Dealing with Ice Dams

ice damIce in Winter
Icicles might be pretty to look at in the freezing cold, but they can hide a serious issue that can damage your house. An ice dam is a blockage that forms on the edges of your roof, and it can cause damages to your house on the inside and the outside.

How Does an Ice Dam Form?

An ice dam forms when the heat in the center of the top floor of a house melts the snow and ice at the peak of the roof, but doe not heat the eaves around the house. This causes the water to refreeze at the eaves, causing a blockage of the cutters. It can develop to the point to where it will prevent water from flowing over the dam, and instead force the water back and under the shingles. Additionally, an ice dam made of solid water will stay put long after it is done snowing, and can force spring rains into the house as well.

What Damage can an Ice Dam Cause?

An ice dam can wreak havoc on your roof and attic a number of ways. They can:

  • cause gutters to collapse under their weight.
  • force water under shingle, loosening them.
  • cause water to flow into your house, creating water damage in upper-level rooms
  • cause severe damage or injury if they break loose and fall onto people, pets, cars, or other objects below.

Clearing an Ice Dam

The best way to clear an ice dam is to get a professional in. They will use steam to slowly and safely remove the ice dam without causing damage to your roof. Best of all, even if they do cause damage, they will be insured for it. Of course, you’ll be paying a good bit.

If you prefer to go at it on your own, there are some methods that work and some that don’t. Hacking away at the dam with an ice pick is a preferred method – it will certainly break up the dam, and the pick is easy to control to prevent damage to your roof. Some people will use axes and shovels, but these can really damage your roof, possibly even worse than the ice dam if you aren’t careful. Plus, there’s the hazard of standing on a ladder or a slippery roof while you’re doing it.

Some people have used chemicals to clear a dam, which has mixed results. You can put calcium chloride melter – never use rock salt – directly on the roof, but that is likely to cause damage to your roof. A preferred method is to put the ice melt into a nylon pantyhose, then place it on the roof with the end of the pantyhose hanging over the gutter. It won’t clear the ice dam but it will allow the water to drain and not flood into your house.

Removing as much ice and snow before an ice dam forms, or removing all of the snow above a dam after it forms, is a great way to go relieve issues. A roof rake can be used from the ground, making it one of the safest methods. With a bit of work, you may be able to clear away the dam. Even if you can’t clear the dam, you can clear the snow that would melt and leak into your house.

People come up with all sort of crazy ideas for removing ice dams, but please, don’t try any of the following: blowtorch, explosives, pressure washer, jackhammer. They’re just plain dangerous.

Can You Prevent Ice Dams?

There are a handful of ways you can prevent ice dams from forming in the first place, and prevention is always better than having to fix it later. A quick prevention method is using roof and gutter de-icing cables. These cables

So be aware of ice dams and the dangers and damage they can cause, and prepare your house for the winter. It will prevent problems in the long run.

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About AndrewT

Written by Andrew T for LawnEq - The specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable brands.