Residents in the Northeast have had their fill of winter this year, and the imminent return of the "Siberian Express" will no doubt lead to a few more of the ice dams that seem to be ubiquitous here in Saratoga. Removing ice dams can be a tricky business, particularly because some of the products you would choose to control ice elsewhere are unsuited for your roof, but can be essential for preventing damage to your home or business.
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.
While these ice dams may seem innocuous at first, they can lead to serious damage on the inside of your home. Melted water can back up behind the ice dam, finding its way under shingles and eventually through the sheathing and insulation below. Once it seeps through these layers and makes its way to interior walls and ceilings, it can ruin drywall and paint, causing a major amount of costly damage.
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.
There are several products on the market, however, that are designed specifically to prevent and remove ice dams on rooflines, including Hot Roxx, an all-natural deicer. Sustainably based on natural sugars, the product is less caustic than rainwater, functioning at lower temperatures than rock salt. Since they are engineered from natural sources, these products are also safe to use around children and pets, always a primary concern for those who share their homes with loved ones.
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.
Often, the paint that is used to cover drywall in your home can off-gas a variety of toxins, filling the interior atmosphere of your home with harmful fumes. Upgrading your wall covering to a natural plaster like American Clay can help drastically, not only by removing a potential source of toxins, but also by introducing several benefits endemic to clay. This natural plaster can help balance the humidity and temperature within your home, mitigating drastic changes in seasonal effects. It can also balance the ionic character of your home, absorbing and negating many of the harmful effects of positively charged ions, which are commonly emitted by electronic devices and have been shown to have measurably negative health consequences for humans and pets alike.
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]
Hi! I'm Karen Totino, owner of Green Conscience Home. I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of our posts, so comment away! One of my goals is to get the community discussing some of these eco topics, and hopefully help each other out!