Prevent and Repair Ceiling Damage Caused by Water From Ice Dams

Those of us living in areas of the country which receive considerable winter snow get to enjoy a White Christmas, sledding, skiing, and snowmen. Indeed, a cousin living in a Massachusetts snowbelt community had moved to the United States from a Mediterranean country. He said he only felt like a real American after his first time clearing snow with his new snowblower.

There are also a few down sides about living with snow. One very bad “down side” is called an ice dam on your roof. This causes great misery as melting snow may be pushed under shingles and find its way down your home’s ceilings and walls.

An ice dam is caused when the bottom snow lying on the roof melts and slowly moves downward. The reason this snow begins to melt is because heat from the house travels through the attic and is trapped underneath your roof. However, when the melting waters reach the roof overhang, which is not warmed by an attic, the water again freezes. As more water flows into the ice it builds up creating a dam.

As additional snow melts it begins to form puddles of water on your roof. Eventually, the water is pushed underneath shingles and runs down ceilings and walls. The minimum damage this can cause is having to repair small areas on walls and ceilings damaged by water, and then repaint. More severe problems can result in ceilings, walls and flooring having to be replaced.

While there are no methods to guarantee you will not have ice dams on your roof, there are some relatively simple means of reasonably protecting your house during the winter months.

A very effective way is to make sure your attic is properly ventilated. This will reduce the temperature in the attic by expelling trapped heat and decrease the amount of underlying snow melting on your roof.

To properly ventilate an attic, engineers recommend one square foot of vent for every 150 feet of attic floor area. Be assured, most older homes do not have large enough vents to meet these requirements. If you choose to, you can always add larger vents or more vents to reduce the heat in your attic.

A very effective form of venting is called a ridge vent. Installed on the ridge of your roof, this allows air to flow from your side or soffit vents up through the top of the attic and out. Another common way to reduce attic heat is to lay sheeting of insulation inside the attic.

As you know, other people fight ice dams by going up onto roofs and chiseling openings to allow water to flow. This might be effective, however, there is considerable risk to harming shingles during chiseling and doing even greater harm to yourself while up on a snow and ice covered roof.

Other people use electric cables which can melt portions of snow. This is a little tricky as the cables may or may not be located where an ice dam is and they need to be intermittently turned on and off manually.

For this reason, professionals prefer properly insulating and ventilating an attic to prevent the formation of ice dams.

While there are no guarantees that you can prevent the formation of ice dams, there is a reasonably good chance that you can do much to protect yourself from the damage caused by water running into your home due to ice dams.

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