By Dusty Daws STATE FARM INSURANCE

While springtime has officially arrived, most Montanans know all too well that we’ll still see freezing weather in the coming weeks. Ice dams can be a huge problem during the spring months, especially in vacation or second homes, which are often left unobserved or unmanaged.

Ice dams occur when the temperature in your attic is above freezing, causing snow on the roof to melt. When the snowmelt runs down the roof and hits the colder eaves it can freeze, especially if the outside temperature drops into the 20s. If this cycle repeats over several days (daily temperature swings are common in the spring), the freezing snowmelt builds up and forms a dam of ice.

Like all good functioning dams, water becomes trapped and creates ponds – except this time, the pond is on your roof. The settled water can then seep underneath the roof and into the attic or along exterior walls. This can cause wood rot and severe damage, and lead to costly repairs.

You can prevent ice dams by following these relatively simple steps:

• Prevent warm air infiltrating from downstairs into the attic by using appropriate insulation and a dehumidifier to control water vapor.
• Seal all openings that allow warm air to seep through the ceiling, especially fans and light fixtures that have multiple small holes.
• Provide good attic ventilation to replace warm air in the attic with cold air outside. Research shows keeping the air in the attic below freezing when the outside air is in the low 20s can prevent ice dams.
• Invest in a “roof rake,” a long broom that allows you to pull snow from your roof and prevent accumulation.
• Consult a professional for the best way to avoid ice dams at your home.
• Most importantly, confirm your home insurance covers water damage from ice dams.

Avoid the quick fix! If you’re like me, you’re thinking about taking matters into your own hands. Don’t drag your ladder out of the garage, climb up onto your snow and ice covered roof and start chipping away. Not only will you cause damage to your roof, you’ll put yourself at undue risk.

• Do not install large mechanical equipment or water heaters in the attics, these increase the temperature in your attic and are fire hazards.
• Do not use salt or calcium chloride to melt snow. These chemicals are corrosive and can damage gutters, downspouts, and flashing. Runoff laced with these chemicals can cause damage to nearby grass and plants as well.
• Keeping gutters clean will not necessarily prevent ice dams, but may keep them from overflowing and spilling rainwater next to the house.

Visit statefarm.com or call (406) 586-0084 for ice dam questions or to check about your insurance coverage.

Dusty Daws is a State Farm Agent in Bozeman, with more than seven years of insurance experience in the Big Sky and Bozeman market. A Bozeman native and former All-American for Montana State University’s football team, Daws serves southwest Montana, helping families recover from the unexpected and plan for their future.