Many people are concerned about the devastating effects that ice can cause after a heavy snowfall. Such damage is basically caused by the damming of ice that forms through the uninterrupted warming of standing snow on the upper portion of the roof causing water to run down to the eaves and then refreeze. As a result, water tends to pool and back-up behind the dam, penetrating underlying roofing structures and leaking into the attic or upper portion of the building.
This is a preventable event that happens to structures located in snowy areas and can be very expensive if not detected at an early stage. Prior to calling in an expert, it is important to identify the possible signs of ice damage and know the corresponding actions that must be taken to address any problems.
Theoretically speaking, the primary cause of ice damming is the result of a complex interplay of: heat loss that comes from an attic; standing snow on the ridge line; and exterior atmospheric conditions. When warm air (320F or above) rises into an attic space and increases the temperature of the roofing material above, snow at that point on the roof starts to melt. Water then flows down the roof and into the eaves and ridge lines until the outside temperature drops to less than 320F, at which time it refreezes.
If such action continues, it can develop into a physical process called ice damming, which leads to the pooling and stagnation of water. Other probable causes for this phenomena include large amounts of sunshine after a snowfall, inaccurate gutter installation, and poor attic insulation and ventilation.
If the pooled water remains in the same place for a period of time, that result will allow for the penetration of water to essential underlying material and structures. By virtue of gravity, water will eventually find its way from the exterior covering to the roofing material, to the attic space and eventually interior ceilings, side walls, and insulation, causing damage to these structures. Therefore, it is of great importance to learn how to detect the signs of ice damming before the situation worsens and leads a costly repair situation.
One conspicuous sign of ice damming is water leakage; the only one way to find such evidence is through visual inspection. When a leak does occur, there is a sequence of events and various symptoms that can display that this action is occurring. Some evident indications of such a development could include: water-stained ceilings; paint bubbling; gutter sagging; and mold growth, all of which could threaten the health and well-being of residents of that structure.
There are several ways to avoid the formation of ice dams. One of the primary culprits, which is warm air being able to readily penetrate through the roofing materials, can indeed be controlled; however, there is more to prevention than just controlling this single aspect. Prompt and long-term preventive actions can be undertaken to address the ice problem through the following actions:
- Snow Removal – Removal of snow build-up should be done by raking or using push brooms.
- Barriers – The placement of radiant barrier chips and waterproofing membranes should be done.
- Insulation Upgrade – The improvement of insulation and increasing the R-value is helpful.
- Ventilation – Attention to attic ventilation to balance inside and outside temperatures is crucial.
- Gutters – Inspection of gutters to ensure that they are properly pitched is productive.
Winter snow can be beautiful, fun and exciting; however, as it melts and refreezes on a roof such charm can quickly become displeasing and damaging. When ice dams develop, there are subsequent events that must be detected at an early stage to avoid a possible outcome that could be both costly and stressful. Knowing and being able to detect the obvious signs that an ice dam has occurred encourages prompt attention to this issue and allows necessary preventive actions to occur that would avoid any costly repercussions. If any of these signs are apparent, it is imperative to contact an expert roofing contractor to take control of the problem and avert further ice devastation on a roof!
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