One of the most overlooked causes of ice dams in Massachusetts homes (HINT: its not insulation!)

by Insulation Geek | Dec 16, 2018 | 0 Comments

Ice dams on the roof during the winter is a common Massachusetts problem, in older homes and newer homes. Its not uncommon for a Massachusetts Insulation contractor to get a call about ice dams in 1908 built home with sparse vintage horse hair insulation nor a 2008 built home with cathedral slope master bedrooms and bathrooms.

In the times leading up to the winter as well as after, we do have a lot of clients that reach out to us specifically with the goal of reducing ice dams or eliminating them altogether. Here is a quick article on one of the most overlooked root causes of ice dams in Massachusetts homes. We are homeowners too and are aware of insulation companies and energy efficiency contractors that want to rip everything out at the first site of an icicle. This article is written to help you as a homeowner understand and diagnose an often overlooked ice dam cause in your home, after a snowfall.



Ice dams are a common site when it snows in Massachusetts


At Mass Energy Lab Insulation, we use a combination of home insulation and ventilation solutions to solve ice dam problems in homes. We work empirically to make sure that we understand exactly what is causing ice dams in your home and then work to design a custom insulation and/or ventilation solution to solve the problem. Essentially, if it is an ice dam problem, we are confident that we will identify the cause of the problem and then stop the root cause first, before we solve the symptoms. Solving only the symptoms without eliminating the root cause is a short term fix and will probably bring back the ice dams the next around as well. This is the case whether you install mineral wool or fiberglass insulation batts, cellulose blown in insulation or even spray foam insulation. Ice dams can still occur if you have already had the old, wet insulation removed as attic insulation removal is commonly done after the water leaks through from the ice dam. Its about identifying the problem first and not just the solution.  



Understanding the root cause of ice dams problems in Massachusetts homes is our core area of focus with attic insulation and ventilation solutions


So, the question we often get as a local Massachusetts Insulation company is, "is there a cause of ice dams not related to an insulation or ventilation/HVAC issue?

Yes, here is a major factor - not cleaning the gutters before the winter begins. 


IMG_5493Clogged gutters often lead to ice dams


Clogged gutters often lead to ice dams in the Massachusetts weather - zone 5 + marine as per the Department of Energy. Here's why - Imagine there is about eight inches of snow on the roof after a typical New England storm that we tend to have. Imagine that its night time and the temperature is now 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Now whether the snow is in the gutter or on the roof, it wouldn't matter as it wouldn't melt at 20F. 

Now imagine that its mid-afternoon. The temperature climbs up as it does on one of those weird January days, where it suddenly hits 40F in outside temps. So the eight inches of snow starts to rapidly melt. It gets to the gutters and tries to makes it way down but is met with the blockage from the leaves. Its slowly tries and makes its way through but is seriously slowing down and water is accumulating and overflowing over the gutters.

Then suddenly its 4pm and dark. Cold. Temperature drops down to 30F and everything starts to freeze over as freezing point is 32F. Now the water in the gutters become ice. The roof snow is now at six inches or four inches but its frozen over too. 


Frozen water in gutters from clogged leaves/debris is a common cause of ice dam issues in MA


The next day(s) the same thing keeps happening. The water has nowhere to go. It keeps turning to ice and then this becomes a big block of ice or an dam as seen above. This is how clogged leaves can lead to ice dams. We always recommend a good gutter cleaning twice a year, particularly before the winter to prevent ice dams in addition to a good insulation system such as closed cell spray foam insulation, which works wonders in the Massachusetts climate as well as a solid heating plan to keep heat from the home, away from the roof snow. Of course, if your home ice dam issues are related to insulation, there is not a situation at all that we cannot deal with. When dealing with ice dams, choose an experienced home insulation contractor with a proven track record of eliminating ice dam problems not just someone that install insulation. Construction projects should be outcome based.

Would you like to have a quick discussion about your home with a licensed technical insulation project manager that has years of experience managing insulation projects here in Massachusetts? Then click the link below to be directed to a calendar and we will call you around your schedule:


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