Why You Should Worry About Ice Dams

With Calgary’s fairly recent cold snap of -40 C, there have been dozens of calls coming in about ice damming. Ice dams can also wreak havoc inside the home in the form of attic rain.

What Causes Ice Dams?

Ice dams can form on the outside of the house, due to warming and freezing cycles. The heat from the interior of the home can also cause dams to form. You will notice a buildup of ice along the edge of the roof or in the gutter system.

There may be icicles or a frozen fall area, where water is overflowing the gutter system. There are other areas ice dams can form like around dormers, roof valleys, vents, and roof overhangs. Ice dams affect interior insulation and interior moisture levels as well when the water backs up onto the roof or goes under the shingle.

Here is an interesting summary of ice dam information and graphics.

Clear large snow buildups. Monitoring snow on the roof throughout the winter is a preventive measure to limit the formation of ice dams. Steeper roofs and metal roofs are less prone to ice dams. Large snow loads can tax a flat roof load-bearing capacity causing them to collapse. Use a long-handled rake from the ground, rather than using a shovel on the roof surface, to clear snow. Stand clear as you pull the snow down, as it may cause the rest of the snow to slide down.

If you attempt using a ladder outdoors in the winter, make sure to take extra safety precautions. Getting up on the roof is dangerous as the shingles are slippery.

Homeowners attempting to clear an outside ice dam should not chop away the ice buildup. Doing so can damage the roof liner and shingle surfaces. Pouring salt or de-icer on the ice dam will eventually help to melt the ice, but it might damage your home’s walkways and plants as the melted runoff leaves the roof.

A better solution could be to pour calcium chloride loosely into a tied-off pair of pantyhose and laying the pantyhose in the gutters or over the ice dam. You can also use commercial ice melt pucks that are placed along the gutter to encourage melt flow.

Don’t be tempted to use steam or torches. You may damage your roof. If you really want to melt the ice dams faster, there are certified roof heaters that can be purchased and installed along the roof and gutter edge that keep ice from forming.

If ice dams are a regular occurrence, you might want to consider switching to a metal roof, which doesn’t have the same issues. Speak with a roofing company like National Star Roofing Specialists to find out more about the options available to you.

Ask For Help

A qualified roofing company can look at the insulation in the attic to see if there are spots in the attic that should be built-up or redistributed. Their inspection will determine if heat loss in certain areas are causing the outdoor ice dams.

A professional roofing company has specific tools, like specialized rakes with wheels, to remove snow from your home’s roof and industrial blowers to melt the ice dam. They are accustomed to working on the roof in less than ideal conditions. It is better to let them remove the ice dam safely.

Have you heard about attic rain? Read our recent blog that explains what it is and how to prevent it.