Don't Ignore Those Icicles on Your Roof

They might look pretty, but those icicles hanging from the edge of your roof can spell serious trouble for you and your home. Although a few small ones are no big deal, large, persistent icicles could be indicative of a bigger problem: an ice dam. Left unresolved, an ice dam can result in significant damage to your home's exterior and interior. Luckily, there are some simple ways to prevent rooftop ice from growing out of control!

What is an ice dam?

During the winter months, snow that sits on your roof melts from below due to the heat radiating from the house underneath. As the water slowly runs downhill, it tends to refreeze on the roof's eaves where there is no longer enough heat to keep it liquid. Over time, the ice can form a ridge along the edge of the roof which allows water to pool behind it, hence the term "ice dam".

Why is an ice dam dangerous?

Ice dams can create several problems as they grow larger. First of all, allowing water to pool on your roof can easily result in it leaking through to the structures below. Water that gets through the roof can damage underlying walls, ceilings, insulation, wiring, etc. and also allow the growth of mold, especially once warmer weather returns. Secondly, ice dams can grow extremely heavy over the course of the entire winter, eventually causing damage to your roof's shingles and even tearing down your gutters. Finally, the massive icicles that often form along ice dams represent a serious threat to any people (or pets) that might be unlucky enough to be standing underneath them when they decide to fall!

How can I prevent ice dams from forming?

The first step in preventing the formation of ice dams is to have your attic properly insulated and ventilated in the first place. Insulation will help keep heat inside the home, reducing the amount of melting that occurs on the roof's exterior. Ventilation assures that heat doesn't become trapped in the attic, a place where it is being wasted anyway! Also, be sure that your gutters and downspouts are clear throughout the winter months so that liquid water is able to be drained away effectively when melting does occur.

How can I remove an ice dam?

Once an ice dam has already formed, you essentially have three options for removing it:

  1. Buy a roof rake to remove snow (and therefore the water source) from your roof. This will only help if the ice dam has only just started to form. Do not try to pull down an ice dam, as this is almost certain to damage your roof!
  2. Fill a sock or similar object with an ice melting product and place it on the dam. This will cause the dam to melt as the ice melt is released.
  3. Hire a professional to remove the dam. For serious dams, this may be your only option. Professionals will remove the dam with a heat source such as steam so as to not damage the roof below. 

Hopefully this post has enlightened you about an often-overlooked piece of winter maintenance! If you would like to learn more about ice dams, check out this article from houselogic.com!