The Thing About SpringExpired
When Spring starts its annual flirtation, you may notice ice building up around the gutters of your home. These are the initial signs of an ice dam beginning to form, usually after a large storm or during a period of temperature fluctuations. The primary cause of ice dams on your home, however, will be a warm attic heating the underside of your roof.
When heat from your home escapes into the attic, it will begin to warm the underside of your roof. This will cause the snow on your roof to melt into water droplets. Once the snow turns to water, it will run down the slope of your home until it reaches your rain gutters or the edge of your roof. This area of the roof (not overtop of your attic) will be much colder and the water will refreeze as ice on the edge of your roof or in the gutter. As more snow becomes water, runs to the edge of the roof, and becomes ice, it will begin to “stack up” or “dam” along the edge of your roof.
If your rain gutters are able to sustain the weight, you may find the ice build-up will begin to work its way back up your roofline slowly covering a portion of your roof with thick ice. This can be damaging to your home. As the ice builds up along the roof, moisture under the shingles will freeze, expand, and begin lifting and loosening the shingles.
Then as your roof heats (either from excess attic heat or seasonal change) the ice that is now pushed up under your shingles will begin to melt and cause internal water damage in your home.
Your best option is to stop the ice dam before it begins, or at least to mitigate the amount of ice build-up forming on your roof. Before hiring a professional, there are a few ideas you can try. Before trying to address ice dams, be sure you feel confident and capable in all aspects of the task.
Prevention is Always the Best Strategy
Because the heat in the attic may be the root of this issue, having a professional assess the level and quality of insulation in your attic would be a great idea. They may also be able to spot areas that are leaking hot air to your roof even if you have good insulation, and they can make suggestions for improvements.
If you know your home may be susceptible to ice damming, you may want to purchase a lightweight roof rake. After a heavy snowfall, use the roof rake to clear off the bottom 3-5 feet of your roof to prevent ice build-up in this area.
Ventilating your attic is always a good idea. It will help keep the base of the roof cool and prevent snow from melting and starting an ice dam. Talk to a roofing expert to see if your roof is adequately ventilated.
Use Calcium Chloride
The name sounds dangerous, but it really is nothing more than an environmentally safe ice-melting agent. Typically large bags of calcium chloride can be purchased for a reasonable price. It’s recommended you use this instead of salt, as rock salt can damage your shingles along with the unintended side effect of killing or damaging vegetation during water runoff.
A nifty tip for melting ice is to fill a stocking (knee-high) with calcium chloride. Then lay the stocking vertically on the roof so a few inches of the stocking hangs over the edge of the gutter. The stocking will slowly melt a channel for excess water to flow through eliminating the problem of water working its way back up your roof.
Breaking the Ice
Another option for dealing with ice build-up is to forcibly break it up into chunks so water can pass through. Do not use an axe, hatchet, or other sharp-edged tools to cut through the ice as it will likely lead to roof damage. Use a fiberglass or hard rubber mallet to do the work. Use caution, as this is risky work and can result in large chunks of ice sliding off the roof and could cause damage to surrounding fixtures, or injure people below. Large sliding pieces of ice may also destabilize your ladder. We recommend enlisting a professional if you are uncomfortable with any aspect of the job.