If you live in the Midwest, you’re already well aware of the damage and inconveniences ice can cause. When it comes to damage from ice, though, most people picture ice storms, ice-covered roads, or freezing pipes. Another major disruption that’s often overlooked is ice dams. Ice dams form on your roof and can cause structural and water damage, along with consequential mold. Here’s a closer look into what ice dams are, what causes them, and what you can do if you have them. 

What are ice dams? 

Ice dams are build-ups of ice on your roof that are usually formed toward the edge or the eaves of your roof. As the name implies, these dams prevent water from flowing past it, which can form puddles of water or melted snow on your roof from not being able to drain properly. Without proper drainage, these ice dams can create significant damage to your roof and the ceilings or walls of your home. 

What causes ice dams? 

The uneven temperature of your roof causes ice dams to form, and there are a few different explanations behind why your roof might be heated inconsistently. 

1. Inconsistent or not enough insulation in your attic. 

The number one cause of this uneven heating on your roof is thanks to the heat coming from your home. If your attic doesn’t have enough insulation or has spotty insulation throughout, this can cause heat inside your home to rise and melt the snow or ice on top of your roof. Then, once this melted snow or ice reaches a cold spot on the roof, it will refreeze. This will keep happening over and over again as the dam of ice builds up. 

2. Kitchen or bathroom exhaust systems. 

Exhaust fans in your kitchen or bathroom remove byproducts such as steam, heat, and smoke outside to improve the air quality of your home. If these exhaust systems carry steam and heat to an area located underneath your roof, especially under an area with high snowfall, this can cause the snow or ice to melt, thus leading to ice dams. 

3. Frequent use of your fireplace or woodstove. 

If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove that you use often, this could lead to ice dams. The heat from burning wood travels up your chimney and through the attic to go outside. If you don’t have the proper insulation or solid ductwork, this can cause that heat to escape into your attic and create uneven heating, resulting in ice dams. 

4. Heat from the sun. 

Though increased heat from the sun is rarely a cause of ice dams, it can happen. In this instance, the sun may naturally heat the top of your roof more so than the edge, which could also explain why ice dams are forming on your roof. 

How can ice dams damage my house? 

Now that we’ve established what ice dams are, let’s dive into why they’re problematic and how they could damage your house. 

Structural Damage 

When the pooling water seeps between shingles then freezes and expands, this loosens the shingles and causes structural damage to your roof. Ice dams can also cause damage to the roof simply by building up and getting heavier, putting stress on the roof and potentially making it bow. 

Water Damage

When the ice dam causes structural damage on the roof, the puddled water can leak into your home. This moisture leaking into your home can damage your walls, ceilings, and insulation, making the areas moist and leaving brown spots. 

Mold or Mildew 

One of the worst effects from the moisture and water damage is mold and mildew. Mold and mildew not only look gross, but they can bring a number of health problems with them, especially respiratory issues. Whether you’re allergic or not, mold can cause irritation such as red or itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, and wheezing. 

Danger to People & Pets 

Along with damage to your home, ice dams can also pose a risk to you and your pets. Large icicles are a typical byproduct of ice dams, and these can be dangerous if they get too heavy. When the ice gets too heavy or the weather turns warmer, these immense chunks of ice can become loose and fall, harming anything underneath it.   

How to tell if you have ice dams. 

Without actually getting up onto your roof and inspecting, it may be difficult to tell whether or not you have ice dams. You could hire a professional roofing contractor to inspect your roof, or you can determine yourself whether ice dams are causing your structural or water issues. Some signs of ice dams include: 

  • General signs of water damage, such as stains on the ceiling or wall 
  • Larger than normal or dark-colored icicles
  • Melted snow on your roof 

Does insurance cover ice dams? 

If you’re experiencing water damage and consequent mold from ice dams, you might wonder if insurance would help cover the cost of fixing it. If homeowner’s insurance has dwelling coverage, this may help cover the cost of repairs from ice dams. Even if it helps pay for repairs, though, it more than likely will not cover the cost of removing the ice dam itself. 

Aside from structural damage repair, your insurance will likely cover the cost of mold damage caused by the weight of ice, snow, or sleet. Some insurance companies don’t pay for preventable maintenance issues, so it’s important to remove ice dams as soon as possible once you discover them. 

Contact ServiceMaster by Rice to Address Water or Mold Resulting From Ice Dams 

If you’re experiencing water damage or mold from ice dams, call the restoration experts. ServiceMaster by Rice makes the cleanup process easy with water damage and mold removal services. We work with all insurance carriers to guarantee your satisfaction in the cleanup and restoration process. Our team expands across the heart of the Midwest with 13 locations to better serve you and restore your home. Give us a call or fill out a form to clean up and restore your home.