It’s Winter Again, And That Means Ice Dams

Winter seems to have finally set in and with it, the possibility of ice dams. For those who endured the winter of 2014-2015 in eastern New England, the topic of ice dams became almost a daily feature of news and weather broadcasts. It seemed as if everyone had one, and those who didn’t still cast frequent, anxious gazes at their ceilings.

In case anyone has forgotten, an ice dam forms when accumulated snow on a roof begins to melt. As the water attempts to drain off the roof, ice forms along the eaves, where the air is colder. The condition is most likely to occur when the air temperature in the attic approaches or exceeds 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and the outside temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting “dam “ caused by the ice prevents the water from escaping. Water pools up behind the ice dam, and ultimately seeps through the roofing material into the interior of the structure.

Ice dams are hardly a new phenomenon, and are a common cause of property damage during the winter months. Newer homes, while not totally protected from ice dams, are more likely to have adequate insulation to keep the attic cool, and have effective roof ventilation. Paul McDonagh, president of Independent Claims Service of Westborough, Ma., commented on last winter’s unprecedented volume of ice dams: “ We have always dealt with ice dams as an anticipated consequence of winter weather. No one foresaw the thousands of ice dams, and resulting claims, which arose so rapidly last winter. We mobilized all available resources in order to keep up with the constant flow of new claims. It was the same across the industry.“

Once ice dams form, there are steps that can be taken to remedy the problem, but some approaches may not be practical for every property. Removing ice and snow from a roof is a dangerous undertaking, best left to professionals. There are many internet sources which outline the various approaches currently employed to eliminate ice dams. Once the problem has been resolved, consideration should be given to improving attic insulation and roof ventilation in order to reduce the likelihood of a reoccurrence.

While no one expects the winter of 2015-2016 to mirror last winter, ice dams are possible any time there are snow-covered roofs and temperatures well below freezing. Paul McDonagh concludes: “The ice dams made a really tough winter even worse for thousands of property owners. It was no picnic for claims departments, either! We hope we don’t see another winter like that for a long time.“

We are sure our readers would echo that sentiment.





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