The tell-tale sign of ice damming is the large icicles now adorning the roof lines of many of the homes, complexes and businesses around us. The icicles may look beautiful hanging from the gutters, but they are dangerous to both the home and people. A lot of the information provided about ice dams is not as comprehensive as we feel it should be. By answering three simple questions, we are able to effectively provide a more comprehensive look at ice dams.
- What are ice dams?
- What are the dangers of ice dams?
- How do you prevent them?
Ice dams are melted snow refrozen by the winter air to keep it simple. The snow melting process can be initiated through various methods. The first method is temperature fluctuations which cause snow to heat up during the day and then freeze overnight. As the snow melts, it drips down to the gutter still clogged with ice. The newly melted water now refreezes as temperatures drop overnight. On metal roofs and even asphalt roofs to some extent, radiant heat will cause the snow to melt on the bottom and drip to the gutter. This can lead to the avalanching problems seen on metal roofs where the snow slides off the roof in big sheets. On asphalt roofs, the snow doesn’t shed but rather it accumulates at the bottom of the roof and refreezes when the temperatures drop overnight. The other method for ice dam formation is poor attic insulation and venting. If the floor of the attic is poorly insulated and there are no breathing vents, the space will heat up enough to melt the lower layer of snow repeating the avalanching process.
Ice dams are a danger to the home and people below. The icicles formed from the melting snow and ice can fall at any time and injure a person or child below. The dripping ice can cause a puddle on a walkway which freezes overnight and creates a fall hazard. The snow can avalanche off the roof causing damage to cars or property. As the ice expands in the gutters of the home, they start to pry the gutters away from the roof. The ice also starts to pry up the roof where the dam has now prevented water from shedding off the roof. As the ice works its way into the roof, the water will begin to drip into the walls of the home. The list of damages to the home from ice dams is costly.
- Electrical wiring in the walls
- Gutter and downspout damage
- Roof shingle damage
- Fascia rot
- Sheetrock water stains
- Insulation damage
- And much more
Preventing and removing ice dams range from easy to difficult. Prevention is always easier than remedial efforts so we are always trying to encourage the idea of prevention. The first thing to do is insulate and ventilate the attic well. If the home is already set up with both good insulation and venting, then removing the first 5 feet of snow from the roof right after a snow fall will greatly reduce the ice damming. The snow can be removed with a roof rake but we suggest using caution not to pull it down on yourself. Getting on the roof or removing from a ladder also presents some challenges and dangers not recommended for a homeowner to try. Caution must be used when removing large chunks of ice to avoid damaging the surrounding structures, landscaping or vehicles.
One prevention method able to handle most conditions are heat cables in gutters. Using heat cables in the gutters can keep the ice from damming at the gutters. Using an ice melt product will also work to remove the stress of the ice by helping to melt the ice in the gutters. Ice melt can hamper the integrity of the gutters if using a corrosive agent. It is important to choose the right ice melt product.
We no longer offer neither snow nor ice dam removal. If you are uncertain of how to do it yourself, we can connect you to a professional. We can also connect you with quality craftsmen who can help ventilate and insulate your attic or install heat cable.