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Milwaukee/NARI Helps Homeowners Freeze the Effects of Ice Damming

Jan. 20, 2012

Snow, icicles, and frost – winter comes with beautiful scenery and fun activities. But once there is a slight increase in temperature, the aspects of winter that people love most can become damaging and messy.

Ice damming is a common issue in Wisconsin. How can a homeowner avoid this threat? Members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., celebrating 50 year’s as the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling resource, explain the triggers for ice damming and the steps homeowners can take to prevent or reduce its effects.

What is an ice dam?
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the roof’s edge. This build up of snow and ice prevents water from draining correctly. “The gutters fill up with ice and snow, and the melting snow has nowhere to go,” explained Christopher Wittmann, CR of Callen Construction in Muskego. “To identify an ice dam, look for a buildup of ice by the eaves or gutters.”

What is the cause?

Ice damming occurs when there is snow on the roof, and the temperature of the highest point is above 32 degrees. The snow melts and flows down. Once it hits the area of the roof below 32 degrees, it refreezes. This creates the ice dam, which continues to expand as it is fed by the melting snow above it. When the ice dam gets large enough, the water becomes backed up behind the ice dam, remaining a liquid.

A major cause of the roof’s temperature increase is a lack of insulation and ventilation. “Warm air escapes from the home and leaks into the attic,” said Rick Burback, CR, of Burback Builders in Muskego. The attic becomes significantly warmer than the outside temperature, heating the roof and melting the snow. In rare instances, the sun can cause the heat.

What damage can it cause?

The standing water on the roof can leak into the home, which damages the drywall and insulation. “It may cause mold, mildew, and discoloration,” explained Burback. The moisture can also make a home’s insulation inefficient and cause odors and serious structural damage if left unattended. “Discoloration where the wall meets the ceiling and around chimneys is often a sign of ice damming,” continued Wittmann.

How can it be prevented or managed?

Short-term Measures
A homeowner can remove snow from the roof, which eliminates one factor of ice damming. “Use a roof rake to get rid of the snow,” said Wittmann. “People may also fill a nylon stocking with salt and put it on the roof.” If water is leaking into the home, individuals can make channels through the ice, allowing the water to drain. This can be accomplished by hosing the roof with tap water. “Although it may be tempting, people should not go on the roof and chop the ice. It can damage the shingles or gutters and should be left to professionals, from a safety and knowledge standpoint,” said Burback.

Long-term Measures
The quick fixes can be effective, but it’s important to repair the source of the problem. “Homeowners should contact a qualified professional to inspect the attic and determine if additional insulation is necessary. An expert will also be able to identify if there are ventilation issues,” advised Wittmann. The ceiling should be air tight, so warm air cannot flow from the home into the attic. The attic should also be well ventilated to keep the space cool.

The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI - the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The Council's goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry's growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 800 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation's largest.

For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414-771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.

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