Ice Dams: What They are, and How to Deal With Them
Snow is beautiful.
Children wait with bated breath to hear the news if tomorrow is going to be a snow day. We all love spending the night around the fire drinking hot cocoa.
We might love and hope for snow, but your roof may think differently.
Your roof may be getting damaged after every snow due to ice dams. Learn what you need to know about ice dams, how to prevent them, and what to do if you have them.
Ice Dam Basics
What is an Ice Dam?
An ice dam is a build-up of ice that forms on the lower section of roofs—typically on the eaves.
As these dams form, they stop water from flowing off your roof, leaving the icy water to get pushed back under the shingles of your home. When water gets under your shingles it can leak into your attic, saturate your insulation, cause rot or mold, and leak into the interior of your home.
How do Ice Dams Form?
Ice dams form when snow melts on the roof, but refreezes before the water runs off the roof.
This process starts when the temperature of the higher parts of the roof is above freezing while the lower sections are still below freezing.
This temperature differentiation happens in a couple of different ways.
- Heat leaks
- Poor attic ventilation
- Poor insulation
Essentially, the attic is too hot.
While a warm house in the winter is cozy, an attic that is too hot is the leading suspect in forming ice dams.
Ways to Prevent Ice Dams (Before Snow)
The good news is that ice dams are preventable. Each house has its unique challenges. If you’re looking for answers to your specific ice dam problems, contact us!
Here are some long term solutions.
One way your attic may be getting too warm during the winter is heat that escapes from your home. Attic insulation helps keep the important parts of your house warm by sealing the attic. Don’t let that precious heat leave your home. Add more insulation.
Adding more or replacing your insulation will help keep your attic cool and will help prevent ice dams.
Typically only thought of as important during the summer months, attic ventilation is a great addition to your fight against ice dams.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to roof ventilation. Adding a ridge vent and a soffit vent is a great way to create air circulation through your attic, helping it stay cool in the winter and the summer.
Although maybe extreme for the variable climate of Prescott, Deicing Cables are a new kind of ice dam prevention system.
These cables are typically placed around eaves on the lower sections of the roof and require a licensed professional. This kind of system is much more common in areas with lots of snow.
Some products allow homeowners to place heating cables directly onto the lower sections of the roof. This is not a recommended solution as placing heating coils directly onto your roof could lead to fires. Please contact a professional if you’re considering this option.
Ways to Prevent Ice Dams (After Snow)
More good news. If your house is poorly insulated or your attic is poorly ventilated, there are steps you can take after a snowstorm to prevent ice damming.
Roof rakes are a safe way to clear snow off the lower parts of your roof. These rakes have long handles that allow you to stay on the ground while clearing snow off your roof (an important feature).
When operating a snow rake, it’s important to not aggressively shovel against your shingles, and never use the shovel to break the ice. Most shovels have wheels or are built to glide over your shingles. Be gentle on your roof.
This tool can be helpful to clear snow off your roof, but is not a permanent solution to ice damming.
Snow Removal Services
The easiest solution to prevent ice dams after snow falls is to call a snow removal service. This might seem extreme, but if there’s no snow on your roof, there’s no way for Ice dams to form.
Snow removal services are trained professionals who have access to commercial tools and have experience working in snowy conditions.
If you know your roof is susceptible to ice dams and it just snowed, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call a snow removal team to ensure no ice dams are formed.
So,You Have an Ice Dam
For you, it might be too late for preventative measures. You currently have ice dams forming and you don’t know what to do.
It is possible to melt away ice from your roof using chemicals. However, it is important that you only use calcium chloride.
Calcium chloride is the only chemical ice melt that won’t immediately damage your roof and surrounding plants, but it can’t just be sprinkled onto your roof.
To use calcium chloride, fill a tube sock or pantyhose with the pellets. Tie off the end and place the sock perpendicular to your gutter. Right on the dam. This will create a channel for water to escape.
Be careful. Chemical solutions can help remove ice dams, but when used often, theory can cause damage. Discoloring your shingles or even making them weaker, and never use rock salt on your roof.
Call a Professional
When it comes to major Ice damming, you don’t have many safe at-home options. Professionals have experience and tools to quickly remove Ice Dams.
One way many professionals remove ice dams is by using steam to melt off the ice. These large commercial steam machines are able to melt off snow and safely remove ice dams.
No aggressive picking or having to climb onto a slippery roof.
Calling a professional ice dam removal service is the best and safest way to remove ice dams from your roof.
Local to Prescott or Northern AZ?
Recent snowy winter conditions in Prescott may have revealed that your roof is susceptible to ice dams. If that’s the case, contact us. We can help you make sure your roof is taken care of and well maintained.
If you currently have an ice dam wreaking havoc on your shingles, give us a call and we can help you determine the steps needed to remove it.