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How to Remove Ice Dams From Your Roof

Jan 12th, 2021 // Roof Repair

It’s January, the month filled with snow, cold, and ice. And whether or not you enjoy the weather, what comes with it, while sometimes beautiful, can actually be very damaging to your roof. For example, icicles may look lovely as the glisten in the sun, but they are also a sign that your roof is in danger of damage. 

The conditions that allow icicles to form also allow ice dams to form, and these can cause serious problems for your roof. Before we tell you how to prevent and remove ice dams, let’s explain what they are and how they form. 

An ice dam is a build up of ice that forms along ridges and eaves of roofs. The ice acts as a barrier for melting snow, which has nowhere to go, causing a pile up of water and slush to build up and eventually seep into your roof, causing damage to ceilings, walls, and insulation. 

Checking for Dams 

Icicles are dear friends of ice dams, so when you see them forming on your roof, it’s time to check into the situation. While icicles may be easy to snap off, ice dams are thick, rigid blocks of solid ice that loosen shingles, cause gutters to pop off, or water to drain into your roof, causing internal damage. 

To check if you have a dam, look for the following: 

  • Icicles. If iscles form around just your gutters, you are likely safe from ice dams. However, if you see them forming along the ridges of your roof, carefully inspect them using a ladder to see if water is forming behind them. 
  • Gutters. If your gutters are becoming weak or detached due to ice, this is a big sign ice dams could be damaging your exterior. 
  • Shingles. If you notice your shingles are starting to twist up, look warped, or are coming off near icicles or ridges of your roof, check to see if there is a dam to blame. 
  • Attics and ceilings. If you notice water stains or moisture building up in your attic or ceilings, there’s a chance an ice dam could be the culprit. During the winter months, if you see icicles forming, issues with gutters, or shingles looking off, pay attention to the top of your home to see if water is already coming through. 

Getting Rid of Ice Dams

If you indeed have an ice dam, hacking away at it to break all the ice is not the way to go. In fact, this can cause even more damage to your roof. Once an ice dam is detected there are some easy things you can do to get rid of it.

To start, use a roof rake to remove the snow surrounding the ice dam. Once the dam is exposed you can use a calcium chloride solution to melt the ice. However, it’s best to put the mixture into a vessel, like a nylon or stocking, so it can be placed on top of the dam and work to melt it down. Putting the solution directly on the ice could lead to roof damage. 

Once you’ve filled your vessel with the chloride mix, place it across the ice dam vertically so the dam melts off the roof instead of spreading horizontally. If you have any plants directly below, be sure to cover them, as calcium chloride can harm them. 

As always, when climbing a ladder, especially in winter, be careful to secure it and climb slowly and safely when handling ice. 

Preventing Ice Dams 

One simple way to prevent ice dams from forming is to use a roof rake regularly to remove snow. This will help keep your roof clear and allow any water from melting snow and ice to flow down through gutters as it should. 

Another way you can help prevent dams is applying interior ventilation in the attic pointed toward the roof. This keeps the roof and interior cooler to keep snow and ice from melting quickly, which will help keep ice from forming. Additionally, you can put insulation in your ceilings to keep the warm air from within your home from seeping into the attic and up through the roof. 

If you don’t have the ability to install insulation or don’t have an attic to circulate air in, you can purchase heated cables to set up along the ridges of your roof to maintain a warmer temperature so ice cannot build up, form icicles, or dams. 

Winter can be tricky for roofs. Snow build up, ice, wind, sleet all contribute to the deterioration of your roof. However, knowing what to do when things pile up and how to prevent them can keep your roof strong and ice gone.

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