Ice dams can be more than just a hassle for home owners.

Ice dams are more than just an irritation, they cause damage to the roof and shingles as wells as leaks, mold and water damage inside the home.

We asked the experts at Olympic Roofing to find out why ice dams occur and what we can do to prevent them.

“Most of the time, if you have ice dams, you also have a warm attic,” says George Vasiliades, company owner. He goes on to explain that having an attic that is improperly insulted or not vented correctly causes it to retain the heat that rises from inside the living quarters. “When snow lands on the roof, it’ll melt,” he says, “and when the water reaches the edges of the roof, where it’s much cooler, it will refreeze and become ice. That ice slowly builds up and what you have then is a wall of ice keeping water from draining off the roof.”

Water then builds up behind the ice wall or dam and is slowly pushed up the roof line. As it works its way up the slope, the water gets between the shingles and slowly starts working it’s way to the roof and eventually accumulates in the attic.

So what can you do to prevent your attic from overheating?
“The first thing you can do, before calling a roofing company,” George says, “ is to check and see if you have soffit or baffle vents in your attic (also known as intake vents.) They usually run along the very edge of the roof or the space where the roof overhangs the home. If you do, that’s perfect. Your next step will be to enter your attic and pull your insulation away from those vents – make sure they aren’t covered and air can flow in and out of the space.”

He continued, “then you want to look up at the center of the roof and make sure you have a ridge vent.” This is the exhaust vent that allows warm air to escape.

You’ll also want to make sure any bathroom vents are properly vented to heat an moisture generated from activities like showering or doing laundry to be sent out of the attic and not vented into the attic to create additional heat and moisture.

What should I do if I don’t have vents and ice dams are an ongoing problem?
You’ll need to install both intake/soffit vents and ridge or exhaust vents. George says, “If you’re handy you can do this yourself but we suggest you call a professional to make sure it’s done right.”