Winter is rough on our roofing – especially in areas with heavy snowfall such as Northern Colorado. You might already be aware of the common types of damage snow might cause such as weathered shingles. But ice dams are one unassuming issue all homeowners in a snowy region should also be aware of.
An ice dam is a solid accumulation of snow and ice at the edge of a roof. Over time, this mound can cause severe damage to both your roof and the inside of your home. Snowmelt can get trapped behind the thick dam of ice. All that water can then leak into your home without the ability to properly drain. But that isn’t where the potential damage of an ice dam ends.
What Are the Consequences of an Ice Dam?
An ice dam can cause a lot of damage as it forms and as it traps water behind it. Ice dams are often a result of a poorly insulated attic. The heat from inside your home permeates through your roof and melts the snow stacked on the surface of your roof. Since the temperature closer to the eaves of the roof is cooler, that snowmelt will slowly start to freeze into a ridge.
The formation of the ice dam itself can cause external damage to your roofing and gutter. It can cause your shingles to peel, tear off the gutter, and exacerbate any other existing issues. Icicles may also form along the gutter adding more undue weight and deteriorate paint on the home’s siding.
The most destructive consequence that you might encounter due to an ice dam is leaking. It can seep through the roofing and wreak havoc on the interior of a home. When that dammed water breaks through, it could cause warped rafters, sagging ceilings, soggy insulation, and more. Over time, mold and mildew will likely come into the mix too.
How to Spot an Ice Dam
With the horrendous destruction an ice dam can leave in its path, you’re probably wondering what the warning flags might be. Luckily, they can be fairly easy to spot. If you notice any of the following signs, you might have an ice dam on your hands:
- Icicles on the roof edge or gutter
- Gutters not draining properly during the cold season
- Snow melted on the rooftop but not near the edge
- Ice or water on the exterior siding
- Leak in your home’s interior during the cold months
How to Prevent Ice Dams
There are a handful of ways to get ahead of the potential threat of an ice dam forming. If you don’t notice any of the indications above, you can take these preliminary steps to assure one won’t form.
Rake the Snow Off the Roof
Snow and snowmelt are two essential ingredients in the development of an ice dam. Remove those factors and it’s virtually impossible for one to form. After a heavy snowfall, you can take a long-handled aluminum roof rake to remove the fresh snow. This tool makes it possible to rake off the snow from the safety of the ground if you have a one-story home.
Add Attic Insulation
Another way to prevent the formation of an ice dam is to insulate your attic. When heat escapes through your roof, it can unevenly melt the snow. Your attic serves to keep the warm air away from the roof. Adding additional insulation can keep heat in your home and make sure your roof stays cool.
Seal Air Leaks in Attic
Any openings to the outside elements can jeopardize your roof’s insulation capabilities. Feel around for any areas with a cool breeze. You can also locate these air leaks by turning off the lights and looking out for spots where sunlight is shining through. Patch these openings up
Clean Out Your Gutters
If your gutter is obstructed by leaves and other debris, ice melt won’t be able to drain as easily. This is a recipe for an ice dam. Before the cold season starts (and really at least twice throughout the year) clear out the gunk collected in your gutter. You can either climb up to the roof and blow out the material or use a leaf blower extension to do it from the ground.
How to Get Rid of an Ice Dam
Already see the signs of an ice dam? No, you can’t just wait for the snow to melt. Here’s how to properly get rid of it.
Chip Away at It
Use a mallet to carefully break off small pieces of ice. Don’t use anything sharp such as an ax. This could cause damage to the shingles or gutter below the ice dam.
Create an Ice Melt Device
Calcium chloride ice melt is a great tool to get rid of an ice dam. You can fill old pantyhose with it and set it on top of the dam to carve out an avenue for water to drain. Just be sure not to use rock salt as an alternative; this can eat away at your shingles and siding paint.
Call in the Pros
Removing an ice dam can be tricky and dangerous, especially if it formulates on your second-story roof. If you have any doubt that you can accomplish the job on your own safely, call in your trusted local roofing expert. 970 Services is Northern Colorado’s premier contractor for all things roofing and restoration. We can remove a pesky ice dam or come in to clean up the damage after it causes a leak.
If it’s prevention you’re looking for, we can do a sweep of your roof free of charge to get you prepared for winter snows.