We’re getting well into the wintry months in much of the country and it’s time to start dealing with ice and snow. Snow piled up on roofs can be picturesque, but it can also damage your roof if ice dams form. We’re going to take a look at what ice dams are, how they form, what you can do to fix them, and how to prevent them.

What are ice dams?

Ice dams form at the edges of your roof, often on top of or in your gutters, when melted snow and ice refreeze. This literally dams up the roof and prevents the rest of the snowmelt from flowing off. They are caused by a temperature imbalance on your roof. If the ice and snow closest to your roof melts first, before the upper layers exposed to the sun, it will flow down and refreeze at the edges of your roof. As the snow goes through the natural process of heating and cooling every day, the problem will get worse and worse.

Why are ice dams a problem?

Your roof is designed to shed water, not retain it. If melted snow is allowed to remain on your roof, instead of flowing off, it can seep into your shingles and even the attic below. If the ice dam is allowed to continue growing, it might force its way further up your roof and into gaps, doing more damage.

Treating Ice Dams

Do not just climb a ladder and hack away at the ice on your roof with a shovel – you’ll risk injury to yourself and your roof. Don’t spread salt, either – this can damage your roof, too. If you have a long enough handle and your roof is low enough, try using a lightweight aluminum roof rake, so you can break up the ice while remaining safely on the ground.

For an unconventional solution, you can also create some drainage using, of all things, panty hose! Take some panty hose that you or your spouse won’t miss and fill it with a calcium chloride snow melter. Carefully lay the hose on your roof vertically. You may want to use a long handled rake to nudge it into position. The calcium chloride will melt the ice and snow under the hose and give your roof a channel, permitting drainage of meltwater. [Source]

What can I do to prevent ice dams?

Ultimately, the best cure is an ounce of prevention. The main causes of ice dams are poor insulation and improper attic ventilation. If your attic remains much warmer than the freezing outside, that imbalance will cause the snow to melt from the bottom up and lead to ice dams. Not sure if your attic is sufficiently ventilated? Use this handy ventilation calculator or call us for a consultation.

Second, insulate your attic. If your attic isn’t well insulated, not only does this cause ice dams, it can be a real drain on your heating bill! If you’re unsure if your attic is insulated enough, call us and we’ll be glad to advise you.

Finally as mentioned above, you can periodically remove built up snow from your roof. If you want, you can use a long-handled snow rake to carefully remove it from your roof. A word of warning – do this from the ground – if you’re up on a ladder, you risk injury if too much snow comes tumbling down. You can also contract a professional, if you lack proper equipment, your roof is too high, or you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself.

If you’d like help assessing your roof, we can help. Contact us for a free estimate at (402)-894-9525 or reach out to us here. We hope you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful snow on the eaves without worry this year.