Heavy Snowfall Could Spell Trouble With Ice Dams

Madison, Wis. (Dec. 14, 2007) — Driveways and sidewalks may not be the only things that need clearing after the recent heavy snows. Residents may want to turn their attention to their roofs to prevent home damage caused by ice dams, says American Family Insurance.

Ice dams form when melting snow runs down the slope of the roof and refreezes near the edge. As more snow melts and runs down the roof, water builds up behind the ice dam and seeps into the home, damaging drywall, carpeting and cabinets; and sometimes even collapsing ceilings.

“The recent snowstorms in southern Wisconsin have created conditions that are ideal for ice dams,” says American Family spokesman Steve Witmer. “The good news is that in some cases homeowners can prevent the situation from becoming a major problem.”

The best approach is to clear snow from the bottom 6 feet of the roof, which allows water from the melted snow to reach the gutters and drain to the ground. This can be done – without climbing on the roof – by using an extendable “roof rake” that can be purchased from a hardware store. It is not necessary to clear snow from the entire roof.

So far, local American Family policyholders have filed only a smattering of ice dam claims. Standard homeowners insurance covers interior structural damage caused by ice dams.

“Our adjusters are ready to go if claims begin to spike. Our hope, however, is to nip the problem before it occurs so our policyholders can save on the deductible expense they would incur if they did sustain damage and had to file a claim,” Witmer says.

Long-term, a key to ice dam prevention is keeping the building’s attic temperature as close as possible to the outside temperature. This means insulating the attic floor and installing adequate ventilation. Peak or roof-mounted vents allow warm air to exit the attic; soffit vents allow cold air to enter the attic. Both types of vents are advised.

Moreover, inspect gutters from the ground to see that they have not pulled away from the structure, and that the gutters slope towards the downspouts. Clean gutters and downspouts to allow unobstructed flow of running water to the ground.

For new construction in areas with heavy snowfall, it’s highly recommended that an ice and water shield be installed along the lower 3 feet of the roof and valleys. This rubber covering is placed under the shingles and seals around nails to prevent dammed-up water from seeping through the roof.