An ice dam is the consequence of snow that has repeatedly melted and refrozen. When the warm air inside an attic transfers through the roof and begins to melt the layer of snow, which in turn causes melted snow to run down the roof. When the snowmelt reaches the edge of the roof, they refreeze, because the eaves (roof edge) does not come in contact with the warm air from the attic. As more snow melts and refreezes, the layer of ice on the roof’s edge continues to build, creating an ice dam.

Heat loss and ice damming

Ice dams are formed when snow melts and freezes to ice at the edge of the roof. A direct cause of ice damming is heat loss through the attic.

1. Weigh Down & Pull Off Gutters

With the record-breaking snowfall we are receiving throughout Iowa, your home’s gutters are feeling the weight of ice, snow, and water.  The pressure caused by this freezing and melting process can cause sections of your gutters to collapse or pull off of your home.

Frozen water can cause damage to the gutter itself, so the gutter effectively directing water away from your home becomes even more important. This could quickly become a foundation issue by the thaw of spring.

gutters falling off

Gutters should carry water away from your home. Snowmelt can lead to water pooling next to your home’s foundation.

2. Leaks & Structural Damage

When ice dams form, snowmelt has nowhere to escape.  Water can penetrate under the shingle, and work its way into your roof deck. Once the leak makes it inside the attic, it can be the start of big issues for your home’s interior.

Leaks from your ceiling can be a sign that you need an attic and roof inspection. If your attic insulation has become wet, it cannot do its job. Acting like a wet blanket above your head, spreading leaks throughout the attic.

leaking water stain on the ceiling

Water spots forming on the ceiling from the attic can be a bad sign. An ice dam can cause water to drip back onto the insulation and the ceilings drywall. 

3. Mold

Learning from the past two issues of moisture in your home’s interior, we see the start of the problems unwanted water can cause. Water and humidity cuases structural wood beams to rot and drywall to crumble.

All of these items becoming damp is a breeding ground for mold. Mold growth happens in temperatures from 5 degrees to 38 degrees. When your home’s heat escapes to the attic, a literal trickle-down effect takes place. Respiratory illnesses such as asthma and allergies are often caused by mold growth. Empathizing the importance of getting ice dams and heavy snow off of the first protective barrier your home has to the elements, your roof.

mold on home wood beam

Pictured is mold growing on the beams in the attic. High humidity and poor ventilation, quickly spawn mold.

4. Roof Collapse

Older homes & roofs are more prone to ice dams and water damage because the techniques for installing insulation have changed. Although more high-end homes are more likely to use recessed or can lights, that can result in improper insulation contributing to this problem.

The age of your home & absence of maintenance can also increase the chances that your roof can collapse altogether under the weight of accumulated ice and snow.

Damaged roof from ice dam

Every year snow buildup and ice dams on roofs is a major cause of damage to both the shingles and to the roof deck underneath.

5. Water in Your Basement

We are hoping you see a reoccurring theme with what an ice dam can do to your home. These problems start from the top your home and work their way to your basement and foundation.

Water in your basement can be a result of snow melting and ice dams. We highly recommend you don’t pile snow near your home, it will melt, the water will pool, and it will seep into your foundation.  Also, keep your gutters as clear as possible as well as your downspouts directing water at least 5 feet away from your home.

Wet Basements clogged gutters ice dams

Snowmelt and ice dams can cause pooling water around your foundation and erosion, which weakens the basement walls – leading to foundation cracks and settling.

Don’t Let Ice Dams Endanger Your Biggest Investment – Your Home

We recommend you contact an expert right away to assess any ice or snow damage that may be affecting your home.  There is no clear and simple answer to what is causing the ice dams on your home. One thing is clear, it can lead to long term damage to your homes, interior, exterior, and foundation. It could be poor insulation, not enough roof ventilation, clogged gutters, or more.  For a free no obligation inspection please reach out to our award-winning team today!