Potential Disasters due to Ice Dam Formation - What You Should Know to Save Your Home!



A roof top “Ice dam”, as the term suggests, is a dam of ice which masses at the edge of the roof. The dam blocks off water (melted snow) and congests any drainage systems, resulting in potentially tremendous structural water damages. As the basic law of gravity suggests, water runoff, off a slope, will inevitably occur. If the flowing water (from top) is unable to pass thru a drainage (gutter) system, it will unquestionably find fissures and propel into and thru the structure. Recessed roof lights, skylights, complicated roof designs, and attic heating ducts contribute to ice dam formation. The following advice refers to the potential disasters due to ice dam formation and what any home owner should know to save their home!

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Further, attic heat congestion and leakage warms the roof’s surface and with inadequate roof and/or attic ventilation, the layered snow and below freezing point outside temperatures combine, and ice dams form. On a sloped roof, where the elevated roof sections reach a maximum low of 0°C (32°F), and a maximum high of 0°C (32°F)  is at the lower roof portions, water runs off and refreezes, causing ice build-up. It’s a continuous cycle of melting snow, water runoff, refreezing, ice accumulation, and obstruction of gutters.



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Roof ice dam is a potential disaster, which is a costly home owner’s nightmare. When the runoff water finds crevasses in the exterior it propels to the interior of the home. Water leaks into the attic, down its walls and through ceiling insulation and into the living space. Ceiling stains would be the lesser of the home owner’s problems. Repetitive water spotting causes condensation and dampness leading to mold and mildew as well as other biological growth which attribute to respiratory problems for every household member, especially in children and the elderly and those with weaker immune systems, even pets. In addition to potentially horrendous health risks, if not attended to promptly, decay of roof system, walls, and ceilings may result in potentially catastrophic structural damages.


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For ice dam prevention, roof weatherization by a team of professionals, in off winter months, is a long term, and paramount, solution. A respectable roofing contractor should diagnose all potential problems which attribute to the culprit. The hired professional should recognise then seal off all bypasses possible for water leakage – a standard water damage prevention process. Roof ventilation and attic insulation are also of great importance for ice dam prevention. Condensation will occur in an improperly ventilated attic and roof; the warm moist air increases the probability of ice dam formation. The roofing contractor should inspect, recognize and address all attic and roof ventilation problems which to prevent ice dam formation. Rusty nails, rust spots on insulation, frost build-up in winter, and/or mouldy odour are signs of poor attic ventilation. Another component attributing to ice dam formation is attic insulation. An inadequately insulated attic maximizes heat loss and warms the top layer of the roof system resulting in sublimation contributing to roof ice dam formation.


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During winter months however, should a proper roof weatherization be lacking, it is absolutely essential to recognize any ice or snow roof accumulations for potential ice dam formations. The formation process is unpredictable and may lead to further problems. A short term solution is roof snow removal to prevent melting and water leakage. When in this situation, it is considered an emergency where a team of roofing professionals is mandatory. Once water leaks into the home it is only a short matter of time that major damages to the roof and interior and exterior building structure will occur. It is inadvisable for anyone without roofing knowledge and experience to take on the task of roof snow removal as a high injury risk and major damages to the roof system may occur.


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