How to Prevent Ice Dams

How to Prevent Ice Dams

During the cold, snowy winter months, you may notice the roofs of many homes – even your own home – are lined with icicles after a snowfall. While these may look pretty and magical, these icicles, or ice dams, can become problematic for a homeowner.

Ice dams form when heavy snow melts during the day, flows down to the eave or overhang, and then refreezes when temperatures drop overnight. This causes a literal dam to form that creates a blockage for additional snowmelt to flow off of the roof.

As you can imagine, ice dams can build up over time and weigh hundreds of pounds. When ice dams aren’t addressed or go unnoticed, they can cause significant problems for a homeowner. What are the dangers of this happening? Let’s take a look at the top three risks of ice dams and how to prevent and safely remove them.

Dangers of Ice Dams

Roofs and gutter systems are designed to protect your home from the elements, but some extreme conditions can put them to the test! Ice dams are one of those conditions that can really put your home at risk for damages. What are the top risks associated with ice dams?

Tear off Gutters
Your gutter system’s purpose is to divert water away from your roof and from your home, not to withstand hundreds of pounds of force. Ice dams are HEAVY and can easily pull your gutters off of the side of your house.

Damage Shingles
The weight of ice dams is not only a risk to your gutter system but also your shingles. The heavy ice can dislodge shingles from your roof. When the shingles are dislodged, out of place, or even removed completely, your home is immediately at risk for water damage.

Cause Water Backup
This is the biggest risk of ice dams – water backup. When an ice dam displaces shingles, water can seep between the shingles and then seep into the layers of the roof causing a roof leak. Over time, this leak can turn into a mold issue, eat away at the wood in your attic, and start to drip onto ceiling tiles below the attic.

If you’ve noticed any of these issues after an ice dam forms on your home, it’s advisable to have a roofing expert take a look and recommend the best path forward to repair damages and prevent further issues.

Tips to Prevent Ice Dams

Cold weather can surely do a number on your roof but with some preventative measures, you can prevent ice dams from forming. Here are some easy ways to prevent ice dams at your home.

Clean Debris from Gutters Before Winter
Clogged gutters can keep water from draining away from the house as intended. When that water freezes in cold temperatures, an ice dam can build up on your home. Either clean your gutters yourself before winter arrives or have someone take on this task for you.

Remove Snow Promptly
As mentioned, ice dams form when heavy snow melts and then refreezes. Keep the snow on your roof to a minimum by clearing off the lower three or four feet of your roof. This is best done with a roof rake, a specially designed tool you can pick up at your local hardware store. Clear the snow just after it falls when it is still soft and easy to clear.

Evaluate Attic Insulation and Ventilation
The snow on your roof melts due to the warmth rising out of your attic. You can stop the transfer of heat from your home to your roof with proper attic insulation. Not only with the insulation keep the snow from melting, it will also keep your home warmer in the wintertime. Also, be sure to seal up any interior attic leaks. Even with insulation in place, attic leaks will allow warm air to melt the snow on your roof.

How to Safely Remove Ice Dams

Noticing an ice dam even after you put preventative measures in place? Not to worry – you can safely remove ice dams yourself. Remember – ice is HEAVY and can cause injury if not removed safely and properly.

Here are two ways to remove an ice dam at your home:

Melt with Calcium Chloride
Calcium chloride is the same substance you use to melt ice and snow on your driveway. Fill a tube sock or pantyhose with calcium chloride and lay it on the roof crossing over the ice dam. This DIY method not only helps melt the ice, it also creates a path for water to flow off or your roof.

Break Into Small Chunks
This method takes a bit more effort but can help remove an ice dam. This method also creates some risk so be extra cautious. Before removing ice yourself, clear snow from the bottom three or four feet of the roof. Then working from ABOVE the ice (never below as the ice could fall and crash into you), slowly chip away at it using a mallet or hammer. This method should only be attempted if you are comfortable on a ladder.

Your Roof Maintenance and Repair Experts in Central PA

Ice dams are a red flag that something is not working properly with your roofing and gutter system. If you’ve tried to address ice dams on your own and are still experiencing them over the wintertime, give us a call.

We offer free roof assessments to help homeowners like you understand the condition of their current roofing system and can develop a plan to prevent ice dams and extend the life of your roof. Contact us today for a free assessment. We will share with you what you need – or don’t need – for your roof.