Ice Dams and Your Roof

When the temperatures drop below freezing and snow covers the ground, you may enjoy the view of icicles hanging over the roofs on the homes in your neighborhood. While this creates a pretty sight, those icicles actually indicate that the roof has an ice dam. If ice dams form on your roof every year, than it is likely that your home is not properly insulated and is not working efficiently.
Not only are ice dams problematic for your roof, they’re problematic for your energy bill and indoor air quality. If heat is escaping into your attic through bypasses in your ceiling, outdoor air can find its way indoors, costing you money and potentially exacerbate allergies or other health problems. As such, if you see icicles forming, you should contact an expert as soon as possible.


What are Ice Dams?


Ice dams are walls of water that form around the edge of the roof as the snow melts and refreezes. The ice dams form when heat escape into the attic and heats up the snow that is on the roof. That snow melts, sliding down the roof towards the eaves. Once the snow melt reaches the cold eaves, the water refreezes to ice. Essentially, the ice walls that form prevent melting snow from sliding off the roof.

Over time, the melted snow can back up underneath the shingles and drip into the attic. If the leak is severe enough, the snow melt could make its way into your living space and cause damage to your ceiling or walls. In some cases, the leaks caused by ice dams can damage your insulation and cause issues with your electrical systems.


Temporarily Getting Rid of Ice Dams


The best way to temporarily prevent ice dams from forming is to remove the snow from the roof. If you are comfortable working on a ladder, you can use a roof rake to pull the snow off the roof. Keep in mind that this can be dangerous if you accidentally pull the snow down on top of yourself; you don’t want to end up being buried by the snow. If this is done before the ice dam forms, you won’t have to worry until the next snowfall.

If the ice dam has already formed, you can take a cheap pantyhose and fill it with calcium chloride. When you lay this homemade device perpendicularly across the snow, small channels will melt into the dam so water can escape off the roof. This will not completely rid your roof of the dam but it will help prevent damage to your roof.

Finally, you can chip or chisel away at the ice dam and any icicles that form. However, this needs to be done very carefully as this can be both dangerous to you and damaging to your roof. If you need the icicles and the ice dam to be removed as soon as possible, it’s best to call an expert.


Preventing Ice Dams in the Future

If you want to permanently stop ice dams from forming on your roof, you’ll need to ensure that your attic is properly insulated and ventilated. Ensure that your attic has the proper amount of ventilation; building codes usually require most home to have up to 14 inches of insulation. If you don’t have enough, you can simply add more right on top. An expert roofer can also be brought in to close up any bypasses that allow hot air to come into the attic from the living space. This may mean fixing cracks or filling spaces around light fixtures, chimneys and any other ceiling penetrations.


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