Home Inspection: Ice dams and icicles 101
We’ve had a lot of snow this year. As temperatures warm, you’ll notice ice forming underneath the snow on your roof. When this ice builds up, it can create an ice dam. Here’s how it works. Snow accumulates on your roof, particularly in shaded areas away from the sun. When the sun shines the solar heat melts the snow from above while heat loss from your house melts the snow from underneath. The melted snow trickles down to the surface of the roof where it settles along roof valleys, shaded areas, overhangs and gutters. When the temperature drops again, the melted snow refreezes forming ice. This ice forms what we call an ice dam.
Ice dams and icicles are a part of living in the high country, but they can create problems. The water from the melting ice can find a way inside a home causing damage to drywall, flooring, or areas behind walls and ceilings. Ice dams can cause structural damage if enough water enters the home and remains for a period of time. Ice dams may lift or damage roof shingles. Removal of ice dams can cause damage to roofing materials if not done carefully. Always watch for falling ice and avoid walking underneath roof edges.
We live in an area of severe conditions with widely varying temperatures. Just a few weeks ago, we saw 20 below at night. Soon after, we hit daytime temperatures of 50 degrees. Ice dams form under these extreme conditions. Depending on the weather, each year will vary. With the amount of snow this year, and warmer daytime temperatures increasing, vigilance to your roof is crucial. If you haven’t had problems in the past, do not assume that you are free of problems in the future. Each winter brings different amounts of snow, with a varying freeze and thaw cycle.
What do you do about ice dams? First, don’t panic. Every ice dam does not mean a problem, but vigilance pays and solutions vary. Solutions include installing heat panels, heat tape (also called heat cables or coils), adding insulation or creating ventilation in attics. Preventative maintenance always helps. When possible remove snow from your roof, or at minimum remove snow from the edges. This should be taken with extreme caution as falling snow and ice can cause severe accidents.
You can find a list of gutter and roof specialists on the first page of the Summit Daily classifieds. Call the professionals and have them take a look at your property. Monitor your home. If you have a second home be sure to have someone check it regularly. The blue bird days of spring will be here soon and those warmer temperatures mean melting snow and ice.
Patrick Wathen and Joni Ellis are the owners of Independent Property Inspections, Inc. They can be reached at (970) 468-9400.
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