Those icicles hanging from your eaves might look lovely, but they can hide a hidden danger – ice dams! Ice dams can cause serious problems for your property. Use these tips to recognize them and stop them before they cause major damage.
What’s An Ice Dam?
If you’re like many property owners, you’re not familiar with ice dams in the slightest. But even if you didn’t know what you were looking at, you’ve probably seen them. They happen in several steps:
1. Warm air from an attic space heats up the roof, melting snow and ice that collects there during the winter.
2. The melted water runs down to the eaves, which aren’t heated at all by the attic, and then re-freezes.
3. The snow up on the roof keeps melting, but it can’t run off the roof because it’s blocked by the ice dam.
4. The melted water builds up, gets under the shingles, and leaks inside the building.
Recognizing Ice Dams
• Look for icicles and ice. If you’ve got icicles hanging off your roof, and there appears to be a large amount of ice behind it, watch out!
• Watch out for warm weather. Uncommonly warm, sunny days can make ice dams worse if they’re warm enough to accelerate the melting on the roof, but not warm enough to melt the ice on the edge.
Dealing With An Ice Dam
• Never go up on the roof. No matter what, never try to deal with an ice dam by getting up onto the roof. It’s dangerous for you, and it’s dangerous for your roof!
• Blow in cold air. If you know you’ve got an ice dam related leak, get into the attic and place a box fan under the leaking area. This can help cool the area down, re-freezing the water and stopping the leak.
• Use a roof rake (carefully!) A long handled roof rake, used from the ground as you stand safely out of the way of any falling snow, can pull snow off the roof and remove the hazard.
• Targeted ice melting. Another option is to deliver a targeted dose of ice melt right at the location of the ice dam (and the leak). Fill a semi-porous material (pantyhose work nicely) with ice melt (not salt) and place it perpendicular to the ice dam, crossing over it and overhanging the gutter. This ice melt will eventually melt the ice, giving the trapped water a way to run off.
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