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Winter in Massachusetts 2015:

The term “Ice Dams” has probably become one of the most searched phrases on the internet in the New England area and especially the Massachusetts region since the end of January. The unparalleled damage that ice dams can cause to homes is a major concern right now. The avoidance, removal, and safety issues to homeowners are paramount. Having a plan to avoid these problems from a proactive standpoint to a current ice dam removal policy is critical.

Ice dams occur due to large amounts of snowfall and temperature swings creating blocks of ice along the eaves, wall areas, and valleys of houses. It is this rim of ice that does not allow melting snow to leave the roof. Inevitably this melted snow/water has nowhere to go and finds its way into houses wreaking havoc along the way. There certainly are a lot of precautions homeowners can take to limit the volume of ice dams and in some cases eliminate them. However, in a monster winter which we are currently in the throes of, there is only one solution; removing the ice dams.

The damages ice dams can cause are numerous and include: gutters tearing off, loosening shingles, and massive amounts of water backing up and pouring into your house. When this happens, the results aren’t pretty: peeling paint, warped floors, stained and sagging ceilings. In addition, soggy insulation in the attic, which loses R-value and becomes a magnet for mold and mildew are major concerns for homeowners. “Because water,” according to Mike St.Pierre Senior Diagnostic Specialist at O’LYN Roofing “will find a way to eventually flow downward, everything in its wake is in jeopardy. This means trim (fascia/soffit), roofing (sheathing/insulation), and mold and mildew (attic spaces/insulation/interior walls) all must be inspected as soon as water has infiltrated the home.”

One popular misconception about ice dams is that they’re caused by the roof.  The reality is, ice dams are not a function of the roof or roofing material – be it shingles or otherwise – they’re a function of the weather conditions, insulation, ventilation, and gutter system among other things.

Certainly, homeowners can take some preventive measures. These include proper insulation levels in the attic and correctly measured ventilation in regard to the roof. However, it is important to point out, that even with proper insulation and ventilation, ice dams still may form in these types of winter conditions. A lot of this has to do with the amount of sun that shines on your house; if there are tall trees blocking the sun or the architecture of dormers and multiple roof planes are creating shaded areas, those are where ice dams will form.

A proactive approach is by far the best way to avoid ice dam damages. A robust system that can keep up with snowfalls that can occur in the New England area is a must. For example, the ice melt system being used by O’LYN Roofing is installed in all of the trouble areas on eaves, wall areas, and valleys. Then the system is professionally wired to an existing sub-panel or fuse box in conjunction with a thermostat positioned near the area(s) of concern. The system is also installed in gutters and downspouts to warm them and create a pathway for the melting ice to exit the home.

In conclusion, homeowners should rely on a trusted organization to inspect all options to help prevent ice dams as much as possible and have a system professionally installed to proactively create water pathways needed for winters such as this one. The best defense will certainly be the best offense in this case.