Michigan winters can be cold yet beautiful. The blanket of snow that covers the ground is the epitome of what a winter wonderland should look like, especially when that look is accompanied by glistening icicles. But whether or not you love the winter months, if you’ve ever wondered if that snow and ice is damaging your roof, John McCarter is here to answer your questions.
The good news is that you as a homeowner only have to worry about icicles and even ice dam formations during freezing temperatures. The bad news, however, is the presence of these formations can mean trouble for your roof if not properly taken care of.
Icicles Vs. Ice Dams
An icicle is a cone-shaped piece of ice that hangs from the eve or gutter of your roof. To form, it requires water to make its way to the edge of your home and freeze as it drips off the side.
Ice dams are a buildup of ice toward the edge of a roof. As the ice dam grows, it can block water from being able to properly flow to your gutters, essentially creating a dam on your roof.
Why They Occur
Icicles and ice dams are the result of varying rooftop temperatures. When areas of your roof have different degrees of temperature, snowfall will melt in the warmer regions, migrate to the roof’s edge, and refreeze, creating a block of ice or icicle formation. But what causes this to happen?
- Improper Insulation— Multiple factors can cause the formation of ice dams, but the biggest reason for their appearance is improper attic insulation. Without proper insulation, heat will make its way into the attic, causing uneven temperature distribution to the roof. The roof edges, where icicles and ice dams typically form, have no insulation underneath, which causes the refreezing.
- Chimneys, Dryer Vents, and Plumbing Stacks— These home features release heat. When their outlets are located on the roof (which most of the time they are), that heat melts the snow and ice, causing the thawing and refreezing process.
- Rapid Temperature Changes— Ice dams can also form simply due to mother nature’s temperature swings. This is out of your control, but it is important to remain aware of this cause. When temperatures fluctuate rapidly, it can create the perfect environment for ice dams to form.
Potential Home Damage
Icicles create less cause for concern than ice dams. Icicles, apart from potentially falling on a passerby, only pose a real threat to your home’s gutters. But on a larger scale, they can often be the indication of ice dams, which can wreak havoc on your roof, gutters, and interior. (Although the presence of icicles does not always mean ice dam formations have occurred on your roof.)
Water damage is the biggest issue that can arise from ice dams. The ice creates a blockage so melted water cannot properly drain from a roof. Instead, it backlogs and gets under the shingles, damaging the roof deck or leaking into the interior. If you notice leaks during the wintertime or notice water stains near the roof’s eaves, you likely have roof damage from ice dams.
Ice dams can also weaken the integrity of the shingles they reside on or can cause your gutters to bow or break under their weight.
What to Do if Your Home Has Ice Dams
We do not recommend attempting to remove ice dams yourself. Without the proper tools or knowledge, you can end up damaging your roof and creating greater issues. Never chip away at an ice dam. This could damage the already strained shingles.
If you notice the formation of ice dams, contact a roofing contractor for help. They have the proper training, knowledge, and tools to be able to remove ice dams without damaging shingles. And they can do it without using gimmicks that don’t truly work, like heating coils.
If your home has experienced roof damage from ice dams or just damage in general, contact a professional for a roof replacement or repair. While many homeowners attempt to DIY roof repairs to save money, hiring a roofing contractor will create a more lasting repair that will blend with the rest of your roof and keep future damage from occurring in that same area.
How to Prevent the Formation of Ice Dams
Ice dams are not always preventable. Sometimes nature will simply have its way. However, there are a few ways to be a savvy homeowner who helps prevent the formation of ice dams.
- Ensure your roof has adequate insulation. (If it is lacking, have insulation added.)
- Seal air leaks from your home into your attic. (This may best be done by a professional, as insulation will need to be moved around to find the leaks.)
- Ensure your roof has proper ventilation. (Hot air rises, so without proper ventilation, the heat that inevitably makes its way into your attic will be unable to escape, melting the snow on the rooftop.)
- Have a professional remove snow buildup from your roof. (We recommend hiring a professional. Climbing onto your roof during winter months, especially with snow present, can create a hazardous situation.)
Gain a Winter-Ready Roof
Understanding how they appear and knowing what to watch for in the formation of ice dams will help you become a savvy homeowner who knows how to protect your roofing investment. If you want to prepare your home for not only ice dams but other issues a Michigan winter can present, see our 6 recommended Michigan winter preparation projects.
And if your Detroit area home needs a roof replacement or repair to get it ready for winter, our team is ready to help. We are fully licensed and insured, and our team of roofing contractors will listen to your needs as a homeowner to provide you with the roof replacement you deserve. Contact us to get a free quote today.