Ice Dam Problems

The recent heavy snows and storms have created a situation that we have not really experienced here before – Ice Damming. I have been receiving lots of phone calls and emails from people having problems with water coming into their homes as a result of ice dams on their roof. The purpose of this communication is to share some helpful information that will allow you to trouble shoot and prevent further damage. Because you have not had a problem yet doesn’t mean you won’t. The warmer weather and strong sun should take the snow off most roofs over the next few days. The melting snow could initially create more problems as the water builds up behind the ice dam. Here is what you can do.

See my recent post below about ice dams to understand the problem:

  • Call a professional roofing contractor if you experience problems

  • Don’t go up on your roof unless you know what you are doing - roofs covered with snow and ice can be slippery

  • Don’t remove ice with an axe or other sharp tools unless you are experienced. Roofing shingles are not made to withstand heavy blows and in the cold weather they are brittle and can crack or break leading to leak problems in the future

Here are a couple of home remedies I have come across that can be helpful:

  • Put ice melt into nylon stockings and tie the ends closed to create a "sausages." Place these in a couple of places along your roof, perpendicular to the edge. The chemicals will slowly melt and create a channel for the water to flow through.

  • If you have a long enough garden hose, attach it to a hot water source and use that stream of hot water to melt channels through the ice dam. You can also melt and clear away the snow about four feet back from the edge of the roof to prevent further accumulation.

  • Use the same method to thaw ice in gutters. You do not need to get all the ice out of the gutter – just enough so it loosens up. As soon as water is flowing in the gutter it will widen out the channel on its own.

Other helpful ideas:

  • Keep snow cleared away from exterior heat pumps so they can operate unrestricted.

  • Make sure your sump pump exterior drain pipe is clear so if your pump kicks on it will have a place to expel the water.

  • Make sure the storm water drainage openings in your street are clear so when snow starts melting it will not back up and create a lake in front of your home or on your property.

  • Remove icicles off your roof edge if possible – especially the big ones. They are dangerous and can actually rip the gutter or fascia boards right off your home. Be very careful when you do this!!

We are currently experiencing days where melting occurs, and then temperatures drop at night so a re-freeze occurs. This is good because it creates a controlled release of snow. However, we will likely experience a rapid melt at some point so be prepared to handle an excess of water. Try to keep snow and ice back from your home and make sure there are drainage channels for water to flow away from your home. If there is any chance of water working its way back to your house try to address that issue before the melt begins.

Good luck and call if you have any questions

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