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Preventing and limiting damage from ice dams

A building that has ice dams on it.

If you notice icicles hanging on the eaves of your building, it may indicate the presence of an ice dam. Substantial snowfall can create conditions leading to ice dams developing on roofs.

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam is a blockage formed from melting snow that freezes along roof edges and gutters. As ice builds, it can trap water that eventually will seep through the seams of the shingles. This can cause significant damage to your walls, insulation, ceiling, and other areas.

How do ice dams form?

Ice dams are formed by uneven melting on the roof. The melting can be caused by the sun, uneven heating on the roof due to an interior heat source, or a combination of both. The uneven temperatures on the top surface of the roof cause the water to flow down to a lower elevation that is colder, and it freezes. If conditions are right, the process continues, which causes the ice formation to grow. It may even become large enough to stop water from flowing off a roof.

How to remove ice dams

If more than a foot of snow accumulates on the roof, remove it by using a roof rake or push broom. Carefully, and very lightly, sweep the rake or broom down the slope of the roof line. Never pull snow sideways across the roof or it may break off the shingles. It’s not necessary to remove all of the ice in the gutters or the ice dam itself, as long as you have removed the snow from the roof.

Break the ice

Don’t allow icicles to hang from the roofline or gutters. Carefully break them off and keep the icicles away from the foundation of your building.

Don’t risk your life

Most importantly, be safe! Unless you’ve been properly trained, removing an ice dam can be quite dangerous. When removing ice dams, you not only risk damage to your roof, but also severe personal injury if you are not careful. We strongly recommend contacting professionals with the proper equipment and roofing experience to carry out this job.

Learn more about preventing roof collapses due to snow accumulation.

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