AAA Warns Of "Ice Dams"

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With the temperature swings we're seeing outside, AAA is warning Tennessee residents about ice dams, which can damage your roof and the inside of your home. AAA has more information on what ice dams are, how to spot them, and whether you'll need to consult your insurance provider.

"Ice dams are more common in northern parts of the U.S., but they can form anywhere there are drastic temperature shifts," said Megan Cooper, spokesperson for AAA - The Auto Club Group. "It's important to know what you're looking for, because this can lead to costly repairs to your attic, walls, ceilings, insulation, and flooring."

How to Spot Ice Dams

  • You have icicles that form along the edge of your roof and/or gutters.
  • Ice has developed along the overhangs of your roof, or your gutters are filled with ice.

How Ice Dams Form

  1. Ice dams form when heat inside the house enters the attic and melts snow on the roof.
  2. The melted snow drips down your roof and re-freezes when it reaches the colder eaves (the part of the roof that overhangs the wall). This ice accumulation is called an ice dam.
  3. As more melted snow travels down the roof, it begins to re-freeze sooner, pushing its way under the shingles.
  4. The water then finds holes in the roof decking--between sheets of plywood or around nails--and begins to drip into your attic.

"Once the water is inside your house, it can cause paint to peel, floors to warp, and soggy insulation. If that water is left unattended, it could lead to mold and mildew," Cooper continues. "Additionally, ice dams may cause some damage to the roof by loosening shingles, rotting the wood or tearing off gutters."

What to do if you have Ice Dams?

First, don't panic. Second, call a professional. While breaking off ice can seem like a simple task, if the ice is not removed properly, you risk causing more damage to your home or even injuring yourself in the process. Hire a licensed contractor with experience in ice dams to remove it properly and assess if you have any damage to your home.

"If you notice water damage or leaks coming into your home, contact your insurance provider immediately to review your plan's coverage and file a claim," says Cooper. "Many policies have ice dam coverage, but exclusions could apply."

"Even if you don't have damage, it's a good idea to contact your insurance agent to make sure you fully understand your coverage options," Cooper continues. "This will provide the comfort in knowing you're prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at you."

How to Prevent Ice Dams from Forming

The key to ice dam prevention is to keep your roof the same temperature as your eaves. There are several ways to accomplish this before snow begins accumulating:

  • Increase attic ventilation through the use of soffit, gable and ridge vents to help circulate air through the attic, ensuring a consistent temperature.
  • Examine your insulation to make sure it's not blocking the vents and check its depth.
  • Prevent heat from escaping into your attic by ensuring all attic ducts are sealed and properly insulated and any exhaust fans lead outdoors, not to the attic.
  • Consult a professional if your attic is a living space, you need vents installed or insulation added.

While keeping the bottom couple of feet of the roof and gutters clear of snow can help minimize ice dams, the safer, more effective, and longer lasting solution is to fix the insulation inside the attic. Never get up on your roof to shovel the snow off or try to remove ice dams yourself. If you have major ice dams that have formed, you can call for a professional to come remove them. When choosing which company to hire for the removal, be sure to ask about their methods as chipping or sawing away at the ice can cause damage to the shingles.

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