Do Ice Dams Cause Permanent Damage?
Yes, ice dams can cause permanent damage to your home or business, if your definition of “permanent” is damage so severe that you’ve moved beyond “repairs” and into gutting or rebuilding.
If enough of your drywall, insulation, ceiling material, and woodwork is damaged or destroyed by water leaks, eventually it becomes a gut job, because everything needs to be replaced. Or…so many things need to be replaced that it makes financial sense to remove it “all” and start over.
An electrical fire caused by water (that was caused by roof leaks) is an obvious scenario in which your home or building might suffer permanent damage.
The relatively unlikely event of a roof collapse also is “permanent damage” territory, although in that case ice dams probably accounted only for some of the excessive weight on the roof. Snow usually accounts for most of the weight on roofs that collapse, simply because it covers the whole roof (and can soak up rainwater), whereas ice dams typically form on or near the overhangs and valleys.
Second only to preventing ice dams, the best way to avoid permanent damage caused by ice dams is to get your ice dams removed right away.