Ice Dams

ice-dam-house-1068x600Winter 2019 has been quite the roller coaster ride. Warm and rainy December, followed by snow storms, below zero temps with a quick turnaround to 40 degrees. That doesn’t even seem like it should be possible! Freezing rain and now winter weather advisories are coming at us by the handful every week.  We are at mother nature’s mercy and so are our homes. As you drive to work you may notice huge icicles reaching down from under the snow on the roof tops.  As a child, I loved when the icicles appeared on my parent’s roof edge; but now as an adult and a home owner, I realize they are a potential cause for problem. In today’s blog we will discuss the cause of ice dams, what you can do to prevent them, and how to get rid of them once they have already formed.


The Cause

Ice dams begin when snow accumulates on your roof and you may have poor insulation or spaces where air can leak through the ceiling below and into your attic space. The air that gets into the attic is warm and can heat the underside of your roof causing the snow touching the shingles to melt. If the temperature outside is below freezing, the melting snow will freeze as it drips off the roof.  The problem continues as we get more snow and homes can form a large amount of ice. This ice can not only damage shingles, siding and windows, it can also prevent the water from dripping off the roof. When this happens, it can lead to leaks causing damage to your roof, insulation, ceilings, interior walls and flooring.



There are a few things you can do inside and outside of your home to help prevent ice dams. One way is to make sure there is good ventilation in your roof. You can do this through the eaves or on the ridge. Another thing you can do in the fall is make sure to clean out your rain gutters so that they do not become clogged and prevent the water from draining properly. Also make sure there is good insulation between your living space and attic. Look for any areas where warm air may be escaping. Attic access points and recessed can lights are examples of places where heat may leak into the attic. Heat tape may also be used on the edge of your roof, but you want to ensure that it is properly installed.


How to deal with them

If you were unable to prevent an ice dam from happening, there are a few things you can do to help decrease them and get the melting snow off the roof. One way is to remove as much snow as possible with a roof rake. Roof rakes are nice because they have a long handle allowing you to stay safely on the ground while cleaning the roof off. Another thing you can do is purchase Calcium Chloride Ice Melt which can be bought in bags or puck form. The Pucks allow you to stay on the ground and toss them on the roof.


If you have an ice dam that has caused a leak in your roof, it is imperative that you act quickly.  If water damage is left untreated it can cause more serious problems, such as mold and rot, in the future. When the leak is first identified the next step is to figure out the location of the leak and where the water is coming in at and then steps need to be taken to try and stop the leak and prevent further damage to your home. You may be able to complete these steps on your own but, if you are unable to, it is best to call a professional.  It is also important to call your insurance agent right away so they can file a claim with your insurance company. A lot of home policies will cover “the weight of ice and snow”, minus your deductible. An adjuster will be sent to your home to inspect the damage and determine if it will be a covered loss.  As our winter progresses stay safe and warm and keep an eye on your roofs; because unfortunately, here in the UP, winter isn’t over yet.

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