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Nashville, Tennessee | Weather | Ice damming

What is an Ice Dam on Your Roof? (Causes, Prevention, & Insurance)

February 19th, 2021 | 5 min. read

What is an Ice Dam on Your Roof? (Causes, Prevention, & Insurance)

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We don’t experience snow or ice storms very often in middle Tennessee. When it does happen, some homeowners start to experience leaks from something called ice damming. 

Most people call their local Nashville roofing company thinking it’s a problem with their roof. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

While the leak might be coming from above, it’s caused because most homes aren’t prepared to handle ice damming. We understand this is a stressful situation, especially since there’s nothing you can do in the moment. 

That’s why we’re going to give you all the information we can about ice damming and how to handle it. 

Since 1990, Bill Ragan Roofing has helped homeowners in the Nashville area deal with the roof damage from extreme weather. We work with you to give you a positive experience during a stressful time. When you work with us, you’ll never worry about your roof again.

By the end of this article, you’ll know what an ice dam is, where it shows up, what a roofer can do about it, how to prevent it, and if your insurance company will cover it. 

What is an ice dam? 

Ice damming is when snow and ice freeze down by your gutter line (eaves), creating an ice blockage (dam). When the snow above the dam starts to thaw, the water can’t drain normally into your gutters. 

This causes water to back up and sit on a surface that isn’t meant to shed water. The water backs up and eventually drips into your home until it’s warm enough outside for the ice dam to completely thaw out. 

While you’re waiting for the ice dam to thaw out, make sure you have a bucket or some other container to catch the water coming into your home. You’ll also be surprised how much actually comes through, so make sure you keep an eye on whatever you have catching the water. 

Where does ice damming show up on your roof?

Remember, ice damming shows up at your gutter line. When it happens at your gutters, the thawed snow/ice will back up until the water gets underneath your roofing materials. This causes water to come through your ceiling and even down your wall. 

ice damming on a roof

You can also see ice damming in your roof valleys, around a roof cricket (diverter that sends water away from a chimney), and where a valley comes in against a wall (deadpan valley). Your roof valleys are crucial to keeping water flowing in the right direction down your roof.

ice damming in a roof valley(Roof Valley)

When this pathway (valley) to the gutters gets blocked by ice, it backs up the thawed out snow/ice in an area that isn’t meant to have sitting water. This leads to water dripping into your home wherever the valley is located. 

What can a roofer do about ice damming?

Unfortunately, there’s nothing a roofer can do to stop ice damming when it’s already happening. It can only be prevented when you get a roof replacement (we’ll cover that in the next section). All preventative measures must be done during your roof’s installation.

However, a roofing contractor can come out to your home after it thaws out and make sure your roofing materials weren’t compromised by the ice damming. Be aware, you may see some people on their roofs trying to shovel or rake the snow/ice off their roof. 

This is not recommended and isn’t a good idea. Not only is it a huge safety risk, but you could cause all kinds of damage to your roof. That damage could cost you a lot of money to repair or, if the damage is extensive, could lead to a roof replacement. 

How do you prevent ice damming?

Ice damming prevention isn’t a code in our area like a lot of Northern states. Because of this, most homes aren’t prepared for ice damming here in middle Tennessee. 

However, there are things that you can do to prevent ice damming in the future when you get a roof replacement. One of the ways is to install ice and water shield at the edges (rakes and eaves) of your roof that goes 2 feet past the interior walls of your home.

This is actually a code in the states above the Tennessee/Kentucky state lines, but it isn’t a code here. The best way to prevent ice damming in middle Tennessee is by putting the right materials in your roof valleys during your replacement. 

One way is by installing ice and water shield in all your roof valleys. However, deadpan valleys are a little different. They need something solid (metal or a membrane material) installed in the valley and/or against the wall, so if the water does back up, it won’t seep into a crack. 

You can retrofit a piece of metal or membrane into your existing roof if you have a deadpan valley. But you’ll have to discuss this with your roofing contractor if this is a possibility for you. 

Is ice damming covered by insurance?

Your insurance company should cover the structural damage that water causes to the interior of your home. However, it depends on your insurance company and the policy you have if they’ll cover damage to your personal property (clothing, pianos, tvs, etc).

Your policy also determines if they’ll cover the cost to fix the ice damming problem on your roof. Your general contractor might be able to work with your insurance to get the problem fixed. But the structural damage caused by the leak is usually what’s guaranteed to be covered. 

To learn more about extreme weather and insurance claims, check out this article on if homeowners insurance will cover your roof replacement

Learn more about how the weather in Nashville impacts your roof

Now you know what ice damming is, where it shows up, how to prevent it, and if it’s covered by insurance. Remember, there’s nothing you can do when ice damming is actually happening but have buckets handy. 

If you are experiencing an ice damming situation, don’t get on your roof to try to clear it. This causes more problems and becomes costly pretty quickly. 

Your best option is to hire a great roofing company to install some of the preventive measures we discussed earlier in this article next time you get a roof replacement. Ice damming isn’t something we experience here in middle Tennessee very often. 

However, the weather we do see often still affects your roof and its lifespan. That’s why we have already broken down how the weather we experience in Nashville impacts your roof. 

The team at Bill Ragan Roofing has helped the residents of Nashville handle the stress of dealing with extreme weather. We do everything we can to ensure our customers who get a roof replacement from us don’t experience ice damming. If you’re local to Nashville, don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss how you can avoid ice damming leaks in the future. 

To learn about how your roof handles the weather in Nashville, check out this article on How the Weather in Nashville Impacts Your Roof

checklist of questions to ask a roofing contractor

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