How to Recognize Roof Damage from Ice Buildup

groundhog dayArctic temperatures. Snow-laden storm fronts marching across the land, dumping megatons of white misery as they pass. And now that cursed groundhog says were in for more!

Winter in Southern Wisconsin and Northwest Illinois is no picnic, and if the roof over your head damages the rest of your house, that doesn’t help. Let’s look at ways to handle (or prevent) water damage related to the roof of your home or business.

The biggest winter water damage threat: Ice dams

An ice dam is caused when heat from the interior of your building melts snow on the sloped roof. Because heat rises, the peak of the roof will be heated the most. As water runs down from the peak, some of it cools enough to refreeze, resulting in a buildup of ice, usually just at the edge of the roof. This then grows large enough to block the top of the gutters. Left undetected, this dam can block all drainage from the roof, allowing water to seep inside. Worse, ice dams are different enough from usual roof leaks that they sometimes aren’t noticed until a large amount of water has intruded.

This leads to some questions:

How do I recognize an ice dam?

Other than water intruding into your house, the surest sign you have an ice dam is unusually large icicles and/or ice clumps hanging from your gutters or roof edges. Some icicle buildup is normal, of course, but you shouldn’t see any lumps, any ice seeming to “lap over” the top of your gutter or any icicles significantly thicker than a couple of fingers.

What should I do if I have one?

One thing you shouldn’t ever do is try to get rid of the ice dam yourself. Roof work is best left to professionals in the best of weather and now you’ll have ice and probably an extensive snow pack to deal with. Contact a professional roofer.

How can I prevent ice dams?

Preventing ice dams is as simple as making sure your attic stays cool. If your attic is used mainly for storage, make sure the attic floor is well insulated. This will prevent heat from escaping the living space and heating your attic. This in turn, will keep the peak of the roof cool and reduce your heating costs. The attic should be ventilated and should be at most 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. If any heating ducts pass through the attic, check for leaks and seal them with metal tape.

If your attic is a habitable space such as a bedroom or office, you’ll need to insulate the roof instead. Again, you want a barrier preventing heat from being conducted up through the roof material to the snow above.

Also make absolutely sure your gutters are cleaned before the snow flies each year. It’s simply much easier for an ice dam to form if there’s already a drainage problem.

When you have a new roof installed or are having repairs done, put a water repellent layer under the shingles. This should prevent water from seeping into the house if an ice dam occurs.

If an ice dam causes water damage, what should I do?

This is another situation where it’s best to hire a professional. A professional disaster recovery team will be able to track down all the water damage, handle it quickly (the faster the situation is resolved, the less the total damage will be) and prevent mold growth.

Snow buildup other than ice dams

As winter progresses, keep an eye on the downwind side of your roof. It may accumulate far more snow than the other side as snow is blown up and over the peak. Consider using a snow rake to remove snow from your roof after each major snowfall.

Be aware of other places, such as awnings, doorways, and the tops of windows, where snow can gather and cause harm as it melts and refreezes. Removing this snow after each storm is well worth the time because it can prevent expensive repairs later.

LDR Cleaning and Restoration is one of the premier restoration companies in Rockford, Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. LDR provides restoration services from water damage, mold removal, fire damage restoration, storm and hail damage repair for commercial and residential properties. Capable of handling any size loss and working with all types of insurance providers, the LDR disaster team is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Click here to contact LDR, or call 1-888-874-7066.

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