We get a lot of calls during the winter from people having issues with ice dams that are in dire need of a remedy. A lot of times people think that their ice dams are caused by their gutters, but the real truth, they are not. Because of where they form, it’s understandable to why one would assume they are evidence of faulty gutters. Knowledge is power and understanding the real reason why and how ice dam’s form is the first step to banishing them from your home forever. Ice dams compromise the integrity of your home because they can tear off your gutters, loosen your shingles and worst case scenario, cause water to back up and start pouring into your home. The first thing that you need to know is how ice dams occur and are formed.
The life cycle of an ice dam:
- They begin inside your house when the heated air leaks up into your unheated attic
- When this warm air leaks into your unheated attic, it creates warm areas on your roof
- These warm areas cause the snow to melt which moves down the slope of your roof
- Once it reaches your cold overhangs, it refreezes
- This process continues which causes the ice to build up along your eaves causing the ice dam
- The ice dam will eventually cause water to back up under your shingles and into your home
Now that you know how an ice dam is really formed, how do you fix this issue? There are many ways to temporarily fix your issue, but there is only one fix that will eradicate the issue for good.
Heat Tape: Many uninformed homeowners believe that “heat tape” or “heat coil” is the be-all-end-all when it comes to getting rid of ice dam problems. WRONG! They are a Band-Aid solution. Heating cables will not clear your entire eave. You will more than likely still see ice buildup and icicle formations when installing this type of product. Heating cables merely melt the snow.
Break it off: Some novices think that getting on a ladder and chipping away at an ice dam will do the trick. Think again! Not only could you wreck your gutters, you can also damage your roof, voiding its manufacturer’s warranty.
Steaming it off: Steaming takes regular tap water and heats it up to 300 degrees. The steam is forced through a delivery hose and wand where it is focused into a thin, low-pressure column used to cut through ice. Just another Band-Aid fix.
The only true solution to fixing your ice dam problem is to have a home performance test done at your home to see where the air leaks are. This will allow you to know where you are lacking insulation in your home. Adding insulation will create a barrier to prevent heat from escaping from your roof which results in ice dams.