First, I’d like to explain how this massive ice mound forms on the most outer edge of your roof…
HOW ICE DAMS OCCUR
It snows and your roof surface will continue to accumulate this falling snow and the temperature (outside) of your home drops to below freezing.
1.) The temperature inside your attic is above freezing (warmer), due to the heated living area (below the attic) allowing heat to infiltrate the attic cavity, thus raising the temperature of your roofing material to above freezing.
2.) Because of the temperature differential and the warmer roofing material, the snow on top of the roof starts to slowly melt and gravity takes over. The melted snow (now water) starts to cascade down the roof (underneath all the accumulated snow) in an attempt to drain off the roof or into your gutters.
3.) As soon as the water reaches the outer edge of the roof (where the outer roof edge will not be as warm as the attic cavity) it gets exposed to the freezing air. The cascading water now freezes into an ice mound (that literally clings to your roofing material) along the edges of your roof and the gutters (if applicable).
4.) As more and more melted snow (water) continues to cascade down your roof, it continues to freeze behind and on top of the previously frozen run off, forming a much larger ice dam. Once this ice dam takes shape, it will literally trap any water that is attempting to drain down and off the roof. Now, all the melting water is dammed and has nowhere to drain to, so it builds up. This accumulating water is simply backing up and is forced right under your roofing material and into your attic or soffit cavity (and then gravity takes over once again), and this water infiltration simply drips down into your living area wall cavities, causing the nuisance staining and damage that may be observing throughout your walls.
When the heavy snow on your roof field becomes excessively uneven, this is indicative of your heat infiltrating your attic cavity and melting the snow on your roof, which causes ice dams.
Preventing this ice from forming on the edge of your roof in the first place is absolutely preventable. Many homeowners are continuously researching articles on “HOW TO PREVENT ICE DAMS” and they learn that proper insulation and ventilation is necessary to prevent these ice dams. That’s fine, but after most homeowners obtain their education on “HOW TO PREVENT ICE DAMS” they may attempt to correct their ice dam situation, but are still baffled and are unable to figure out exactly where any improvement is needed. That’s why they call me in to access their situation. I’ll literally show home owners how to alleviate this nuisance ice build-up.
Your solution to alleviate your ice dam issues is the use of Infrared technology combined with my professional experience in dealing with many ice dam situations in the past. My infrared inspection is a brilliant method of providing you with an instant snapshot of any active heat loss seeping through the most outer portion of the walls and ceilings of your home. Deficient insulation is a poor insulator, which allows it to now become a great conductor of your conditioned living area air, and this is what enables me to easily detect the inefficient insulation applications throughout your home. Infrared imaging will visually show thermal mapping of any improperly insulated ceiling and wall cavities that are causing the ice dams at the outer roof edges of your building. Even though attic access is convenient, Thermal Imaging does not require access to your attic in order to determine the cause of your ice dam situation.
Take a look at the images below and see how easy Infrared detects uninsulated/problematic cavities where ice dams were occurring…
Infrared clearly detects cold air (blue color) infiltrating the living area
Infrared detects missing insulation at all outer ceiling cavities
Thermal imaging detects cold spots from improperly installed soffit vents
Infrared detects insulation issues above this bathroom ceiling.
ICE DAM IMAGES COMBINED WITH MICE ACTIVITY (and old Dust) IN THE ATTIC
The brown ice clinging to this particular siding is caused from excessive ice dams at the eave area combined with excessive mice activity (and old dust/dirt build-up) in the attic cavity. The brown color of mice excrement (and old dust/dirt build-up) mixes in with the ice accumulation (at the attic cavity over your living area). As this ice dam starts to build-up in the attic cavity, it melts and this brown mess will start to seep out from the eave area and behind the siding material.
Note how this brown mess will follow the contour of the building.
You can see how this brown ice seeps out from behind the clapboard siding.
This church had ice dams with signs of mice activity below the belfry soffit.
SNOW RAKES DO VERY LITTLE TO HELP ICE DAMS
You can get simply pull away any accumulating snow off of the edge of your roof with a snow rake, but… by the time you perform this clearing, it’s already too late. Look at the image below where a homeowner decided to pull the snow off of their roof edge (thinking that the ice will stop accumulating) but discovered that a 4-6 inch thick ice sheet is coating the entire roof edge at least 6-8 feet up the roof field. If they would have only taken preventive measures to avoid this ice dam in the first place, this area of the roof wouldn’t be a concern.
Massachusetts Infrared (Thermal) Imaging
My name is David Valley and I am the founder of Massachusetts Home Inspections, which is located in Methuen, Massachusetts. I personally perform every home inspection myself and I always give my home inspection clients the utmost personal attention they deserve.
That is one benefit that is not always possible with the large multiple inspector firms in Massachusetts. As a licensed professional, I have a fiduciary responsibility to all my home inspection clients and I have high regard for every last one of them. I respect the fact that they rely on me and my vast home inspection knowledge to personally assist them during their home buying process.
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