How Do You Get Rid of Ice Dams?

The classic image of a snow-covered roof dotted with icicles has a certain seasonal charm. But if you have any experience with a cold and snowy winter, you might also know that those icicles can lead to ice dams — and they can cause some not-so-fun damage to the home you love.

Ice dams can lead to mold, rot and water leaking into your attic and nearby ceiling. But don’t panic just yet! We’re here to help you figure out the best ways to deal with ice dams. From simply raking the snow off your roof to installing heated cables to completely redoing your attic, there are a number of answers to fix these issues that can fit any budget. Take a look at these important tips on managing ice dams, and take control of those pesky icicles once and for all.

What Are Ice Dams and How Do They Form?

Ice dams are the result of snow collecting on your roof. As the snow accumulates, heat from your home escapes through the roof and melts the snow, which then flows down toward the gutters. Soon after melting — and particularly on frigid days — the water freezes in the gutter, and once full, freezes over the top of the gutter. And those icicles can grow big and heavy very quickly.

Ice dams typically form near the edge of the roof when water runs off the warmed roof and then freezes again at the eaves, but this isn’t the only place you’ll find them. They can also form on gutters that don’t drain completely and around skylights, because of the less-insulated design.

Why Are Ice Dams a Problem for My Home?

Ice dams can cause big problems for your home. The weight of these heavy icicles has been known to rip gutters from roofs and cause shingles to break free from the nails holding them in place.

But the damage doesn’t stop there. Water-stained ceilings and peeling paint are also the result of ice dam damage.

Ice dams increase the chance of water seeping into your attic and soaking your insulation. This significantly brings down its R-value, or it’s heat-retaining/insulating capacity — and worse yet — it can cause structural damage if left unchecked. Over the years, the effects of ice dams can lead to blistering of the interior and exterior paint. It can also spur the growth of mold and mildew, as well as weaken structural beams and rafters. Take into account the high cost contractors will likely charge to fix the problem and you’ll begin to understand why it’s wise to take a proactive approach to managing ice dams.

How Do I Assess Ice Dam Damage?

It may be necessary to bring in a contractor for an estimate in order to have a solid understanding of how extensive the damage is. In the meantime, here are some DIY ideas to think about:

Snap some photos. From the exterior of your home, take a few photos that you can use as a reference to look for signs of water damage on the interior. Look for tea stains on your ceilings and walls near the position of the ice dam.

Check in on your attic. Get into the attic and look for water dripping or staining on the rafters and roofing underlayment. It can be helpful to flag these areas so that you’ll easily be able to locate them later.

Inspect your chimney. See if you can find evidence of ice forming around the base of the chimney, where it meets your roof. If the flashing has come loose or isn’t sealed well, this can be another place where ice and meltwater can do some damage. From inside the attic, review the way heat escapes from around the perimeter of your chimney. If you can see daylight through that seal, take action to seal that up ASAP.

How do I Prevent Ice Dams?

So how can you prevent ice dams? From upgrades to your home’s attic to quick fixes you can do yourself, here are some ways to prevent ice dams from forming:

Keep your roof in good shape. One of the best answers to prevent ice dams is to maintain your roof well, and to be sure you’ve got enough insulation keeping warm air from getting through.

Roof raking. Using a roof rake is one of the easiest ways to prevent ice dams from forming. You can find them at most hardware stores — and chances are you’re not the only one in your neighborhood to buy one! A roof rake lets you clear the snow from the bottom portion of the roof from the safety of the ground. Clearing the snow away helps to prevent that moisture from damaging your home. Of course, you should never attempt to clear the snow by getting up on to your roof. You can always hire a contractor to do the job if it’s too much to take on.

Install heated cables. Another short-term but effective answer is to warm up the area where the roof meets the gutters. Heated cables may need to be professionally installed, but it’s a sure-fire way to keep the water flowing into your downspouts and away from your home.

Insulation + ventilation = protection. A more costly but also more permanent way to prevent ice dams is proper insulation and ventilation. Ice dams are usually caused because the attic is warmer than the air outside. Ideally, the insulation keeps warm air in your home and out of your attic. The venting system in your attic helps to keep it cool, and hopefully close to the temperature outside. Together, this clever combination keeps snow on the roof from melting — and if the snow doesn’t melt, then ice dams shouldn’t form.

Now that you’re armed with ways to get a handle on ice dams, it’s time to stop them in their tracks. There’s a lot to think about when it comes to the health and maintenance of your roof. Now’s a great time to contact your American Family Insurance agent and learn about the ways that homeowners insurance can protect your roof and the rest of the home you work so hard for.

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Related Topics: Home DIY , At Home , Owning A Home , Home Insurance