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Ice Dams On Roofs: Should You Worry?

Posted on November 14, 2023

Ice Dams On Roofs: Should You Worry?

At Paramount Roofing, our experts have solved countless winter roofing issues for homeowners over the years. One of the most common problems we come across is finding ice dams on roofs. If you are also facing this issue, this blog post will be a helpful resource for you.

Today, we’ll explore the science behind ice dams, how problematic they can be, and most importantly, what you can do to remove those ice dams and prevent them in the future.

What Are Ice Dams?

Ice dams are piles of ice that form along the eaves of a roof, usually after a snowfall followed by freezing temperatures. They occur when the heat from your home escapes through the roof, causing the snow at the highest point to melt. This melted snow then runs down to the eaves, where it refreezes due to the colder outdoor temperatures, creating a dam of ice.

Ice dams may seem harmless at first, but they can cause significant damage to your home if not handled correctly.

Why You Should Be Concerned About Ice Dams On Your Roof

Here’s why you should be worried:

#1 Roof Damage

The weight of ice dams can put unnecessary stress on your roofing structure. This added weight can lead to roof leaks, and in extreme cases, even roof collapse. The shingles may also be damaged as ice and water seep under them, causing them to split. 

#2 Gutter Damage

Gutter Damage

The weight and pressure of the ice dams resting along the eaves of the roof, and therefore the gutters, can cause them to detach or warp, resulting in costly repairs or replacements.

#3 Icicle Formation

Ice dams are often accompanied by the formation of large icicles hanging along the roof’s edge. They may look picturesque but can be hazardous, especially if you have pets and kids. These icicles can fall unexpectedly, hurting anyone beneath them, as well as damaging the landscape and porch.

#4 Shortened Roof Lifespan

It may come as a surprise that ice dams on a roof will shorten the lifespan of the roof itself. However, the repeated freezing and thawing cycles that they induce can weaken roofing materials over time, leading to the need for premature or urgent roof replacement.

#5 Increased Energy Costs

When your attic lacks proper insulation and ventilation, and your roof is constantly battling ice dams, your home’s energy efficiency takes a hit. Heating costs can surge as your HVAC system works harder to combat heat loss, leading to higher energy bills during the winter months.

#6 Interior Water Damage

Interior Water Damage

Ice dams on a roof prevent melted snow from draining off of it and into the gutters. Water then backs up under the shingles. This allows water to slip into the attic space and the interior of your home, where over time, this results in damaged insulation, ceilings, and walls.

#7 Mold and Mildew Growth

When moisture infiltrates your home, it creates a breeding ground for mold and mildew. These unwelcome guests can pose health risks to you and your family, and they are notoriously difficult to eradicate once they take hold.

Now that you understand the dangerous consequences of ice dams. It’s time to find an efficient solution to get rid of the ice for good. In some cases, despite your best efforts, ice dams may still form. 

Let’s understand what you can do to solve this problem permanently.

How To Remove Ice Dams From Your Roof

Consulting a professional roofer or contractor is always a wise move when dealing with existing ice dams. They can assess your roof’s condition, suggest improvements, and perform necessary repairs to prevent ice dams in the future.

If you’re facing the immediate issue of an existing ice dam, it’s crucial to address it promptly. Attempting to remove ice dams yourself can be dangerous and may damage your roof or gutters. 

Here are a couple of methods for safe and efficient ice dam removal:

Steam Removal

One popular method to remove ice dams is by using steam. Professional roofers can use specialized equipment to apply steam to the ice dams, which gently melt them away without causing any damage to your roof or shingles. This method is precise and reduces the risk of further issues.

Roof Rakes

Roof Rakes

For smaller ice dams, or when you’re dealing with a less severe situation, roof rakes can also be useful. These long-handled rakes allow you to stand on the ground and remove some of the snow and ice from your roof. While it’s not as effective as steam removal, it can help alleviate the problem to some extent. However, if you are not experienced, the process can damage the roofing shingles or gutters if the rake scratches against them.

