by Gilbert Migirditsian, professional engineer, home inspector, and founder of GM Inspection
Ice damming is a situation where warm air is escaping a building and causing snow to melt on the roof right around the freezing point causing icicles to typically form at the eaves. The main issue is not with the icicles themselves but with the water that is then trapped behind the ice dam allowing large amounts of water to enter the building from the roof and any other opening that may be available. Being in a cold climate makes this a problem I see way too often. But what to do? Does ice damming have a solution? Let’s first look at the main causes being either excess heat escaping from the building causing the snow to melt in specific locations or generalized ventilation issues causing heat to stay trapped in the attic thus melting snow on the roof. Some simple solutions are available to correct these problems at the source being adding insulation in problem areas or creating sufficient ventilation by either adding rafter vents, venting the attic by installing Maximum type vents, and installing adequate soffits. Are you planning on replacing your roof? Make sure there is sufficient membrane installed on the roof deck! This won’t correct the problem at the source but will create a waterproof surface that won’t allow the pooling water to enter the attic. But what about melting the ice by using heated cables? This is one solution I never recommend unless it is for temporary and very short term installation as it is not correcting the problem at its source. Every time I see these installed at inspections I make sure to search for ventilation and insulation issues as an underlying problem may be present. I recommend you do as much during your future property visits but keep in mind this is one issue that is simple to handle as long as you are aware of it.
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