An ice dam, the ridge of ice that builds up on roof eaves, is a common wintertime problem for Madison Wisconsin residents. An ice dam can cause costly structural damage that can affect not only the roof, but the interior of walls, floors and multiple levels in your home.
The shelf of ice and the icicles hanging from the gutters are obvious to the homeowner. What’s not always apparent is the cause of an ice dam.
Ice Dam Causes
Ice dams need three things to form:
- Heat to melt the snow
- Cold to refreeze the melted snow into solid ice
Madison’s winter weather generally supplies the snow and cold. As little as one or two inches of snow accumulation on a roof, followed by sub-freezing temperatures, are the outdoor conditions allowing ice dams to form.
Warm air inside the house (or apartment building) leaking into the attic and warms the roof. Melting snow runs down the roof until it reaches the cold roof edge, where it refreezes. Ice builds up along the eaves, forming an ice dam that can force water back up under the shingles and even into the ceiling or wall inside the home. Water-stained ceilings and walls, peeling paint and damaged plaster, damaged shingles and sagging gutters can be the result.
How To Prevent an Ice Dam
The most effective way to prevent ice dams is to keep the roof cold. Ensuring that you have adequate attic insulation (at least R-38) and finding and sealing the places where air leaks into the attic are the first steps. Adequate roof ventilation is also important.
The ideal time to eliminate or prevent air from leaking into the attic is when the home is constructed. It is more difficult to reach attic bypasses once construction is complete. Yet sealing these bypasses is essential to keeping the roof cold. Technicians using diagnostic equipment such as blower doors and infrared scanners can locate major leaks and determine the best approach for sealing them.
Contact Focus on Energy for more information about Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, the program offering diagnostic services to existing homes in Wisconsin.
Remodeling or repair projects, such as replacing the roof or siding, offer opportunities for sealing air leaks and upgrading insulation. Because the repair or remodeling project provides access to enclosed spaces that would otherwise be hard to reach, sealing air leaks and upgrading insulation should be incorporated into the project.
Ice Dam Education
Focus on Energy can provide a vast amount of information to help homeowners make smart energy choices. Focus on Energy’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program can help homeowners prevent ice dams while increasing a home’s comfort, safety and durability. www.focusonenergy.com
The Environmental Protection Agency offers a variety of tips and analysis tools that will help you increase your home’s energy efficiency. www.energystar.gov/homeimprovement
The professionals at Sims Exteriors and Sims Remodeling have helped homeowners avoid and correct ice dam problems with their homes and businesses for years. For an expert review of your situation please call 608-825-4500 or email us and our remodeling and exterior pros will meet you on site.