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Clear Ice Dams ... Ask how to prevent ice dams in future

Ice dams can be nightmares, potentially causing extensive water damage to their victim's homes. In 1993, record breaking snowfalls and an unusually long and cold winter caused tens of thousands of homes throughout New England and elsewhere to suffer ice dam-related damage. And many of these homes' roofs hadn't leaked in the previous 20 to 30 years!

And on any given year we may have a repeat performance!

If anything positive came of this disaster, it was that more people have become aware of what constitutes shoddy roofing practices. We realized that roofers had been getting away with installing minimally efficient roofs for years... all because the relatively mild winters we had been blessed with never put the roofs to the test! Whole housing and condominium developments were the victims of low quality roof installations by builders. And was there ever a price to be paid for this false economy... millions of dollars in interior wall, ceiling, and other property damage!

What is an ice dam, and how does it form?

When snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and refreezing occurs. In a perfect world, the snow would melt off the roof, enter the gutters, and flow harmlessly to the ground. Or the snow would evaporate from the action of the sun, and never really melt off unless the outside temperature rose above the freezing point. However, two key factors interact to cause problems... the outside temperature and the temperature of the inside of your attic.

The warmer your attic is, the more melt off that occurs at the roof surface. This melted snow would normally flow off the edge of the roof. Under certain conditions, though, when air temperature is very low, the water refreezes at the edge of the roof, where the interior roof surface is not being warmed by the attic. This refreezing gradually forms what is fondly known as an "ice dam", a growing heap of ice that blocks path of the melted snow.

Once this dam forms to a certain height, the melted snow that pools up behind it can suddenly leak back under the roof shingles and into your home! On a roof with a low slope, it only takes a small ice dam to cause water backup and leakage.

Contrary to popular opinion, gutters do not cause ice dams. However, an ice dam can extend into a gutter if weather conditions permit.

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