Dealing With Ice Dams

If you live in New England and own a home it is a good bet that you have heard of ice dams. While many homeowners may have heard of or even experienced ice dams, many are not entirely clear on how they form or how ice dams can be prevented.

What Is An Ice Dam?

Ice dams often occur when large winter storms or a series of small winter storms dump snow and ice on the roof of your home.

The ice dam itself is a ridge of ice that forms on the edge of the roof, prohibiting melting snow and water to properly drain off of your roof. When this ridge forms the water from melted snow and ice begins to back up and cause damage to other areas of your home including your walls, ceilings, and insulation.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams are formed when heat and warm air leak from living spaces to the roof of the home. The heat then melts the snow and ice on top of the roof. The water then trickles down to the colder edge of the roof where it refreezes and the ice dam is formed and your home becomes more susceptible to damage from water leaking into walls, ceilings, and insulation.

How To Remove Existing Ice Dams

If ice dams have already begun to form on your roof there are a few things you can do to remove the ice dams.

  • The first thing you will want to do is to start breaking the ice dam down into smaller chunks. It is important to remember not to use an ax or any other sharp tool that would damage your shingles. It is best to tap lightly with a blunt object. This is a time consuming and dangerous job! Don’t be afraid to hire a professional.
  • After you have broken the ice dams down into smaller pieces, it is now time to clean out the gutters and downspouts at your home.
  • Finally, you will want to melt troughs through the ice dams to allow the remaining water to flow free off of your roof.

Preventing Ice Dams After the Snow Has Already Fallen

If you have snow on your roof, it doesn’t mean that you have ice dams. A product that has become more popular in recent years is the roof rake. You may have seen people in your neighborhood clearing their roofs with a rake on the end of an extending pole. If you want to avoid ice dams it is supremely important that you keep your roof clear.

If you have trouble clearing your roof on your own, many snow removal and plow companies offer these services.

Avoiding Ice Dams

Everything you have read on this page to this point is all about treating the problems of ice dams, but it would be best to avoid them all together. Your best chance at avoiding ice dams is to ensure that heat isn’t leaking from living spaces in your home into the spaces immediately below the roof, as this heats the roofs and creates the ideal conditions for ice dams to form.

  • Seal or remove any leaks that allow warm air to escape living areas in your home.
  • Reduce and prevent the conduction and convection of heat through the ceiling by ensuring that your living space is well insulated.
  • Make sure that measures have been take to appropriately ventilate the space between the insulation to ensure any heat that has made it through is carried away from the roof.

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