The winter brings with it plenty of hazards for your home or building that you may or may not be prepared for. Most people are familiar with frozen pipes and common fire hazards, but do you know what ice dams are and why it’s important to prevent them?
When snow and ice build-up on the edge of your roof, it is hazardous not only to the people standing outside but also to the living spaces or working spaces indoors. Ice dams and standing water can lead to major issues with mold and water damage if not prevented beforehand or addressed quickly after occurring.
What is an ice dam?
An ice dam is a formation of ice at the edge of a roof, which prevents water and snow from draining off the roof. This happens when snow melts on your roof and then refreezes on the eves. This cycle of melting and refreezing builds-up and creates a dam of ice, behind which water collects. The ponding water can then leak into your building and cause damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation.
Large amounts of snow and ice on your roof can create a multitude of problems. These can include:
- Injuries from snow and ice falling
- Roof collapse, especially for flat roofs
- Carbon monoxide buildup from blocked chimneys and vents
- Water damage from leaks and attic condensation
All of these problems are very serious. Our team here at ServiceMaster Trifecta wants to warn you of all the dangers, and also make you aware that we are experts when it comes to water damage. When ice dams cause moisture to enter your home or facility, they increase the chance of mildew and mold growth. Excessive mold cases can cause respiratory issues and pose other health risks. Damp walls and ceilings can also cause structural problems, putting your building in danger of even greater risks.
How to prevent ice dams
Buildings generally have codes in place to prevent ice dams and attic condensation, but they don’t help with every issue and sometimes codes are even ignored. You should talk to a builder or designer to ensure your home or facility is up to code, but there are also a few ways you can help prevent ice dams.
- Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans and dryer fans should all discharge outside, not your attic space because the air that comes from those vents tends to be warm and moist, causing snow to melt and refreeze.
- Minimize fixtures mounted to the ceiling below the attic to reduce the need for holes. Properly seal ceiling penetrations to make them airtight.
- Proper attic ventilation will keep the air cool enough inside to prevent ice buildup outside. Insulation, however, can help prevent warm air from your home or building from leaking into your unheated attic space. Ensure that all soffit vents are not obstructed.
- Install a self-sealing membrane under the shingles to help prevent water damage.
- For metal roofs, install snow guards above entrances.
- Keep gutters free of debris to help with water drainage.
- Before bad weather hits, install heat cables along the roof’s edge in a zig-zag pattern.
What to do in the event of an ice dam
It’s important if you do experience an ice dam on your building to not try to solve the problem yourself using any type of “quick fix.” To avoid more damage to your roof and potential injuries, don’t try to remove snow or chip away at the ice on your roof, and don’t use salt or any other harsh chemicals. It’s worth noting that in an emergency you can use a roof rake to remove some of the excess snow, but it may cause damage to your shingles.
To prevent mold growth and mildew in your home in the event that an ice dam causes a leak, immediately take measures to dry out the damp areas and contain the water. Do what you can to get rid of the water source or divert it.
If you do experience water and mold damage from an ice dam this winter, ServiceMaster can help you navigate those challenges and also help you coordinate any insurance claims. There are plenty of steps you can take to prevent damage to your home during the colder months, but an emergency can crop up at any time. Our team is standing at the ready to help with your water damage restoration or mold remediation needs.
Don’t wait to get help if you think you have an ice dam causing problems to your home or building. Reach out to get help you can count on right away.