4 Aspects of Your Roof That Encourage Ice Dam Leaks

4 Aspects of Your Roof That Encourage Ice Dam Leaks

If your home has ever experienced an ice dam leak, you may be wondering why you were so unlucky and how it was able to happen. Several roof-related factors can affect the chances of suffering this type of leak. Learn the causes and take some practical steps to reduce your risk, and you won’t have to panic whenever you see an icicle.

Here are four factors that could encourage ice dam leaks.

1. Insufficient Ventilation

Proper attic ventilation gives roof shingles a longer life and reduces energy expenditure. Good attic ventilation is critical in wet and cold seasons. Without good ventilation, condensation forms on the roof deck and can cause mold and rot. Improper attic ventilation can cause or assist in ice buildup as well.

An ice dam leak often gets its start in life when the lowest layer of snow is melted by heat coming through the roof. This newly liquid water then drains to the cooler edge of the roof where it can refreeze, causing an ice dam. The more heat leaks through your roof, the faster this process goes, and the more likely you are to have ice dam leaks as backed-up water moves beneath your shingle roof.

On the other hand, great ventilation means you have plenty of cold air sweeping into your attic and up across your roof deck. This keeps the roof nearly the same temperature as the outside air, so the bottom layer of snow doesn’t melt as fast.

2. Poorly Insulated Attic 

Another contributor is how much heat escapes into your attic or roof space. The more heat your attic collects, the harder it is to keep your roof deck cold. One way to help your roof out is to simply install additional insulation on the attic floor.

You should also tackle air leakage. If you have warm-air leaks into your attic from downstairs, another layer of insulation won’t solve the problem alone. Attic bypasses, which are holes in the attic floor that let wiring, ducts, and other essentials through, can be a big culprit here.

In some cases, attic bypasses can simply be closed up with expanding foam. However, some (such as around the chimney) require special techniques. Be sure to hire an experienced contractor who will keep things up to code and not create any hazards while closing up bypasses.

3. Clogged Gutters or Downspouts

Gutters aren’t necessarily the most common cause of roof leaks, but they can contribute to ice dam formation when they’re malfunctioning. If your gutter or downspout is filled with dead leaves or bird nests, any snow that melts won’t be able to drain away before it re-freezes. And once it re-freezes, the ice is the perfect springboard for an ice dam leak.

Fortunately, clearing out your gutters and downspouts in fall can mitigate this factor. You may also want to install screens on your downspouts and covers on your gutters so you won’t have to clean them out multiple times during the winter.

4. Rough, Dark, or Flat Roof Surface

Since asphalt shingle roofing is so popular in residential America, having a rough, dark roof surface is the norm. This type of roof, especially if it has a low pitch, is highly susceptible to ice dams.

However, if you have a steep metal roof, you’re in luck. Metal roofs are reflective and smooth, which helps snow to slide off the roof. This is especially the case with a steep roof. With less time exposed to your roof’s surface, the snow is much less likely to form an ice dam.

As you can see, some types of roofs are more prone to ice dams than others. But if you stay on top of maintenance and repairs, you can make your roof much less likely to have this problem. For assistance with roof ventilation and other ice-dam-preventive upgrades, call SUNVEK today.