De-Icing Products

There are various de-icing products available on the market that can be applied to your roof to help melt ice dams. These products typically come in the form of tablets or liquids, and they work by slowly melting the ice. However, they may not be as effective in severe cases, and you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using them. Some products may not be compatible with your roofing material and cause more harm than good.

Heating Cables

Heating Cables

Heating cables can also be used to remove ice dams from roofs. If installed properly, these cables can melt the ice and create channels for water to escape. They’re a good option for melting small ice dams along the gutters and eaves.

These are some effective and widely used methods to remove ice dams from your roof. However, removing ice dams will not prevent them from forming again. To end this problem once and for all, you need to take some preventive measures.

Keep Ice Dams At Bay: Way To Prevent Ice Dams On Your Roof

#1 Attic Insulation and Ventilation

Proper attic insulation and ventilation are key to preventing ice dams. Insulation assists in keeping the heat inside your home, reducing the likelihood of snow melting on your roof. Ventilation ensures that the attic’s temperature remains consistent, preventing the roof from warming unevenly.

#2 Seal Air Leaks 

Check the attic space for any gaps, cracks, or holes that might allow the warm air to slip out. These air leaks can significantly contribute to ice dam formation. Seal them with caulk or foam insulation, keeping the warmth inside your home.

#3 Install Roof Vents

Roof vents play a vital role in ensuring the well-being of your attic. Soffit vents, ridge vents, and gable vents are like windows that let in fresh air, prompting overly warm air to escape from the attic and maintaining a consistent temperature. Proper ventilation helps prevent the roof from warming unevenly, which generally leads to ice dam formation.

#4 Properly Position Exhaust Fans

Exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen can expel warm, moist air into your attic if not vented correctly. Ensure that these fans are vented outside your home, allowing them to release their warmth into the open air, not into your attic space.

#5 Clear Snow From Your Roof

After a heavy snowfall, remove excess snow from your roof, just as you would brush the snow off your car before a winter drive. It’s also a gentle way to alleviate immediate snow load and reduce the risk of roof damage and ice dam formation.

With a few more measures, like gutter cleaning, vent pipe and downspout insulation, chimney maintenance, and trimming overhanging trees, you can winterize your roof and prevent all sorts of damage and problems, including ice dams.

Additional Measures To Prevent Ice Dams & Roof Damage In Winter

Here’s what you need to take care of:

Gutter Cleaning

When leaves, debris, and dirt accumulate in your gutters, water can’t flow freely. As a result, it may pool on your roof, increasing the risk of ice dam formation. Cleaning your gutters before winter or after ice dam removal ensures they are free from obstructions, allowing water to drain effectively.

Vent Pipe and Downspout Insulation

Vent pipes can release warm air directly onto your roof, contributing to localized melting and ice dam formation. Downspouts can freeze, develop ice dams, and burst. By insulating these areas, you can maintain a consistent roof temperature, reducing the risk of ice dams.

Chimney Maintenance

Regular chimney maintenance, including cleaning and inspection, prevents blockages and ensures your fireplace or heating system works efficiently. A well-maintained chimney maintains proper ventilation, which contributes to a balanced attic temperature.

Follow these steps, and as the winter chill sets in, you can have peace of mind, knowing that your roof is well-prepared to withstand the challenges of the season, keeping you and your loved ones warm and secure.

If you want to get rid of ice dams or winterize your roof, our experts are here to help.

Remove Ice Dams And Winterize Your Roof With Expert Care

At Paramount Roofing, our experts have protected countless homes from ice dams and roof damage in winter. We know winter can be harsh, so we do our best to make sure your home doesn’t suffer. If you need ice dam removal service in Metro Detroit, call us at (586) 571-9007. Our expert team is here to help you. Take the first step towards a worry-free winter with our free consultation. Embrace the warmth, security, and peace of mind that comes with a well-protected roof.