When And How To Handle Ice Dams On Your Roof

When And How To Handle Ice Dams On Your Roof

When did ice dams become such a big problem? Well, they always pose a concern, but often we fail to recognize the risks they pose until significant water damage is evident around the house. But since winter is here, it’s time to address the huge ice formations on your roof. 

At Champion Exteriors, we’re here with an expert guide on how to deal with ice dams correctly. We’ll explain the complexities of solving this problem, laying out clear strategies for when ice dams occur, and more importantly, how to remove them from your roof.

The Effects Of Ice Dams On Homes

From interior damage to mold and mildew growth on your siding, snow, and ice accumulation are responsible for various forms of water damage.

Damage To Roofs, Gutters, and Other Home Exterior Components

The sheer weight of ice dams can put a strain on your gutters and eaves. Gutters may warp or detach from the building entirely due to alternating cycles of freezing and thawing. The damage might not show overnight, but over time, it builds up, potentially leading to a need for gutter re-installation.

The Risk Of Water Leaks And Indoor Damage

As heat escapes from inside your house (as it always does), the snow on top of your roof melts despite the cold air outside. This melted snow trickles down until it freezes again along the eaves to form ice, which keeps on melting and freezing with natural freeze-thaw cycles. Blocked in by ice, the melted water then starts seeping beneath the roofing shingles and eventually into your home. Once inside, it can spell disaster for ceilings, walls, insulation, and floors, not to mention mold growth within enclosed spaces. So, what starts out as a shiny winter element can become an interior nightmare if left unchecked.

Danger From Falling Icicles Or Damaged Roofing Materials

Hanging like glassy stalactites, ice dams produce icicles that might dazzle in sunlight, but pose serious threats if dislodged. They can fall on plants, porch furniture, or anyone beneath them. This is especially dangerous if you have kids or pets. In extreme cases where warning signs are missed or ignored, an overburdened roof could cave in under the constant weight.

Is It Time For Ice Dam Removal?

Ice dams are a result of one or more prior issues that have escalated, like poor attic insulation, improper roof ventilation, and poor roof design, among others. So, while there are solutions that will address the ice dam formation immediately, some also work to solve the underlying issue that is causing ice dam formation in the first place.

Removing Existing Ice Dams From Your Roof

Removing and preventing ice dams involves professional knowledge, skills, and experience. It involves some risky professional techniques and tools that most homeowners may not be able to employ correctly or safely, so ensure you hire a professional for the task.

Here’s how they’ll handle the ice dams:

#1 Snow Removal

Roofers may use roof rakes or other tools to remove excess snow from the roof. This helps prevent the buildup of snow that could later melt and contribute to ice dam formation.

#2 Ice Melt Systems

Professionals may be able to install electric or manual roof heating systems to melt ice and snow. These systems are designed to prevent the formation of ice dams by keeping the surface of your roof at an even temperature.

#3 Creating Channels With Ice Melt Products

Roofers may create channels through the ice to allow melted water to flow off the roof. This can involve using hot water, steam, or calcium chloride to melt channels through the ice dam. However, it’s important to use these products cautiously, as some can damage roofing materials and surrounding vegetation.

Why DIY Ice Removal Is Not Recommended

If you are thinking of handling any of these tasks all by yourself, it’s important to know the potential dangers associated with it:

Roof Damage

Incorrect removal methods or the use of improper tools can cause damage to the roof. When using a roof rake scratching, gouging, or puncturing the roofing material can lead to leaks and further issues, ultimately requiring more extensive repairs.

Personal Injury

Beyond the risk of falling, attempting to remove ice without the proper tools and techniques may lead to personal injuries. Ice removal can be physically demanding, and injuries can occur due to slipping, lifting heavy equipment, or using tools improperly.

Ineffective Solutions

DIY attempts to remove ice dams may not effectively address the underlying issues causing the dams in the first place. Professionals can assess the situation, identify the root causes, and apply correct solutions to prevent future ice formations.

Environmental Impact

The use of certain chemicals or methods for ice dam removal that are not environmentally friendly can have negative consequences on the surrounding environment. Ethical roofing contractors are more likely to use environmentally conscious approaches and products.

Legal and Insurance Implications

If you attempt to remove ice dams from your roof and cause roof damage or injure yourself in the process, it may have implications for insurance coverage. Insurance policies may have clauses that limit coverage or exclude certain damage and injuries if homeowners perform acts that should be done by professionals.

Avoiding The Formation Of Ice Dams On Roofs

Preventing ice dams from forming is an essential proactive measure to protect your home through the cold months. Here’s how you can get ahead of this chilly challenge:

#1 Preventative Roof Maintenance: Cleaning Gutters And Downspouts

Keeping gutters and downspouts clear is among the most simple and effective ways to prevent ice dam formation. Before winter sets in, take these steps:

  • Clean Gutters: Clear out leaves, twigs, and debris. Clogged gutters trap water, which freezes, contributing to the buildup of ice dams.
  • Regular Checks: Make it a habit to inspect your gutters after heavy snowfall or severe weather conditions. A quick roof inspection could save you a lot of hassle down the line.
  • Repair Work: Fix any damage to your gutter system, like cuts, dents, or disconnected sections that can exacerbate water freezing problems.

This is a part of preventive roof maintenance, which includes other aspects such as occasional roof inspection and cleaning.

Maintaining a clear pathway for melting snow also ensures that it drains away appropriately rather than freezing against your roofline.

#2 Properly Insulation And Ventilation To Prevent Heat Loss

Your attic plays a major role in determining whether or not your roof will fall victim to snow and ice damage. It’s all about controlling heat loss:

  1. Insulate Adequately: Your roofing contractor should ensure that sufficient insulation is installed along your attic floor, which keeps warm air inside your living space, instead of rising into the attic.
  2. Seal Leaks: The professionals will look for air leaks around light fixtures, pipes, or ductwork and seal them. These leaks allow warm air to escape into the attic, inadvertently melting snow on the roof.
  3. Ventilate: Good roof ventilation allows cool outside air to push through the underside of the roof deck, keeping it sufficiently cold, thus preventing snow melt above.

By attentively regulating temperature and airflow in your attic space, you minimize uneven heating on your roof’s surface, which is a primary cause of ice dam formation.

#3 Making Structural Improvements To The Roof And Attic

The prevention of ice dams in the long term calls for more than just a patch-up job; it calls for thoughtful changes to your home’s thermal performance. Consider these structural enhancements:

  • Air Sealing: Eliminate warm air leaks from your living area into the attic with meticulous sealing around light fixtures, chimneys, and vent stacks.
  • Install an Ice and Water Shield: This special underlayment goes beneath shingles on the lower edge of your roof, acting as a barrier to water that melted snow cannot penetrate.

With this information, we hope we are able to help you understand how to address the issue of ice dams on your roof. Remember, safety comes before everything and permanent solutions are necessary to avoid recurring problems. Going down the right path can also help you save a lot of money in the future, which you might otherwise spend on untimely roof repairs or replacements.

If you need professional service to remove and prevent roof ice dams in South Jersey, you can trust our experts to help you. 

Protect Your Home From Ice And Water Damage

At Champion Exteriors, we’re here to take care of your home by providing permanent solutions for ice dam removal and long-term prevention strategies. We can also help you address any other issues with your home’s exterior that may otherwise cause damage during winter. If you are looking for residential roofing services in South Jersey, such as ice dam removal, Champion Exteriors is here to help. Like many of our happy customers, we’d love to work with you and protect your home this winter. So, call us at (800) 276-0032 to schedule a free roof consultation and inspection with one of our experts.