Homeowner’s Guide to Ice Dams

With wintry weather finally making its way into the Mid-Atlantic, it’s time for homeowners to be on alert for ice dams. Here’s what you need to know to protect your roof, gutters, and home from this winter hazard.

What is an ice dam?

Interior heat escapes through the roof causing snow to melt; however, the snowmelt refreezes when it reaches the eaves, which are colder than the rest of the roof.

The refreeze builds up, creating a thick ridge of icicles along the eaves and gutters. What’s more, the ice build-up blocks the flow of additional snowmelt, which causes a water backup on the roof.

How does an ice dam damage my home?

The water that backs up behind the ice dam works its way under shingles and, eventually, into your home, where it can stain ceilings and walls, peel paint, and trigger other water damage. In addition, the ice’s heavy-weight can easily pull gutters away from the home. The resulting damage can create leaks as well as harm eaves, siding, and landscaping.

What should I do if my home has an ice dam?

It might be tempting to get up on the rooftop and start hacking or chipping away at the ice. Don’t do it. You could end up damaging the roof, gutters, or other features with your shovel or hammer.

A specialized roof shovel or rake can help you remove snow to reduce or eliminate the potential for water backup from melting snow.

Another method is to fill old pantyhose with a calcium chloride (not rock salt!) ice melt. Tie off the top of the pantyhose, and then position the filled stocking vertically against the ice to allow it to melt a drainage channel. Be aware that ice melt can cause staining, and it may be corrosive to metal features, like nails, and landscape features, like nearby shrubs.

IMPORTANT: Climbing onto a roof can be dangerous any time of year—but especially so during snow and ice season. Never get on a roof without using proper safety precautions. The safest option is to consult a roofing contractor with the equipment and expertise to inspect and repair your roof any time of year. (Learn do’s and don’ts for hiring a roofing, siding, or gutter contractor.)

If you’re concerned about damage from ice dams, talk with a professional. Best Contracting will inspect your roof and attic for signs of winter weather damage. We’ll answer your questions about ice dams, and, if needed, walk you through your repair, replacement, and no-interest financing options.

Schedule a free, no-hassle roofing inspection in PA, NJ, MD, and DE with one of our experienced team members.

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