May 22, 2015


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Charlene Kroll

Community Correspondent

What you need to know about ice dams

Ice dams on city rooftops, such as this one pictured in spring 2013, will become a problem in coming weeks.

PHOTO BY JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

Ice dams on city rooftops, such as this one pictured in spring 2013, will become a problem in coming weeks. Photo Store

With the recent deep freeze, the warm weather seems like such a long way off. I keep telling myself that temperatures will get nicer; I’m hoping, anyway!

Along with the warmer weather will come the dreaded ice dams. Ice dams are defined as thick ridges of solid ice that build up along the eaves.  

Icicles hanging along the eaves of your house may look beautiful but they are a sign of trouble. Ice dams can affect the service life of roofing materials and components, tearing off gutters, loosening shingles, and causing water to leak into your house.  

Norm Gregoire at Dr. Roof estimates that "thousands of homes in Winnipeg have ice dams."

One-and-a-half-storey houses typically experience most ice dam problems because they tend to be older homes with no overhangs or soffits. But the ice dam problem can affect newer homes as well, especially when there is a convergence of valleys or dormers and no route for water to drain away. Ice dams can also affect homes that have improved the energy efficiency of their home with energy efficient furnaces or windows. The change in ventilation reduces the natural air changes in the home and the moisture has no place to go but up due to stack effect.

Ice damming is caused by the differential melting and freezing of snow on a roof.

First, the heat collects in the attic and warms the roof, except at the eaves. Then snow melts on the warm roof and freezes on the cold eaves. Finally, ice accumulates along the eaves, forming a dam. Melting water from the warm roof can back up behind it, flows under the shingles and into the house.

A proactive maintenance approach is recommended as the best method to minimize ice dams. This involves periodic snow removal which eliminates the source of the problem.

To remove an ice dam, snow is typically removed from the area so that the ice dam can evaporate on its own with the help of the sun’s heat.

It is not an easy fix to prevent ice damming problem from occurring again.

The goal to prevention is to reduce or eliminate heat loss. Depending on the situation, this may involve ensuring roof penetrations are properly sealed, ensuring proper ventilation of the attic, or controlling the humidity in the living space with a humidifier or energy recovery ventilator (ERV).

More intensive solutions include repair or replacement of the vapour barrier, which can involve re-roofing the house.

It is best to seek the advice of a professional, who can provide specific solutions for the situation. For more information, visit the Dr. Roof website at www.drroof.ca

Charlene Kroll is a community correspondent for North Kildonan. She can be contacted at krollcharlene@gmail.com

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