10 Ways Ice Dams Damage Your Home

By Juno Construction

Water intrusion may do the most damage to your home, but it is not the only threat posed by ice dams. Listed below are ten ways those pretty icicles can damage your home.
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What Are Ice Dams?

An ice dam is a large chunk of ice that builds up on your roof. It forms when the snow on your roof melts, runs down the shingles and freezes on the cold roof eaves (the edges of your roof). When ice dams grow large enough, water will sit behind the intrusive ice mounds and eventually start to move under the shingles allowing water to enter your home.



1) Rotted Roofs, Rafters, and Interior Walls:

Water may be crucial for sustaining human life, but, when it comes to your home – it can be disastrous. That’s why it’s so important to remove ice dams immediately. Over time, ice dams can cause severe damage to many different areas of your home.



Have you been budgeting to replace your roof and rafters? Probably not, right? Unfortunately, once these things have been damaged by water intrusion, the only way to fix them is to replace them.

That means you may be paying a contractor and potentially an engineer to make these unexpected repairs. However, simply repairing the affected areas does not address the reason ice dams are appearing in the first place.

Ice dams form because of heat loss in the attic. The only way to permanently remove ice dams is by having your attic inspected. Bypasses must be sealed and the proper amount of insulation and ventilation must be present.



On a positive note, it is highly unlikely that your home is experiencing this level of damage. It would take many years of serious ice dam leaks to get to this point. The best way to avoid this situation all-together is to focus on eliminating ice dams as soon as they appear.


2) Compromised structural integrity

Above we spoke about materials becoming compromised from water intrusion, but we did not talk about why it is so important to fix deteriorated elements such as damaged rafters, ceiling joists, and wall framing. Water can weaken these materials to the point when they are no longer structurally capable of holding the loads they were initially intended to, which can lead to disastrous consequences such as buckled floors, collapsed ceilings, and weakened walls.



3) Reduced effectiveness of insulation:

Insulation has an important role. It forms a barrier against the transfer of heat in and out of your home. In the winter,  it helps to keep heat inside the conditioned living space, which in turn keeps heat out of the attic. Your attic should be the same temperature as the exterior air. When it becomes warm (from heat rising and passing through open bypasses), it will heat the roof deck, beginning the first step of ice dam formation by melting the snow on the roof.



Once an ice dam has formed and began to trap water behind it, moisture may start to seep through the roof deck and onto your insulation. If this continues to happen, your insulation can begin to lose its thermal resistance. That means it is no longer acting as a barrier, allowing heat to transfer in and out of the home. Long-term effects can include condensation, the break-down of building materials, and mold problems.



4) Exterior Damage

We have already mentioned how detrimental water damage is to the health of your home. Not only can leaks damage the interior of your home, but it can also affect crucial exterior elements such as soffits, fascia, eaves, and siding.



If gutters get torn off, damage to the rest of your exterior can occur. If gutters remain intact, water can efficiently work its way into soffits, fascia, and behind the siding. If you hire someone to remove your ice dams, be sure to check their credentials. It is common for shingles to be damaged during the removal process due to lack of education or carelessness.

Replacing damaged siding, fascia, soffits, and shingles is not a cheap process. The best solution is to fix the ice dam issue as soon as possible.


5) Higher utility bills and wasted energy

Fixing your ice dams may lower your energy bills. Since the leading cause of ice dams is heat loss in the attic, fixing this issue will reduce your heat/air conditioning bill. With proper insulation, ventilation, and sealed bypasses, heat cannot escape from inside your home in the winter and will stay out of your home in the summer. This means using less heat and running your A/C unit less.



6)  Mold & Mildew Issues

Repeated leaks and water intrusion can lead to severe mold and mildew growth. Mold can act like a virus and spread (via the HVAC unit at times) throughout the home. This issue should not be taken lightly. It can be challenging to eliminate mold spores and poses a threat to the inhabitant’s health. Sensitive individuals can experience symptoms such as nasal congestion, inflammation, asthma, and rhinitis (according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). These health issues will become continuously more pronounced if exposure to the mold continues.



7) Foundation/Drainage Issues:

It is quite common for gutters to be dented, bent, or completely ripped off the roof eaves from ice dams. Without intact gutters, water can begin to flow off the roof and collect around your home’s foundation. Moisture can move into the soil (during warmer days) and ultimately freeze within the earth and put a lot of pressure on your foundation potentially leading to cracks and/or bowing. Sidewalks and driveways may also experience cracking and movement from lack of gutters.



8) Interior Water Damage

We have mentioned some of the detrimental threats that water leaks pose to the structural integrity of materials within a home; there are also aesthetic reasons to take care of these leaks. When water intrusion occurs from ice dams, signs may be visible within your home. You may notice large stains on your ceilings/walls or areas where paint has darkened or started to peel. Sometimes plaster can even expand or bubble. This can be very irritating to a prideful homeowner. And, encourage a potential home buyer to walk away from your property.



9) Fire Hazard

If water is allowed to flow into your home and begins dripping on electrical wires, there could be a problem. These leaks can short out wires, putting your home at risk for fires. If electrical wiring is present in your attic, it is best to turn off electricity until the problem can be resolved.



10) Slip and Fall Hazard

Sometimes water leaks are so significant they can drip onto the floors within your home. Unless you plan on ambushing an unwanted house guest,  you probably don’t want dangerous obstacles laying around the house (especially if you have children or seniors living with you). This may seem like a small risk but could lead to an expensive hospital bill if an accident were to occur.



In Conclusion

Ice dams are responsible for all kinds of long-term issues and are no joke. If you are noticing symptoms like water staining, leaks, damaged gutters, water pooling around your foundation, or high energy bills, your ice dams may be posing a threat to your home and family’s health.  If this is the case, have a professional perform an attic and roof inspection.

A legitimate professional will be able to provide you with long-term and temporary solutions for the issues at hand. Be sure to do your research before hiring a third party. If you hire a contractor, check reviews/references and find out how long they have been in business. There are also highly qualified engineering firms who can provide you with inspections and solutions. Check the companies references and make sure the engineer is licensed and in good standing.


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