The Dangers of Ice Dams and How to Prevent Them

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The Dangers of Ice Dams and How to Prevent Them

prevent ice damsAn ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof when heat from an attic melts snow on the roof and water runs down to the eaves, which are colder, and refreezes. As water backs up, it can leak through roof shingles into the house and damage walls, ceilings, and insulation. The weight of the ice can also damage gutters or cause them to fall down. You can avoid serious damage to your house by preventing ice dams or addressing them immediately if they form.

The best way to prevent ice dams is to remove snow from your roof after every storm. This will prevent water from flowing down to the roof eaves and refreezing. Use a roof rake to clear snow up three or four feet from the edge of your roof or hire a contractor for the job. This will also reduce the amount of stress on your roof.

The amount of snow and ice your roof can support depends on the structure, age, and condition of the roof. Wet snow is much heavier than dry snow. If there is more than a foot of wet snow on your roof, you should have it removed.

You can help snow that melts drain off your roof by keeping your gutters and downspouts clear. This will prevent standing water from collecting.

You can tell if your house has an ice dam by looking at the icicles around your house’s exterior. If they are only in the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, there is probably not an ice dam. However, icicles can hurt people if they fall, so you should try to knock them down while you stand on the ground. Do not stand directly beneath them. If you cannot reach the icicles from the ground, hire a contractor.

Another way to tell if you have an ice dam is to look for water stains or moisture in the attic or on exterior walls on the top floor of your house. This may be a sign that an ice dam has formed and water has penetrated your roof’s membrane.

If an ice dam has formed, you can remove it by melting it. Fill a pair of nylon stockings with calcium chloride ice melt and lay it vertically across the ice dam so it can melt a channel. Do not use rock salt because it can damage your roof. Calcium chloride may damage plants and shrubs near the gutters and downspouts.

You can also use long-term solutions to prevent ice dams. Insulating your attic can prevent warm air from escaping and melting snow. Seal places where warm air can escape, such as vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches, and light fixtures. If you have your roof replaced, install a water-repellent membrane under the shingles to act as a barrier to keep water out of the house.

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