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Silver Spring Roofing: Article About How Ice Dams Form

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Silver Spring Roofing professionals have seen many roofs that have been damaged by an ice dam. An ice dam is a collection of ice that grows along the roof's edge. It stops melting snow and water from running off a roof. As a result, water accumulates behind the ice dam, eventually penetrating the roofing material and filtrating into the home.

Ice dams form when there is snow on the roof while at the same time higher areas of the roof have a surface temperature in excess of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and lower portions of the roof have a temperature that is under 32 degrees. Outdoor temperatures must reach and maintain an average of 32 degrees or more for an extended period of time.

The snow that is on the section of the roof with above freezing temperatures will start to melt. It will run down the roof and hit the section of the roof that is below the freezing temperatures and will then turn into ice. This process repeats over and over again until an ice dam is formed.

Gradually, the section of ice begins to grow as it is fed by the melting snow above it, but it will only grow over the sections of roof where the average temperature is under 32 degrees. Eventually, water begins to build up behind the ice dam but stays in liquid form.

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This water finds crevices in the roof's exterior covering and begins to flow into the attic. From the attic, it has free reign to flow into the exterior walls of the home, damaging insulation and staining the ceilings.

Different sections of the roof have a different temperature because heat from inside the house accumulates in the attic and solar heat may concentrate in certain areas of the roof. Heat from the house reaches the roof via convection, radiation or conduction.

The primary way that homeowners can control ice dams is by controlling heat loss. Excess snow should be removed with a broom or roof rake. If a homeowner notices that water is draining into the roof, they can use a water hose with warm tap water to create channels in the ice, allowing the water trapped behind the dam to drain off the roof.

Long term solutions include making the ceiling airtight, thereby preventing warm air from the house from collecting in the attic, as well as increasing the amount of insulation in the attic. Both of these solutions will result in an increased snow load on the roof since heat from the house will no longer cause it to melt.

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