See what causes ice dams, and how damaging they can be in the video below! During the Blizzard of 1994 in Maryland, Thousands of homes and commercial properties dealt with damages from heavy accumulations of snow, which caused a large number of roofs to collapse from the weight of the snow. At the beginning the concern was the amount of weight on the roofs, but that quickly shifted to what causes ice dams as the snow started to melt.
When the ice dams started forming, the Media started recommending that people hire contractors to remove the ice dams, by tearing off the gutters to remove the ice dams and to prevent more from forming. While this advice was intended to help, it made matters worse! By the time I was able to contact the media, hundreds of homes had been damaged by contractors on top of the damage that the ice dams had caused. Because when the gutters were torn down, there were Hundreds of pounds of ice frozen on them, and to the roofing, which ripped shingles off the roofs, and in many cases ripped out the fascia and soffits as well. Some windows were damaged as the gutters swung down and hit the sides of homes, cars and some contractors. But it was about to get worse, because as the rest of the snow on the rooftops melted, it was no longer diverted away from the homes by the gutters, so it dropped right next to the foundation of the homes and flooded their basements as well.
As soon as I was able to reach the Media, I explained to them why their recommendation was a mistake. Then I set up interviews with all of the local TV stations to come out to a couple of our job sites, so we could explain what caused ice dams, how to remove them safely without causing more damages, and what needed to be done to prevent them in the future.
An ice dam is a buildup of water that is formed from melting snow on the roof, then runs down the slope of the roof and then forms into ice near the outside wall of the house. This is usually at the soffits where there is slightly cooler air because its located past the heated areas of the home, but where cooler air is drawn into the attic from the vents in the soffit. It may only be a difference of 1 Degree but if temperatures are low enough, that’s all that’s needed for the water to freeze. Through constant fluctuations in temperature, a wall of ice is formed across the roof and water begins to build up behind it. Once the pond of water behind the ice dam is deep enough, it starts to back flow into the exterior walls of the house. Ice dams are usually formed very slowly, so it may take a day or two for the water leaking into the walls to be noticeable, but when this happens and can cause water damage to every floor of the house below it.