You can’t ever predict the kind of weather we’ll get in a given winter. But in this area, we almost always get some snow or ice. And that means we need to watch out for ice dams on roofs and take steps to prevent or remove them.
What are ice dams?
Ice dams are thick ridges of ice that build up along the eaves or edges of your roof. When there’s snow sitting on the roof, heat from the house melts it everywhere except along the edges.
Meltwater drains down to the eaves or gutters where it refreezes, and the accumulating ice makes a dam, preventing additional snow melt from draining off. Gutters are perfect places for ice dams to form, especially if they’re already clogged with leaves and debris.
What damage can ice dams cause?
When these frozen blocks hold standing water on your roof, it can seep under shingles and drip into your attic or down interior walls. Ice dams can also tear off gutters, damage roofing tiles, and batter any thing or person unlucky enough to be underneath when they break off.
How can I tell if I have an ice dam?
Take a visual inspection of your eaves and gutters. Sometimes you can see the ice bulging at the edge of the house. Also look for large icicles. Anything bigger than 2.5 inches in diameter will likely indicate a problem.
If you see anything suspicious, take note of the location or snap a picture, so you can inspect inside for water spots or leakage.
How can I prevent them?
The best strategy for fighting ice is avoiding its buildup in the first place. Before the winter starts, clean out your gutters so leaves and debris can’t trap water and encourage freezing. You can also install a product like Rhino Gutter Guards® to keep debris from building up in the first place.
Opt for underlayment.
If you’re already planning to replace your roof or if you’ve already had water damage from snow and ice, consider installing an underlayment like CertainTeed’s WinterGuardTM, which is specially designed to prevent water damage from ice and snow.
Stop heat leaks.
You can also cut off the problem at its source by preventing warm house air from heating up your roof. Improve ventilation under the roof to clear out any heat that leaks up from the living spaces. Add insulation to the attic floor and replace old recessed can lights with “IC” fixtures that you can cover.
Also, seal up any holes. Air can leak around attic hatches, kitchen, bathroom or dryer ducts, pipes, or cable channels. And seal and insulate heating or exhaust ducts so heat doesn’t escape through the joints. If you stand in your attic and see light shining up from below, you have a hole that needs plugging.
What can I do if it’s already snowing?
If it’s winter already and you haven’t taken any precautions, you can still take steps to avoid dams. For example, use an ice rake with wheels to pull snow off the roof. The less snow up there, the less water there will be to create a dam. Always use the rake from the ground. Never get on a ladder or on the roof itself in icy conditions.
And if you see a dam, don’t try to break it up with a pick or ax. You could damage the roof. Also, don’t use rock salt, which will also harm your shingles and any plants or painted surfaces below.
Instead, fill one leg of an old pair of pantyhose with calcium chloride ice melter. Place it on the roof, pointed toward the peak with one end hanging over the ice dam. It will melt a channel through the ice for water to run off.
It’s a good idea to prepare for destructive ice as winter approaches, but sometimes Mother Nature gets the better of us. If you think you might have had some damage this winter or if you’d like to talk about ways to prevent ice damage in the future, contact us at Dry Home Roofing & Siding for a free consultation.