I'll Be (ice) Dammed!
by Scott Reddinger

I’ll Be (ice) Dammed!

It is once again that magical time of year where it seems to never quit snowing. As you drive around town, you may also notice large icicles hanging off homes and businesses. While they can certainly be interesting to look at, they could potentially be the start of a more serious winter issue, ice damming.  But what exactly is ice damming? What causes it? How do we get rid of it and keep it away? I’m here to answer all of those questions!

Ice damming is when you get a buildup of ice on the edge, or eave, of a sloped roof. It’s caused by the melting of the base layer of snow that’s touching the roof, which is underneath the layers of snow piled on top. More specifically, the layer of snow on top acts like insulation, and if your home or business isn’t well insulated, the heat you use on daily basis slowly rises. That base layer of snow I mentioned earlier now becomes sandwiched in between, and it has no choice but to melt. As it drips off the edge of the roof, it begins to freeze because of the cold air temperatures. Before long, there’s nowhere for that water to run off anymore. When this happens, the ice begins to back up inward toward your roof, which can then leak into your home or business. The end result of this could be water damage to your shingles, ceilings, drywall, insulation, etc. What a mess!

If something like this happens, there are a few options you have as far as removal. The easiest would be to invest in a roof rake. This is basically a shovel that telescopes out to be very long, so that you can remove snow from your roof while standing safely on the ground. If you remove the snow from your roof, then there’s nothing to melt. If there’s nothing to melt, then there’s nothing to freeze and make ice! Another option you have is buying ice melt products. There are handful of sock type devices or discs that you can find at any hardware store. You simply throw the device up on your roof, and it will melt the ice in that spot, and allow water to flow off the roof freely. While neither of these options is truly ideal, it is certainly way better than getting up on your roof in the middle of winter, which could lead to the possibility of falling and injuring yourself. Attempting to hammer or chisel away at the ice could also lead to damaging your roof even further, so my best advice is to just stay on the ground!

There are also quite a few things you can do to avoid something like this from happening in the future. The first is properly insulating your attic or roof area, with the goal of that area being cold. If it’s cold, that means it’s keeping the heat inside your living areas, where it should be! Another option is switching to an entirely metal roof, or doing a band of metal roofing just along the edge. The theory behind this is that metal is slippery, so snow/water/ice will just slide right off. Metal is obviously also solid, so if there is ice and water it can’t back up into the house through the metal. Just be sure to watch out for when all that snow lets loose and comes down to ground! Lastly, you could always try to use heat tape or cables on your roof. These essentially stay warm and keep spots from freezing, allowing any water to run off the roof. Both can cause damage to shingles or even start a fire, so I would suggest consulting a roofing specialist before heading down this path. In fact, it may be best to consult a roofing specialist before attempting any of this stuff, especially if you’re more like Tool Time Tim Allen and not Bob Villa!

At the end of the day, the best thing to do is stay vigilant! Keep an eye on the eaves outside your house. Peek around at the ceilings inside your home too. If anything seems off, address it right away, and by all means don’t be afraid to contact your dedicated insurance agent and have a conversation. Depending on the type of home or business insurance policy you have, there may possibly be coverage for the resulting damage, subject to your deductible. Stay warm out there everyone!


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