Ice Dams: Separating Myth From Reality

March 31, 2017 adamb@evidently.com

 

Ice Dams: Separating Myth From Reality

You’ve seen them on plenty of homes during the winter season: the row of icicles that grows thicker and longer as the frigid weeks wear on. Ice dams are commonplace on homes in many parts of the country, and you’ll hear many differing opinions about how to deal with them. How do you know who to trust, though? 

Some DIY websites would have you believe that it’s not about stopping ice dam from occurring, but rather that it’s about the cheap ways to remove them on an annual basis. There is a multitude of ways you might currently believe you can go about limiting ice dams forming, but how effective are any of them? Let’s work on separating the myth from the reality. First, however, let’s talk about how and why ice dams form.

Ice Dams: The How and the Why

When heat is able to escape from inside your home via the roof, it can can cause ice or snow that is present to melt. As that melted snow cools off at the eaves of your roof, it freezes once again and begins to build up, over time, preventing further water from draining, which can then cause water leakage into the attic and damage ceilings and walls.

Why would heat escape? It’s possible your home is insulated with a traditional material that has begun to settle over time, creating spaces where conditioned air can escape. Another possibility is that your home has areas that traditional insulation was unable to reach, such as tiny cracks or corners. This is something that could easily be remedied by replacing your traditional insulation with spray foam insulation such as Icynene, which creates an effective air barrier wherever it is applied. This is because Icynene spray foam insulation expands to 100 times its original size, upon application, to fill even the smallest cracks and gaps. Let’s take a look at the myths and realities of ice dams and how to deal with them.  

Ice Dams: Myth vs. Reality

MYTH: Not all ice dams are cause for concern.

REALITY: In actual fact, an ice dam of any size is not something you should ever ignore. It’s generally an indicator of a problem that will only worsen, as time goes on. As well, ice dams should never just be removed and forgotten about; a thorough examination of where and how heat loss is occurring should be your next step, once you’ve discovered an ice dam.

MYTH: If you’re worried about heat escaping your home and warming your roof, just add more insulation.

REALITY: More insulation means higher R-value, which means a better insulated house, right? While partly true, it’s not the entire story. The best-insulated homes are the ones which are air sealed, something that traditional insulation materials are unable to do without the inclusion of additional materials. The ideal combination is finding insulation with an optimal R-value and the ability to create an effective air seal in your home, which Icynene spray foam insulation can do.

MYTH: Ice dams can be managed on a regular basis through simple DIY methods like using a blunt tool to break up the ice, or melting the ice with salt or a cable heater.

REALITY: These solutions are all ”quick fix” that avoid examining the larger issue, which is why ice dams are forming to begin with. Not only that, but hacking away at your roof can damage it permanently, and melting the ice on one section of your roof won’t necessarily avoid an ice dam from developing on another section. Truly, the most effective way to deal with the issue of ice dams is to examine your home for air loss in the attic or rafters, or get a professional energy audit. Then, have spray foam insulation like Icynene installed to seal your home in order to limit further air loss. 

MYTH: You don’t have to worry about ice dams if you can’t see any damage on your home.

REALITY: Don’t fool yourself; if there’s an ice dam, then there is more than likely some damage, it just might not be visible yet. It could be sodden insulation that’s beginning to grow mold, or a gradual build-up of moisture in your attic beams that could eventually lead to rotten wood, or possibly just a loosening of shingles, due to the ice being pushed backward and underneath of them, as the ice dam builds. Regardless, ice dams are an indicator of a larger problem that you shouldn’t pretend does not exist.

In the end, figuring out what to do about ice dams is quite straightforward: determine the cause and work to fix that, rather than continuing to just treating the symptoms. The ideal way to solve the underlying issue is to replace your existing insulation with spray foam insulation like Icynene, which has an optimal R-value as well as the ability to create an air seal wherever it is applied.

Dealing with ice dams is as simple as finding a licensed Icynene spray foam insulation contractor in your area, to come and assess your home and speak with you about your options. Discover more reasons to choose Icynene.

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