The up and down temperatures and the record-breaking February snow totals have been the perfect recipe for ice dam formation on various types of roofs this year. Ice dams are particularly tricky for associations because the line between Homeowner vs. Association responsibility can become rather blurred.
First, it is important to understand how and why ice dams form. In short, they form when snow melts on your roof and then re-freezes over the eave-typically over the soffit area. The ice “dam” then prohibits further melting snow to drain properly off the roof, which can (but not always) cause leaking water into the home.
There are many factors as to why ice dams form-the inevitable freeze/thaw cycle; excess snow pack; clogged gutters or frozen downspouts-but the primary culprit is excessive heat loss from the unit and/or a lack of ventilation. Which is why, many times and depending on your governing documents, ice dams and the leakage they can cause are not necessarily the association’s responsibility. They are not caused by roofing deficiencies; they are caused by insulation and ventilation deficiencies INSIDE of the home.
It is important to understand how your association’s governing documents define “unit boundaries.” Does the boundary of the unit include “unfinished surfaces” or “no upper or lower boundaries”? If so, this could imply that the attic space (or the space between the roof deck and the ceiling) and insulation inside of it would be a homeowner responsibility; therefore, the heat loss causing the ice dam is the homeowner’s deal.
Once there is an understanding of who is responsible for what, it is very helpful for associations to review their ice dam situation and have a policy in place for how they are to be addressed.