An ice dam is a hump of ice that forms at the edge of a roof under certain wintertime conditions. An ice dam can damage both your roof and the inside of you home. It will put gutters and downspouts at risk too.
There are several things you can do to avoid getting an ice dam or to reduce the risk of damage after one has formed, but there’s really only one cure: a combination of better sealing, insulation, and venting in the attic and eaves.
Weatherization contractors are professionals who can deal with the heat transfer problem that creates ice dams. A blower door test should be used by the contractor you hire to evaluate how connected your living area is to the attic. In addition, they may have an infrared camera that can be used to find places in the ceiling where there is excessive heat loss.
The ice dam cure will also fix a significant loss of heat from your home. The money you save on fuel bills will pay for the work to protect yourself from ice dams, and your home will feel more comfortable during these cold winters.
Interior damage should not be repaired until ceilings and walls are dry. In addition, interior repair should be done together with correcting the heat loss problem that created the ice dam or the damage will occur again.
How do you know if you have an ice dam?
Look carefully at the icicles around the exterior of your house. If they are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, then an ice dam has likely not formed.
Check for water stains or moisture in the attic or around the tops of exterior walls on the top floor of your house. Stains and moisture may indicate that an ice dam has formed and water has penetrated the roof membrane.
How do I remove an ice dam? Get professional help so that you do not cause additional damage.
Should I remove excessive snow from my roof?
If you are experiencing ice damming, yes. Seek professional help to remove the ice dams, mitigate any damage, and to treat the source for the problem.
Otherwise, probably not. In most cases, concern over snow on the roof is unnecessary. Most roofs in Michigan are designed to handle the snow load of a typical winter, and can withstand 40 pounds per square foot, sometimes more. Homes with a flat roof, or a very slight incline, may need to be cleared sooner.
Homes that are most susceptible to roof cave-ins are those that underwent un-permitted renovations. The improper removal of interior load-bearing walls is often responsible for catastrophic roof collapses.
The good news is that residential roofs are required by building codes to withstand the heaviest snows for that particular part of the country. Local winter storm weather forecasts should alert you to the possibility that snow loads are becoming excessive and a threat to your roof.