Ice Damming on Alaskan Roofs and What You Can Do About It
Ice damming on roofs occurs when heat loss from the roof meets the cold snow, melts it and then refreezes as it reaches the parts of the roof below freezing.
As the melting and refreezing continues, the ice dam grows in size, its perimeter creeping up the roof where the freshly melted snow finds crevices and openings in your shingles to seep in. Once it freezes and expands, damage occurs and water can easily enter your attic.
This quickly leads to:
Electrical issues - increased fire risk
Siding and framing damage/rotting
The damage is quiet and slow, but it will cost you in spendy repairs down the line and dramatically decrease the value of your home.
The issues to be addressed as the underlying cause of the ice dams are: heat loss from your attic and/or damage to your roof itself if you had an ice dam issue last winter.
HOW CAN ICE DAMS BE PREVENTED?
The number one way to prevent ice dams is by regular roof shoveling. Regular shoveling prevents melted snow from being trapped between the frozen snow and the warmer roof. When it gets cold again, that water freezes and expands.
Heat tape/cable seems like a viable option - but often it's just a bandaid, masking the real issue. Labor and cost involved in the installation won’t necessarily prevent issues or save you money in the long run.
Another way to prevent ice dams is to make sure your attic is properly ventilated and air flows through the attic regularly.
Older homes are generally more at risk for ice dam formation and structural damage due to heavy snow on the roof. Older home are also more likely to have a higher potential for thermal issues and rot.
Take into consideration the age of your home when considering ice dam prevention measures like roof snow removal.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE AN ICE DAM?
Icicles are an indication there are ice dams forming, but not a sure fire thing. If there is ice build up behind the icicles and gutters, it’s likely there is an ice dam forming.
Flatter roofs tend to hold more snow moisture as snowmelt is unable to fall from the roof so ice dams form more quickly.
Older homes are generally more at risk for ice dam formation as they are more likely to have a higher potential for thermal issues and rot.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO REMOVE ICE DAMS?
The best offense is a good defense - prevention is everything. If you have a flatter roof or sections of your roof that are flatter, know that it will be beneficial for you to keep up with the roof shoveling in that area. If the ice dams have formed already, removing them with low pressure and steam is the most effective, non-damaging way to do it.