Ice dams build up on Mid-Michigan homes as freeze-thaw cycle continues

MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) – Ice dams are a common occurrence on roofs around Mid-Michigan this time of year, especially with temperatures starting to rise above freezing.

But they can quickly become a homeowner’s worst nightmare if the attic isn’t properly ventilated and insulated. One homeowner found out how much damage these ice dams can cause.

Lois Ertel lives on Charter Oak Drive in Flint Township. She opened the blinds on her bay window right Tuesday morning and saw nothing, but the picture looked much different a couple hours later.

“Oh like a little water fall. It was dripping from just the outside down and it had quite a bit of water on the bottom and it kept splashing onto the window,” Ertel said.

She immediately got a bunch of bath towels to begin soaking up the water coming in from above, lined her bay window sill up with buckets and called her handyman, who referred her to Lockhart Roofing. Dan Sowden spent about 45 minutes on Ertel’s roof working to clear any remaining ice buildup.

Ice dams occur when there is inadequate attic insulation or ventilation or a combination of both. Heat rises through the attic and starts to melt the snow off the roof until it reaches the overhang, where it freezes and causes a buildup of ice and dams up water on the roof.

Ertel said she’s lived in her home for about 3.5 years and has never had a problem with her roof or attic insulation or ventilation. But she knows the damage inside could have been a whole lot worse.

“From what I understand, I have aluminum over my eavetroughs and he mentioned that could be a problem so I’m going to get that fixed as soon as the weather is good enough to do it,” Ertel said.

She already made a call to her insurance company and is waiting to hear back.

Sowden said the biggest and most important defense to ice dams isn’t on top of the roof but below it.

”Attic insulation is definitely a huge factor — and then proper ventilation,” he said. “Both intake and exhaust for the attic helps as well.”

Sowden said homeowners should make sure snow is cleared away from the gutters, which can be done using a roof rake. But if the attic is properly insulated and venting well, raking the roof isn’t necessary.

If someone isn’t able to rake the roof, applying calcium chloride generally is OK. But never apply rock salt, as this can damage the roof’s shingles.

Heat tape can also be used. But Sowden said heat tape and calcium chloride are just acting like a band aid and aren’t addressing the underlying problem with insulation.

Sowden said his phones have been ringing off the hook since temperatures started warming above freezing. Most of the calls he’s receiving are ice dam buildups, which is why he stresses the importance of checking attic insulation and ventilation.

“A lot of people think that it’s the shingles or we get a lot of calls from people thinking that their gutters aren’t working because there’s ice in them. All gutters do are disperse water…

Read more:: Ice dams build up on Mid-Michigan homes as freeze-thaw cycle continues

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