Preventing An Ice Dam In Madison WI

 IceDamDiagramHaving an ice dam form on a roof is a fairly common experience for homeowners in Madison Wisconsin.

The ridge of ice building up on the eaves of a roof has is common wintertime issue for Madison residents, especially when the temperature swings to the warm side after snow is on the roof. And that is bad news.

Ice dams often can lead to water damage and worse. If the cause of the ice dam is not corrected, structural damage can occur affecting interior of walls, floors and multiple levels in your home in addition to the roof damage

A symptom of the problem is the shelf of ice or icicles hanging from gutters and that can be annoying. The real problem, which can have a huge price tag, is the unchecked ice melt trickling down the inside of the walls or pooling on top of ceilings. Ice dams can cause thousands of dollars of material damage and, even without wall or ceiling damage; molds can develop behind your walls and be a risk to your family.

The Causes Of An Ice Dam

An ice dam needs three things to form:

  1. Snow on your roof
  2. Heat to melt the snow – from within a house or as part of a “January thaw”
  3. Cold temperature to refreeze the melted snow

Typical winter weather supplies the snow and cold. With even one or two inches of snow accumulation on your roof, coupled with freezing temperatures, the outdoor conditions needed to form an ice dam are in place.

Warm air leaking from inside a structure (usually the attic) warms the roof. As the snow melts, water runs down the roof, reaching the cold roof edge where it freezes. As this process continues, an ice dam builds up along the eaves. Once in place, the ice dam forces water back up under the shingles. When that occurs, water can back up into the ceiling or wall inside the structure. The result can be water-stained ceilings or walls, peeling paint, damaged plaster, damaged shingles or sagging gutters.

Preventing An Ice Dam

Keeping your roof cold is the most effective way to prevent an ice dam. Have proper attic insulation (at least R-38) and sealing where air leaks into the attic are crucial first steps. Ventilating your roof correctly is also a very important factor in preventing and ice dam.

The best time to prevent air from leaking into the attic is when you build your home because hard to reach paces are more accessible. Attic bypasses are much more difficult to access after construction is complete. However, sealing bypasses is pivotal in keeping the roof cold. Professionals using diagnostic equipment such as infrared scanners and blower doors can identify leaks and can help determine the best approach to sealing them.

Focus on Energy in Wisconsin can provide information about the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program which offers diagnostic services.

All repair or remodeling projects can provide access to otherwise hard to reach spaces. Replacing the roof or siding offers opportunities for sealing air leaks and upgrading insulation. Homeowners should plan on budgeting to seal air leaks and upgrade insulation as part of any new project.

Common Contributors To Ice Dams

  • Vent stack – the upper portion of the plumbing waste pipe through which gases and odors escape
  • Attic entry – hatch doors, pull-down stairs or stairways
  • Chaseways – where chimneys, garbage chutes, etc., go between floors and attic
  • Heating ducts – ducts go through the attic
  • Shared walls between apartments Other common, but less obvious, bypasses include:
  • Places where electrical wires, electrical boxes and fan housings penetrate into the attic
  • Improperly vented bathroom fans and/or kitchen range hood fans – vented into the attic rather than outside
  • Ceiling light – ceiling fan fixtures
  • Dropped ceilings – above kitchen cabinets, bathtubs or closets, or the slanted ceiling above a stairwell
  • Gaps at the top of interior walls
  • Knee walls – short walls between the ceiling and floor

Learn More About YOUR Ice Dam

Focus on Energy provides detailed information to help homeowners make smart energy choices. The Focus on Energy’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program helps prevent ice dams and increases the comfort, safety and longevity of your home. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also offers tips and analysis tools for increasing your energy efficiency.

The professionals at Sims Exteriors and Remodeling have helped homeowners avoid and correct ice dam problems with their homes and businesses for years. We provide roofing, siding, window replacement services to Madison WI, Cottage Grove, Sun Prairie, Deforest, Waunakee, Middleton, Verona, Fitchburg, McFarland, Stoughton and all other communities in south central Wisconsin.

For an expert review of your situation please call 608-825-4500 or email us and our roofing and remodeling pros will meet you on site to examine your ice dam and create your custom solution.


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