Icicles hanging along the eaves may look beautiful, but they could spell trouble. That's because the same conditions that allow icicles to form can also lead to ice damming. Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that build up along eaves and roof perimeters. Dams can tear off gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to force its way into the building. When that happens, the results are not pretty. Peeling paint, warped floors, damaged ceilings can all be symptoms of ice damming. If insulation gets wet behind the walls, the risk of mold damage increases dramatically.
With warmer temperatures expected in the area through the upcoming weekend, Maxons is reminding all property owners to safely remove ice and snow from roofs, overhangs and awnings. What Is an Ice Dam?
An ice dam can form when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roof-line. Without roof snow removal, the ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. The water can then back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home.
Immediate Steps You Can Take
- Remove snow from your roof after every storm if possible. While the amount of snow and ice that your roof can handle may vary depending on a number of factors such as the roof type, age and condition of the structure, a good rule of thumb is if there is more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice on your roof, you should have it removed.
- Clear downspouts. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This will make it possible for your gutters to drain when snow does melt. It will also help prevent flooding when the snow and ice melts.
Ultimately, the best prevention for ice dams is to eliminate the conditions that make it possible for them to form in the first place.
- Insulate your attic. Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting-and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.
- Install a water-repellant membrane. When replacing a roof, make sure to install a water membrane underneath the shingles. This acts as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside the building.
Removing Ice Dams
Just because an ice dam is present does not necessarily mean water has penetrated the roof membrane. However, it is always best to remove ice dams before they have the opportunity to cause damage. To determine if you have damage, look for water stains or moisture in the attic or around the tops of exterior walls on the top floor.
Techniques You Can Try
- If you can reach the roof safely, try to knock the ice dam off with a roof rake.
- Don't hit the icicles to hard or you can cause more damage.
- If you cannot reach the roof safely, consider hiring a contractor to remove it.
Techniques You Should Not Try
- Salting the roof and gutters to melt the ice.
- Pouring hot water on the ice trying to melt it.
- Turning a hairdryer on the ice.
- Super heating the attic.
- Connecting the dryer exhaust to the downspout.
- A blowtorch is never a good idea.
- Gasoline, need we say more?
No matter if you do the work yourself of hire someone to do it for you. Make sure to clear the area around your property. Make sure people, pets and valuable items are at least 20 feet away from the roof. Removing snow off a roof can cause a snow avalanche which can be very dangerous if you are not careful.
Look carefully at large icicles. If the icicles are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, this does not indicate the presence of an ice dam. However, large icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off. Try to safely knock the icicles off from the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them. If you cannot reach them safely from the ground, consider hiring a contractor to help.
Generally speaking, property owners are responsible for the cost of preventive maintenance. Keep in mind that the cost of snow removal is likely to be considerably less than the cost of roof damage or interior property damage caused by water leaks.
Be sure to regularly check for signs of water damage and/or mold as the snow and ice start to melt.
To see a video that will explain ice dams in detail click here
To see a video of how not to clean your roof click here