Although it is not a typical roof complication in the Charlotte/Denver area, ice dams on the roof can and sometimes do cause water damage to local homes. Due to the sometimes-rapid changes in Charlotte weather, and the perhaps quick dissipation of the ice and snow that creates an ice dam, local homeowners may not be aware that their home has suffered water damage.
By definition, an ice dam is created when a ridge of ice forms at or near the edge of a roof. This can inhibit the runoff of melting snow. At this point water begins to back up behind the dam. The water may end up leaking into the home and causing seen or sometimes-unseen water damage to internal or external walls, insulation, and/or ceilings.
Visible damage is bad enough for it demands an immediate repair of the roof and the damaged home components. However, unseen water accumulation can end up forcing the Charlotte homeowner to address a much more costly repair situation.
Invisible damage is that which occurs along the wood sheathing of the roof, along the rafters, or down between the walls. This can be a long-term process that eventually ends up with a completely destroyed section of the concealed home components, especially when the trouble spot involves an exterior wall that is hidden behind brick veneer or vinyl siding.
Water damage involves two factors: Structural weakening and mold. When water damage is noticed and repaired at an early stage, mold plays a minor role in the issue. However, when the water damage is hidden or the repairs delayed, extensive and dangerous mold issues may develop. The removal of mold contaminated home components can be very expensive.
Causes of Ice Dams
Heat leakage is the primary cause of ice dams. The snow accumulates on a roof that releases too much heat onto a given upper area of the roof. The snow above the heated area melts, drains down to the colder overhangs of the eaves, and then refreezes. Thus an ice dam is created. As more snow melts, water begins to collect behind the frozen dams. Eventually, the accumulated water may seep through the roof and down into various areas of the structure.
Inadequately vented attics contribute to the problem. Poorly insulated attics enhance the problem. Long-term lingering of ice and snow on the roof increase the risk factor.
In learning from the experience of much colder areas of the nation, we find that the University of Minnesota Extension Service relates the following series of conditions to the creation of ice dams:
- Surface temperatures: In general, ice dams develop when the average upper surface of a roof remains above 32 degrees for a sustained time period while below freezing temperatures remain consistent near the lower surfaces of the roof.
- Removing the snow is the most effective immediate prevention of ice dams.
- Controlling ceiling to roof heat loss provides long-term prevention of ice dams.
- Ice shield membranes help prevent the water damage that can be produced by an ice dam.
Cost in the Waiting
Age brings wisdom. Young people seldom consider the damage that can result from an ice dam. Whereas it is not uncommon for an older customer to request snow removal services, the younger generation of homeowners, especially those in the less severe cold weather states, may completely ignore the issue until obvious signs of damage appear. This merely increases the cost of the repairs.
Perhaps you live in a southern state. Perhaps the snows around Gastonia or Charlotte, North Carolina seem trifle. Yet you may remember looking up while you were scraping the sidewalk. You have seen some icicles and an associated ice dam. It never hurts to be safe. Here are some long-term solutions:
· Check for any signs of existing damage. Be sure to investigate the hidden places.
· If necessary, contact a local Charlotte roofer. Repair any existing points of damage.
· Take steps to make your ceilings airtight. This includes areas around ceiling, light fixtures and attic vents.
· Consider blow-in attic insulation, or even lay some of the new space-age materials.
· Think about the structure of your home and the possible increase in snow load that may result from your upgrades. If it seems necessary, contact a local roofer to get advice and recommendations concerning the services of a professional engineer. At all times, the reliability of your roof support system must be maintained.
A new roof is no guarantee against ice dams, even if extended ice shield membranes have been installed. Neither is living in a low volume snow district. The Charlotte area is not immune to heavy snows, below freezing temperatures, and improperly insulated homes. Any type of roof leak is a serious home threat. Treat ice dams accordingly.