gutters are filled with ice.
  • You have water dripping or icicles forming on the underside of your roof.
  • You have water penetrating the inside of your home.

What Are the Non-Gutter Causes of Ice Damming?

Ice, snow, and fluctuating temperatures greatly increase the likelihood of ice dams, especially following a substantial storm. While most people associate ice dams with gutters, the real culprits are explained below.

Failure to Clear Excess Snow Can Cause Ice Damming

If your home is prone to ice damming, or if you have experienced them in the past, then after significant snowfall it's vital to have the snow removed from your roof. Failure to do so is welcoming an ice dam to form. Why? Because eventually the heat from your roof can cause the snow to melt. 

Melting snow accompanied by additional snowfall on other (typically lower) parts of the roof is really all it takes to develop ice dams. Because of this, it's imperative to have the snow professionally removed off of your roof

And if you notice ice dams have already formed, it's of the utmost importance you have ice dam removal by the pros at Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island.  An existing ice dam will usher in additional formations that can lead to the costly damages explained above. 

Inadequate Attic Insulation Can Cause Ice Dams

If you're looking to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof, upgrading your attic insulation is a great place to start. Adequate attic insulation can help prevent the warm moist air from escaping your home and into your attic. By preventing the escape of the warm air, you can help keep your attic temperature close to the temperature outside, which is the most ideal way to prevent ice dams. 

Poor Ventilation Can Help Cause Ice Dams 

In the event you do have heat escape into your attic, proper ventilation is key to preventing the “warm” spots that cause the melt-off.  It's impossible to eliminate the total escape of all warm air into your attic, which makes it extremely important to have ventilation vents open and working. 

If your vents are blocked, airflow is significantly reduced, which can cause a buildup of condensation on the underside of your roof deck. This can cause a warmer roof deck and the start of snow to melt. All vents should be clear of obstructions and kept free of snow.  Attic fans are often used to circulate the warm air in order to create a more uniform temperature under the roof deck.

What Should You Do If You Notice an Ice Dam on Your Roof? 

If you notice an ice dam on your roof, it's critical you do not attempt to get rid of it yourself. Far too often, homeowners attempt to remove ice dams or icicles and cause more expensive repairs. 

Because of this, if you notice an ice dam, it's best to contact the professionals at Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning. Our specialists will quickly arrive at your home with the right equipment and tools to safely remove ice dams and prevent any additional damages. 

Contact Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island for Ice Dam

At Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island, we've been helping homeowners with gutter cleaning services and ice dam removal since 1965. Our team offers the experience and tools to quickly protect your home at the most affordable price. 

Contact Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning of Long Island today.

Erika Cruz

Erika began her career at Ned Stevens in September 2009 after 4 years of managing investment portfolios for banks and credit unions. She graduated with her business degree in Management in May of 2016 while working Full-time at Ned Stevens. With 11 years of gutter expertise, as office manager she is in charge of the day to day operation and is fully dedicated to her staff and customers.