Ice Dam Prevention Heads Off Costly Roof Repairs

Ice Dam | Ice Dams | Madison WI Sims Exteriors and Remodeling
Ice dam damage can be extensive because water is relentless when combined with gravity

An ice dam is a pervasive problem in Madison WI and can lead to serious roof damage and extensive roof repairs. If you’ve had an ice dam, even a little one, you can bet your roof is a candidate for another.

Ice dams are caused by poor roof ventilation and warm attic spaces. When snow melts, water moves to the lowest spot where it can refreeze. If the snow is deep, the water runs under it and refreezes as an ice dam near the edge. Repeating this process for a few days can force that water under shingles where it finds its way into insulation, structural elements, drywall and even paint. If the ice dam is allowed to remain, it will get larger by the day and the ice dam’s pressure on your roof will get greater – leading to roof damage and roof repairs.

Why does snow melt on the outside of the roof even when it’s below freezing? Mostly, because the underside of the roof is above 32 degrees. If attic spaces warm too much or too fast, snow melts quicker and ice dams form. The attic space warms to above freezing because there isn’t enough air circulation – poor ventilation through ridge and soffit vents.

Ice Dam Damage Potential

Ice Dam | Ice Dams | Madison WI | Sims Exteriors and Remodeling
An ice dam is not difficult to identify. Hanging roof ice generally means some damage isbeing done

If an ice dam forces water under shingles, the damage mounts up. Ice dam problems may not be readily apparent. It can be a slow process, especially if the ice dam is relatively small and doesn’t last too long. Water leaks under the shingles to where it can damage ceilings, walls and insulation.

Wet insulation doesn’t do its job. Under the right (wrong?) circumstances mold can grow in the attic space. You might notice paint blisters or a “wet spot” on a ceiling or wall months after the snow is gone. Water inside the house is finding its way out. In the worst case, you may find so much roof damage beneath the singles your roof repair ranges from a few shingles to replacing a large portion of the roof. And, you could have enough water inside the home to require attention to insulation, ceilings, sheet rock walls and paint.

Ice Dam Prevention is the Answer

Before snow builds up is the time to check any location where an ice dam showed up in the past. That’s the most likely spot for another ice dam. Roof ventilation is almost the only way to prevent an ice dam – unless you can physically reroute the flow of water or keep snow off your roof.

Temperatures in the space under the roof must be close to the outside temperature. Check your ventilation – a simple cleaning may head off an ice dam and costly roof repairs. Here are things to check:

  • Recessed can lights in the ceiling below – are they insulated properly or does interior heat leak out around them?
  • Is the attic floor insulation thick enough and even? Is it time to a new layer?
  • Are the edges of the access doors sealed enough?
  • Are bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans vented properly?

Ice Dam Protection – Stick Your Head Into The Attic

Go to the attic on a day when it’s below freezing outside and check the interior temperature. The temperature inside the attic should be at or close to the outside air temperature. If there’s a significant difference between the inside and outside temperatures, chances are you have ventilation issues, an insulation problem, or both. If you don’t take action, not only will you continue to have ice dams, but you can “cook” your shingles from the inside out next spring and summer as inside attic heat rises to excessive levels.

The best time to win the battle again ice dams is before they show up. Start by keeping you gutters clean and making sure downspouts aren’t clogged.

Is a “heat tape” a solution for ice dams? They work for light snows, but with a heavy wet snow that’s typical of Madison WI, they can make an ice dam worse – actually moving it further up the roof.

One of the best weapons in the war on ice dams is a long-handled roof rake. If you get out ahead of the worst build-up and clean off at least four feet of roof above the gutters you’re on the way to preventing an ice dam. Be sure to use a specific long-handled roof rake that can be wielded from the ground…you don’t want to be doing this from a ladder.

A Perfect Time For Ice Dam Corrective Action

Before freeze/thaw ice dams can be a problem, call Sims Exteriors and Remodeling, a qualified roofing contractor for a comprehensive examination of your entire roofing system. A Sims roofing specialist will review all the potential contributing factors, including ventilation, soffet, gutters and related drainage, siding and internal air quality – humidifiers and exhaust fans can play a role, too. Once the inspection is complete you will get a detailed plan for anything requiring attention.

“The best defense is a good offense.” Paying for roof repairs now can save paying for a whole new roof in the future.

Ice dams are problems in Madison WI that can lead to serious roof damage and extensive roof repairs. If you’ve had an ice dam your roof is a candidate for another.

For years, the professional roofing contractors at Sims Exteriors and Sims Remodeling have helped homeowners in the Madison WI area and all of Southern Wisconsin with
ice dam and roof repair, ice dam and roof damage prevention and roof ice removal.–

We’re on call throughout the Madison WI area, including Middleton, Waunakee, Fitchburg, Oregon, Verona, McFarland, Stoughton, Cottage Grove, Sun Prairie, DeForest and all of Dane County.

Call or email Sims Exteriors and Remodeling to put your ice dam prevention plan in place in your Madison WI home.

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