Simply put, an ice dam is a large "hump" of ice that forms on the edges of a roof under certain winter conditions. When the roof over your attic or another room gets warm enough to melt the underside of the layer of snow that accumulates there, the water follows the slope down to the eaves of your home. This part of your roof remains cold, as it overhangs the wall, and once there the water refreezes, growing slowly into a mound of ice. Lower roof pitches and gutters can both help ice dams to form, as they make it easier for the foundational layer of ice to accumulate.
Preventing or removing ice dams can be a challenge. Physically removing them may harm the eaves and gutters of your home, while many of the chemicals and salts marketed for ice removal on driveways and sidewalks are too caustic to be used on a roof, often doing far more damage than the ice itself, and ruining expensive shingles.
Often, you may only notice the problem of an ice dam when its effects become apparent inside, after the damage has already been done. If this is the situation you find yourself in this year, the damage may be a blessing in disguise, providing you with the perfect opportunity to upgrade your home's interior to a healthier and more eco-friendly standard.
If clay plaster isn't to your liking, another option would be to install a living air greenwall while repairing damaged drywall. Though doing so may be more expensive, the timing would be perfect, as the removal of old, damaged drywall would allow for the installation of aerogation pipes that feed water to the greenwall. Installing the modular system would allow you to reap a host of benefits, ranging from increased air purity to the aesthetic beauty of a constantly changing, living plant system.
Removing ice dams can feel like one more headache that you simply don't need in winter months. With the right approach, however, the process can become not only easy and painless, but a rare opportunity to make drastic improvements to your home.
[Image by Dmcroof via Wikimedia Commons | Resized | CC BY-SA 3.0]