Why Are Ice Dams Bad?
You may already have a hunch that you’ll need to get that ice dam removed, and are in a mild panic because you’re not sure how or when to get it done. Still, you might wonder whether you can or should wait it out. Here are the main reasons you should probably get that ice dam removed right now:
Reason 1: Ice dams often cause water to leak through your roof and into your home. That water can cause all kinds of expensive interior water damage, cause electrical failures (or fires), result in black mold, ruin furniture and valuables, and displace people and pets. Sometimes you see a little leaking before it gets worse, but sometimes the leaking is heavy right away. Leaking is the biggest immediate reason to get ice dams removed, and it’s the biggest risk you run in delaying – unless an electrical fire breaks out.
Reason 2: Ice dams often attract even more snow and ice. Snow tends to stick to or pile up on ice dams, and icicles often form on or near ice dams. That snow and ice can fall off your roof, causing damage to property, injuries, and even death in some cases.
Reason 3: Ice dams make it harder to keep your roof snow-free. They get in the way of your raking the roof. Of course, not keeping up with roof-raking is probably a major reason you have ice dams in the first place, so for most people the formation of an ice dam is the “I give up” point.
Reason 4: There’s a small chance your roof may collapse. Roof collapses don’t happen as often as you may think, and we don’t know of a single case where an ice dam was the only reason a roof collapse. But ice dams weigh tons, and roof snow often weighs even more. The combination of ice dams and roof snow is just too much tonnage for some roofs to handle (especially if rain follows a heavy snowstorm).
Reason 5: Ice dams ruin your peace of mind. Even if this ice dam won’t end up damaging your home or causing other harm, you can’t know that for sure. You can live in a house for 40 years and never have an ice dam, until the Big One shows up. You can have an ice dam every year and have it go away on its own, until you get one that wrecks everything.
By the way, an ice dam is plenty of trouble on its own, but it’s also a sign of a larger problem: either your attic has an insulation problem, a ventilation problem, thermally leaky areas (AKA attic bypasses), or all three. It’s unusual for ice dams to form on a cool roof. Nearly every time, ice dams form because the attic contains too much heat, and causes snow to melt and run down your roof, refreezing and damming when it reaches the colder parts of your roof (usually your overhangs or valleys, or both). If minimal heat enters your attic because of proper insulation & sealed attic bypasses, or if heat easily can escape your attic because of proper ventilation, ice dams are far less likely to become a problem.