While some homeowners in certain states experience home hazards like flooding and hurricanes, and others deal with earthquakes or tornadoes on a regular basis, much of the country faces a major threat every winter. In the northern states, blizzards, freezing rain storms, heavy snowfalls, hail and ice, and subzero temperatures can cause havoc on even the best-built homes. Understanding how ice dams and ice formation affects your home, particularly the roof, will make it easier to see what your best options are for dealing with ice dams if you experience them this season.
What is an ice dam and how does it form?
Ice dams are one of the major telltale signs that a homeowner is suffering from poor roof performance. Snow accumulation and large ice dams can severely damage your roof and basically form when ridges of ice and icicles form on the lower part of the roof as thawing ice and snow from higher on the roof run down and refreeze at the edge of the roof. Although ice dams and icicles that accompany them create beautiful shimmering sights that can be eye-catching, they can be very dangerous – to both the homeowner trying to clear the ice and to the roof as it bears all that heavy weight. Damage from ice dams could cost up to several thousand dollars in roof repairs and could also result in serious injury or even death if the ice sheets suddenly give way and hit someone standing below.
Three things have to be present in order for an ice dam to form: snow, heat that will melt the snow, and cold which will refreeze it. Snow will accumulate on a roof from storms and regular snow falls. If the attic of the home is not well insulated, the heat from the home will warm up the roof enough to melt that snow cover. The melted water trickles down the roof and can leak into the shingles. It will also begin to puddle at the lower edges of the roof where it will form ice sheets. The melted water will refreeze which can split and damage shingles and add to the ice accumulation. As this process continues, the ice builds up thicker and thicker and it can eventually destroy the roof components if left for too long.
What to do if you have an ice dam?
Large icicles that form from the gutters and the eves are often one of the first signs of an ice dam. While they can form just from a temporary warming and then cooling of temperatures, large and long icicles will form only from with ice dams and massive ice blocks. Ice dams and ice formation go hand in hand and abnormal ice formations will indicate that you may be dealing with ice dams. Another sign of ice dam accumulation is water leaking through the windows or ceilings.
The best way to deal with an ice dam is to begin working on removing the snow. Us a special snow rake to begin raking snow down off the roof while standing on the ground. Never walk on a snow-covered roof- the risk of a slip and falls are too great and the results can be deadly. Make sure that if you need to get up higher on a level with the roof that you work on a ladder. Also, do not put rock salt or sodium chloride on your roof to try and melt the snow- it will get rid of the snow but the salt and chloride will be left behind and will damage your shingles and any that falls to the ground with the meltwater will kill the grass and plants below. Potassium chloride or calcium chloride are the only options that are safe to use on your roof to speed up the ice melting. Removing an ice dam on your own is often risky for a homeowner and can be quite dangerous. It is best that you hire a professional to remove snow and ice from your roof so that is can be done safely.
Contact us at Stay Dry Roofing
Here at Stay Dry Roofing, we are committed to helping all of our customers with their winter roof care and maintenance. Understanding how ice dams and ice formation affects your roof is an important step in keeping your home and your family safe this winter. For answers to all of your winter roofing questions and for help dealing with ice dams give us a call! We are here for you in any season!