Construction and Renovation

Ice Dams; what should you know?

If you're reading this than you must have questions about ice dams. What are ice dams? How do they form? What do they harm? How do you stop or mitigate them? 

In the simplest terms, ice dams are formed as water freezes. Where is the water coming from? A house gives off heat, whether it be internal heat due to poor insulation or external heat from solar energy. The heat energy melts any snow that may be in contact. The melting snow becomes water which runs down the roof until it reaches a cooler surface. The cooler surface is likely below freezing which turns the water to ice. 

The larger the overhang of the roof, the more time you have to react. These icicles look problematic but actually they're not doing any major harm to the roof.

The larger the overhang of the roof, the more time you have to react. These icicles look problematic but actually they're not doing any major harm to the roof.

How to stop Ice Dams - eliminate the water source aka remove the snow!

When the snow is removed from a roof there becomes a greater area to absorb solar energy. This energy is required to melt the remaining ice dam. 

Just because you see icicles doesn't mean you have ice dams. The edge of your roof with no building underneath is is exposed to cold air both above and below. So any water is likely to freeze as soon as it reaches it. Icicles mean there is water running down your roof, which is a good sign. The bad sign is when the ice mass above the icicles grows larger. This is the beginning of an ice dam. You need to remove the snow from the roof and watch the ice mass carefully over a period of sunny days. 

Look closely at the roof line here. The ice mass is significantly higher than the roof line, which means DAM.

Look closely at the roof line here. The ice mass is significantly higher than the roof line, which means DAM.

Puddling of water above the ice dam is the number one characteristic of an ice dam. A dam stops or slows the flow of water, the ice dam is doing just that. Slowing the flow of water from leaving your roof will lead to leaks and failures. 

Notice the puddling to the right of the ice. This puddle has no place to go but through the roof into the home.

Notice the puddling to the right of the ice. This puddle has no place to go but through the roof into the home.

How to Remove a Problem Ice Dam

- Hammer

- Ice Melt

- Patience 

Using a hammer, break away any part of the icicles or ice mass that you can, always swing away from the building - ice is heavy and destructive. If you are able and without damaging the roof surface, try and chisel a channel or valley in the ice dam. This channel will help drain the puddle that is causing your home so much trouble. Once you've broken away the larger, more accessible chunks of ice, you may use chemistry to finish the job. Ice melt can be used to continue the process while you're inside where its warm. Be mindful that most ice melts are a corrosive and can break down elements of your roof. 

The key to successful ice dam control is being proactive. If you think you have ice dams developing, stop them in their tracks by removing the snow. Take a look at your roof's overhang. The less it sticks out from your homes walls, the less time you have to react.