With fall just about to come to a close, piles of snow and harsh winter winds may still be a distant memory. Yet, it’s safe to say another Midwest winter is right around the corner, and with it one of your home’s worst enemies—ice dams. The good news? There’s still time to prevent ice dams from forming this winter. Keep reading to get the scoop on preventing and dealing with ice dams.
What is an Ice Dam?
Ice dams are the result of water from melting snow freezing along the home’s roofline. The formation of an ice dam prevents water from draining off the roof properly. Rather than draining into the gutter, the water pools on the roof where it may find its way under the shingles and cause water to leak into the home.
Ice dams are caused by a snow melting and freezing cycle, which often occurs as the result of heat loss through the home’s roof. When heat is released through the attic or roof, it melts the snow which may refreeze once it reaches the colder edge of the roof. Over time, the ice builds up and ice dams begin to form.
How to Prevent Ice Dams from Forming
Preventing ice dams from forming is essential, as they are one of the most common culprits of winter water damage. Below are some of the steps you can take to prevent ice dams from occurring.
Clean Gutters and Downspouts
Debris-riddled gutters can contribute to the formation of ice dams because water is unable to drain properly. With nowhere to go, the water may begin to accumulate and eventually freeze inside the gutter. Removing leaves, packed snow, and other debris from the gutters will reduce the risk of this happening.
Clear Snow Off the Roof
Heavy snowfall is common, especially in the Midwest. When snow is allowed to build up on the roof, it can not only cause ice dams to form but also severely damage the roof. Make it a point to regularly remove snow from your roof, especially after every storm. While hiring a professional is always a good idea, you can also do this yourself. One of the simplest ways is to use a roof rake to remove about three or four feet of snow from the edge of the roof.
Inspect the Roof Regularly
The best way to prevent ice dams from forming and damaging your home is to inspect the roof on a regular basis. If you notice signs that an ice dam has formed, don’t wait to remove it. The sooner the ice dam is removed, the less damage it can do to your home.
How to Identify an Ice Dam
Unfortunately, ice dams can occur no matter how vigilant you are. One of the easiest ways to tell if you have an ice dam is by looking closely at the icicles around your home’s exterior. If the icicles are restricted to the gutter and don’t appear to have water trapped behind them, you’re likely in the clear. Another way to check for ice dams is to look for any water stains or signs of moisture in the attic, ceiling, and along exterior walls. If moisture is present, it may indicate that an ice dam has formed, or water has infiltrated the roof membrane.
Removing an Ice Dam from Your Roof
There are two options for removing an ice dam from your home. The first option is to tackle the problem on your own using calcium chloride ice melt. While it may be a little less costly than hiring a professional, it can also be dangerous. Hiring a professional will ensure the ice dam has been cleared properly and reduces the risk of you getting hurt.