Ice dams and ice icicles are forming on many houses and homes during winter here in Michigan. In this article, we cover what an ice dam is, what causes ice dams, short and long-term fixes, and how to prevent ice dams.
What is an ice dam?
Ice dams form when there is a build-up of snow and your roof heats up to 32 degrees or more. When your roof is above 32 degrees it will melt the snow touching the roof, which runs down to the eaves, refreezes, and turns to ice. This melt and refreezing ice builds up and turns into an ice dam.
What causes an ice dam in Michigan?
Ice Dams are usually the cause of a warm attic. In most homes, heat escapes from the living areas and warms the attic spaces. A warm attic will heat the wood and shingles on the roof. Even with the temperature below freezing snow will melt on the heated roof and the meltwater will flow onto the cold eaves and re-freeze. Attics can heat up from heat leaking through air gaps in unblocked walls, drywall, plumbing fixtures, lights, chimneys, access hatches, and other penetrations in the ceiling. A warm attic is often due to improper insulation.
Effects of ice dams on Michigan roofs
Even though some icicles have a nice look, an ice dam will cause damage and you will have to get your Michigan roof replaced if not removed. Ice dams cause damage by the water pooling up behind the dam and then finds ways to infiltrate your house. The leaking water will at the minimum stain your ceiling and walls, and most likely will grow mold and mildew. This can be a health hazard for your family. If ice dams are left and the water continues to leak over time, your Michigan roof will need to be replaced, and maybe even your wall and ceiling coverings.
Another hazard of ice dams is the damage they do when they fall. Ice Dams can weigh from a few hundred pounds to a couple thousand. This weight will tear off gutters, and crush anything they fall on. This is one reason we recommended you hire a professional for any ice dam removal.
Short-term ice dam control in Michigan
At first, it may seem like a good idea to toss some salt up there, you are already using it on the walkway so why not? Well, salt is very damaging to your vegetation and plants around the house, and most likely will not do a thing to help your situation.
A quick and temporary fix is to fill the leg of discarded pair of pantyhose with a calcium chloride ice melter. Lay the filled pantyhose along the ice dam and overhanging the eaves. This will melt and create a channel for the water that is behind the ice dam to drain out. Remember this is only a temporary fix and the ice will freeze and rebuild the ice dam.
Removing snow from your roof will also help prevent ice dams. There are a couple of ways to remove the snow from a roof in Michigan. One way is to use a roof rake and pull the snow off of the roof. Another way is to shovel it off. Both ways can be dangerous so use caution, when pulling the snow off it can crush you, and when shoveling from on the roof you can fall off. We always recommend hiring a professional for safety.
Long-term ice dam prevention in Michigan
The best way to prevent ice dams and possible roof replacement in Michigan is to have proper venting of the warm air out of your attic space. Making your attic space cold so it does not heat up the roof and melt the snow is the best cure for ice dams.
To vent warm air out of an attic space there has to be an opening for cold air to enter and hot air to exit. Vents in the soffit under the eaves are recommended for cold air to enter the attic. It is common for the soffit vents to be plugged, or even improperly sized. Cold air comes in at the soffit vents and exits out through a ridge vent or pop vents on the roof.
If you are not sure what type of venting you have we recommend contacting a professional roofer in Michigan. An expert will be able to inspect your roof, attic, and venting to give you a proper diagnosis. Sometimes cleaning out vents is all that is needed, but more often than not to truly prevent ice dams you will need to replace your Michigan roof. An experienced and reputable roofer will be able to *seal off your attic, and install proper venting when replacing your roof.
Call a Roofing Company Near You
If you are in South-Eastern Michigan you can always give us a call and know that you are getting three generations of trusted experience. When replacing a roof in Michigan we utilize an integrated system of components and layers designed to help perform in three critical areas to prevent ice dams.
● SEAL Helps create a water-proof barrier
● DEFEND Helps protect against nature’s elements
● BREATHE For balanced attic ventilation
Ultimately if you have icicles hanging off of your house you are risking water infiltrating and damaging your home. Michigan is known for its harsh winters and icicles hanging off of houses is a common sight from Detroit to Mackinaw.
Don’t let ice dams ruin your home, call us today at 248-629-9260 for a free consultation and estimate.
*Caution: Whenever you make your home more airtight, check your combustion appliances (gas, oil, or propane-fired water heaters, furnaces, etc.) for back-drafting. Appliances that don’t draft properly can dump waste gases, including potentially deadly carbon monoxide, into your Michigan home.