Preventing and limiting the damage from ice dams

February 27, 2019 | SECURA Insurance

Ice on the roof? It could be an ice dam.

Sure, the icicles hanging on the eaves of your house make for a picturesque, Instagram-worthy scene, but did you know they can spell big problems for your home? With the significant amount of snow many states received this winter, the same conditions that cause those pretty icicles to form can also lead to ice dams. 

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam is a blockage formed from melting snow that freezes along the roof edges and gutters. As ice builds, it can trap water that eventually will seep through the seams of your roof 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 potentially freeze. 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.

What can I do to prevent and limit the damage from ice dams?

In these remaining few weeks of winter, it's all about damage control. If you see ice dams forming on your property, here is what you can do to minimize the potential damage: 

How to remove ice dams?

If more than a foot of snow 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 home.

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 to yourself if you are not careful. We strongly recommend contacting professionals with the proper equipment and roofing experience to carry out this job.

Learn more on how to prevent, spot, and remove ice dams.