Ice dams occur when water builds up behind a blockage of ice. More specifically:
- Heat rises into attics that aren’t properly insulated, causing snow on the roof to melt.
- As water runs toward the colder section of the lower roof it refreezes, forming a dam.
- Water pools above the dam, backing up underneath the shingles and sheathing.
- Water seeps into the attic and through the upper ceiling.
Left unchecked, interior seepage can cause significant damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), water damage and freezing accounted for almost 22% of all homeowner insurance claims in the U.S. last year with an average claim of $5,875 CAD.
Stay Ahead of the Flow
With a few preseason precautions, the risk for ice dams can be minimized.
In the fall:
- Inspect your roof in early fall for loose shingles and flashing
- Make sure you have adequate insulation and your attic is well ventilated
- Seal any gaps that could potentially vent warm air from the house to the attic
- Keep the gutters and eaves clear of debris
Throughout the winter:
- Place close attention to the icicles. If they’re confined mainly to the gutters, you’re probably ok. But if you find water building up behind them, an ice dam may be forming.
- Check for moisture and water stains in your attic and along the ceiling of the exterior walls. If you notice interior seepage, an ice dam may have formed.
Damage from ice dams is covered under most standard homeowner insurance policies. However, it’s a good idea to meet with your agent to review your coverage before winter hits.
Put A Sock in It
Even if you’ve taken preventative steps, ice dams can still form. When they do, you’ll want to act quickly before it causes further headaches and damage to your home.
- Using your SnowPeeler snow rake, remove 3-4 feet from the lower edge of the roof.
- Fill a nylon stocking with the calcium chloride and lay it vertically across the dam. This will melt a channel through the ice.
Calcium chloride ice melt products can be purchased from your local hardware store. Avoid using rock salt or sodium chloride because it may damage your roof.
Accessing your roof in the winter can be dangerous, especially if you’re using a ladder. If you can’t reach your roof safely, hire a snow removal service. Here are a few more tips for clearing snow from your roof.