ice damIcicles hanging over the roofs and eaves of homes may look beautiful in the winter months, but icicles also signify a problem with roof drainage. If not addressed, icicles can lead to ice dams that can cause damages to homes and even injury if not remedied.

What is an Ice Dam?

Ice dams form when water from melting snow refreezes into a ridge of ice at the eave of the roof. This dam then prevents water from properly draining from your roof. Without an easy way for the water to drain, water can then leak through the underside of the roof and the shingles into the building.

This can cause long-term water damage to both exterior walls and interior rooms and structures. Melting snow on the roof can flood attics and crawl spaces, causing homeowners costly repairs. Ice dam damages can add up to thousands of dollars if not more. The good news is there are remedies you can use to get rid of them and there are even preventative methods from allowing them to form in the first place.

Preventing Ice Dams

To altogether avoid costly repairs to your home caused by ice dams, prevention is key. Some methods of prevention require you to remove snow from your roof after a snowstorm, and others require you to adjust temperature settings in your home and specifically, your attic. Try these methods to prevent ice dams from forming at your home or business.

  • Invest in attic insulation. Attic insulation can not only help prevent ice dams from forming, it can also improve energy efficiency in your home or business. Blown-in attic insulation is the easiest method, however, rolled insulation works just as well. If you install insulation, make sure to avoid covering the soffit vents or exhaust fans. Soffit vents help your home achieve proper airflow circulation.
  • Seal air leaks. Even if you invest in attic insulation, if warm air from your main living area enters the attic through gaps, your attic temperature may be too warm and cause snow on the roof to melt and form an ice dam. Seal all gaps around vent pipes and consider rerouting bathroom exhaust fans and dryer vents from the attic to another exterior wall.
  • Install ice melting heat cables. Ice melting heat cables can be an expensive investment, however, they can prevent ice from forming on your roof and gutters. Installed in a zig-zag pattern, heated cables allow you to regulate your roof’s temperature from the outside. If you are interested in using ice melting heat cables, you should engage with a professional contractor or electrician to make sure they are installed properly. Plan in investing at least $1,000 if using a contractor.

Ice Dam Remedies

Even if you’ve taken preventative measures, you may still have an ice dam form at your home or business. It’s important to remove the dam promptly to avoid damages like destroyed gutters and leaking roofs. Refrain from taking a hammer or other tool and hacking away at the ice – this can cause damages, too, to your shingles and overall roof structure. If tackling an ice dam, consider using the following methods.

  • Remove snow shortly after a snowfall. Many hardware stores and home improvement stores sell snow rakes, a tool that can remove snow fairly easily. Snow rakes cost between $50-$100 and feature a roller along the bottom that prevents damages to your roof shingles. If using a snow rake, be sure to take proper safety precautions when using a ladder. Heavy snow and ice can also cause physical injury, so be sure to be aware of any falling snow or ice.
  • Blow cool air in the attic. While it may seem counterintuitive, you should circulate COOL air into the attic, not warm air. Blow a box fan at the area of the roof that is dripping melted snow and ice. The cold air will freeze the water and prevent further water damage in your attic and the interior of your home.
  • De-ice with calcium chloride. Calcium chloride, which can be purchased inexpensively from most home improvement stores, is a chemical compound frequently used to melt ice. Fill a netted bag (or even an old pair of pantyhose) with the compound and position it vertically on the roof and over the gutter. The calcium chloride will melt the ice and snow and create a space for the water to flow off of the roof. Do not use basic rock salt as a substitute as it can damage your roof. 

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What to Do If Ice Dams Harm Your Home

Even with preventative measures and ice dam remedies, your home may still be damaged by melting snow and ice. If left alone, these damages can cause mold, structural damage and can end up costing homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs. Reynolds Restoration Services can help with water damages and reconstruction ensuring your home is back to its pre-loss condition.

Our trained and professional team has been helping home and business owners for more than 15 years remove restore their building after a loss. With offices in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD, our teams can quickly respond and help restore your building to its pre-mold condition. While we hope you never need us, we are here to help.