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An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms along the edge of a roof, typically at the eaves or overhangs, preventing melting snow and ice from properly draining off the roof. Ice dams can cause water to back up and seep into the interior of a building, potentially causing damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other structures.
Ice dams can lead to significant water damage if not addressed promptly. It is important for homeowners to be aware of the potential for ice and learn how to prevent ice dams, especially in colder climates like Wisconsin.
If left unattended during a snowy winter, water damage from ice dams can be very costly. Leaking water can damage drywall, leave stains on walls and ceilings, and create moist conditions that lead to mold and mildew. If an attic has old or inadequate insulation, or is not properly air sealed, it can be rendered useless with water damage from ice dams. Learning how to stop ice dams can prevent significant damage in colder weather.
Ice dams are caused by heat from the home rising into the attic and escaping through the roof. When snow accumulates on a roof, the heat from uninsulated spaces in the attic melts the snow. This snow melt flows down the roof underneath the snow until it reaches the colder eaves of the roof. On the colder eaves, the water refreezes and forms an ice dam.
As time passes, more snow melts, and the ice dam on the eaves of the roof grows. As the dam grows, icicles may form on the edge of the roof, which are a visible sign of ice dams. The newly melted water has nowhere to drain off the roof and can find its way under the shingles and into the home, causing water damage and leaky ceilings. Ice damming prevention can stop this kind of water damage before it starts.
Ice dams are influenced by factors such as insulation, ventilation, outdoor temperatures, and roof design. Preventing ice damming includes installing proper insulation and ventilation, which helps maintain a consistent roof temperature and reduces the likelihood of ice dam formation.
Attic insulation is one of the best forms of ice dam prevention because it keeps heat from reaching the roof of a home. Depending on the type of attic insulation material, a homeowner can either insulate the attic floor to prevent heat from reaching the attic or use spray foam insulation to create a barrier on the attic rafters that stops heat from transferring through the roof building materials and warming the shingles.
Insulating and air sealing an attic is a great solution for preventing ice dams and has a range of other benefits, as well.
Beyond roof ice dam prevention, upgrading attic insulation provides:
When insulation is old or inadequate, it allows warm air to flow up into the attic, which is what creates warm spots that lead to ice dams. Preparing for new attic insulation by first air sealing the attic ensures that the home is not losing valuable heated air through gaps and cracks. Air sealing also helps attic insulation perform as designed, as several common insulation types do not perform as well when exposed to moving air.
While addressing ice dams may require professional assistance in some cases, homeowners can consider several do-it-yourself (DIY) tips to manage ice dams and minimize their impact.
Safety should be a top priority when attempting DIY solutions for managing ice dams. If you're unsure, consider consulting with professionals, like those at Wisconsin Home Improvement, to address the issue effectively and safely.
Proper ice dam removal can be expensive, and DIY ice dam removal can pose a risk of personal injury as well as damage to shingles and the roof. In general, it is much better and more cost effective to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place by installing proper attic insulation.
If ice dams have already formed, there are some techniques to consider, although a professional assessment is always the safest route.
Homeowners can stop ice dams before they start by maintaining a properly insulated and ventilated attic. If DIY efforts are not sufficient or if there is significant damage, consider seeking professional assistance from ice dam prevention contractors. A roofing professional or insulation contractor can assess the situation and recommend appropriate measures.
Preventing ice dams often involves a combination of professional solutions that address the underlying causes of ice dam formation, with attic insulation remaining the most important factor. The insulation professionals at Wisconsin Home Improvement Co. LLC install two types of insulation in attics: blown-in insulation and spray foam insulation.
Blown-in insulation is typically made from materials like fiberglass, cellulose, or mineral wool and is installed by blowing or spraying loose-fill insulation material into wall cavities, attics, and other spaces. It is well suited for existing structures where retrofitting is necessary and is often more cost-effective than spray foam insulation.
Spray foam insulation is typically made from polyurethane or other synthetic materials and is applied by spraying a liquid foam that expands and solidifies, filling gaps and creating an effective insulating layer. It creates an effective air barrier, reducing air infiltration and enhancing energy efficiency.
Choosing the right attic insulation for your Milwaukee area home's unique characteristics depends on several factors, which is why our helpful insulation team is here to help you make the best decision. The Wisconsin Home Improvement team can give a full home assessment that includes your home's vulnerability to ice dams to help improve your home's value and your family's comfort.
While updating attic insulation is the best way to protect against ice dams, comprehensive upgrades to a home's insulation can improve many aspects of the home. Insulation keeps the cold out in the Wisconsin winter but also allows air conditioners to work more efficiently in the heat of summer. The professionals at Wisconsin Home Improvement can provide a comprehensive review of your home's current insulation status and make recommendations to reduce your energy bill and keep your home comfortable year-round.
Reach out today to schedule an appointment with one of our experts.