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What to Do When You Have an Ice Dam on Your Roof

Ice dams are thick slabs of ice that build up along the eaves of your roof. They form when indoor heat rises through the ceiling, into the attic warming the roof and melting snow in patches, which flows down until it meets the part of the roof that is below freezing. That’s when they turn into an ice dam, trapping water above that can back up into the attic, put weight on your gutters, and loosen shingles.

It is true; homeowners can prevent ice dams with proper insulation, ventilation, and airflow. All of those things are great, but they must be done before snowy weather hits. Once you find an ice dam on your roof, take the following precautions, and then make a plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

If you see an ice dam on your roof now:

  • roof rakeDO NOT try to chisel away at the ice. Not only is it dangerous to be up on a ladder in icy weather, but the chisel or shovel also has the potential to do more damage to your shingles. Additionally, DO NOT use rock salt on your roof as it will also damage your shingles.
  • Check your attic. If the ice dam is already causing a leak into your attic, point a box fan at the active leak. This targeted cold air will help freeze the water, stopping the leak until you can call a roofing professional.
  • Purchase a roof rake (a long-handled aluminum rake, usually with wheels), which can remove snow from the roof. Stand safely on your lawn, and use the rake to pull snow down, instantly changing the temperature on the roof.
  • Create a channel. Fill a leg of pantyhose with a calcium chloride ice melter. Lay the DIY ice melter on the roof, so it crosses through the ice dam and melts ice down into the gutter. While this isn’t a total fix, it can move the melted water off the roof, so it does not seep through the shingles into your attic.

If you consistently see ice dams on your roof:

  • Call a roofing professional. They will assess the ventilation in your attic, whether you have roofing professionalenough insulation, if ducts are sealed, and if the flashing around the chimney is in good shape. All of these things can be done in the winter – as long as your roof isn’t currently covered in snow. So, if you experienced an ice dam during the last snowstorm, schedule a consultation with a roofing expert
  • Consider heated cables. If you have already spoken with a professional and there are no insulation or ventilation issues on your roof, you can also try this DIY approach. Attach heated cables to your roof with clips, which will equalize your roof’s temperature from the outside.
  • Use a roof rake proactively. Just as you may plow your driveway or shovel the front walk when snow starts to accumulate, use the roof rake to remove snow from your home. By eliminating the snowy buildup that helps create ice dams, you can stop them from forming in the first place.

If you see ice dams build up on your roof with every snowfall, it’s time to call a roofing professional. You may have damage from previous ice dams, which could be remediated by small fixes, or it may be time for a full roof replacement. Schedule a free consultation with Brothers’ roofing experts to find out which updates would be best for your home.