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Ice Dams


Preventing and Dealing with Roof Ice Dams

Today’s subject is ice dams on roofs. With the historic ice and snow and record streak of freezing weather across Texas the last several days the number one call we are receiving at our office is regarding ice dams, and what can be done about them.

What is an ice dam

Roof ice dams are a phenomenon whereby ice forms near the eave of your roof. As the ice above that begins to melt, that water often migrates into the interior of the house, possibly causing severe damage. The way this occurs is generally as follows:

Ice Dams

Heat from the house is lost as it escapes past the insulation in the attic. This heat continues through the roof of the house, where it comes in contact with the accumulated snow and ice on the structure. As the heat from the house melts the snow and ice it naturally begins to flow down the roof, to the bottom, or the eave which of course extends beyond the heated living space of the house. As this happens the thawed water begins to re-freeze once again, creating a barrier for the water trying to run off the edge of the roof. Having no where else to go the water is pushed backwards up under the shingles, which were never designed to be submerged in this way. With out a way to run off the roof, the water flows into the attic space, and on into the interior of the house.

Is ice dam damage covered by insurance?

We are often asked if homeowners insurance will cover the damage this water causes? While we are not licensed insurance experts, we do have extensive experience with such claims. Unfortunately, it is our experience that this type of claim is not typically covered by the standard Texas homeowners policy. (For a more detailed answer to that question you should inquire with your personal insurance agent).

Ice dam prevention

Is there a way to safely remove these ice dams before they can cause so much damage? There are a couple of ways actually.

  • Hot Water
    One is to gently run hot water over the dammed up area, which will melt the ice and allow the water to run off the roof as designed.

  • Heating Cables
    Another way is to install heating cables near the eave of the roof in anticipation of this phenomenon.

  • Ice and Water Barrier
    A material known as an Ice and Water barrier can be installed at the time of ones roof installation along the bottom 3 feet of the eave, thus preventing any water from entering the house, even if an ice dam occurs. Though this is not an altogether common practice here in Texas, it is becoming more acceptable, and more common.

Ice dams on roof – The best solution

As to the first solution, one must have at the ready a source of hot water to implement the technique. In the latest situation here in Texas, unfortunately, no such solution was possible, as there was no electricity throughout most of the state, for much of this event. Regarding the second solution, in 35 years of roofing in Texas I have never seen it used, as ice dams are such a rarity here, and the materials used in this process would likely not survive the Texas summer heat. Which leaves the last solution as the best.

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