An ice dam is an ice formation that builds up along a roofline’s lower edge. You are more likely to see them in areas that experience below-freezing temperatures and get regular snowfall. Keep in mind that a significant amount of ice dam can weigh hundreds of pounds, which puts a strain on your roof and compromises its structural stability. When not addressed, ice dams can severely damage your roof, gutters, insulation, and drywall.
Read on to learn the pros and cons of different ice dam removal methods from a trusted provider of gutters and awnings.
What Causes Ice Dams to Form?
Ice dams develop when the snow melts from the upper and warmer part of the roof. The melted snow that ends up on the eave overhang refreezes and solidifies. The ice starts to back up beneath the roof shingles, where it can melt again soak the sheathing, and leak into your attic. When the insulation is soaked with water, it comes less effective, and water can leak via the ceiling drywall below and into the rooms in your home. Keep in mind that massive ice dams can be extremely heavy. They can damage your gutters and risk the safety of the people below them.
The main reason ice dams form is when the indoor attic space or the underside of the roof deck is beyond the freezing point. When the warm air below the roof heats the shingles and melts the snow on the surface, water runs down the roofline until it ends up in the overhanging structure of the eave. There the snowmelt will refreeze due to the freezing temperatures. You’ll notice that ice dams are worse after a heavy snowfall, which is because of the snow’s insulating capabilities.
How Do You Get Rid of Ice Dams?
Use a Chemical De-Icer
De-icer products have urea fertilizer, calcium magnesium, ammonium sulfate, or potassium chloride. You can buy them from hardware and home improvement stores. They usually come in a tablet or crystal form. When using these products, make sure to follow the instructions on the label. They may need to be sprinkled or distributed along the upper part of your gutters. The de-icer will gradually melt the ice and flow out of the gutters along with the water.
The negative side of these products is that they contain salt that can contribute to the rusting of your hardscaping, such as grates, railings, drains, and underground utility lines. Salt can also cause concrete the surface layer of concrete to flake or scale. The salt solution can get into the empty spaces in concrete and expand by 10 to 20 percent in volume once it freezes. Because of the pressure exerted from the expansion, the surface of the concrete can get fractured.
Address Its Fuel Source
When not addressed, ice dams will continue to multiply as snow and ice build-up on your roof. From the ground, use a snow rake to remove the ice and snow. This kind of rake can usually extend up to at least 17 feet in length. Make sure that you pull the snow toward you and not in a side-to-side motion because it can loosen the shingles. The great thing about snow raking is that you can do it immediately, and you don’t need to wait until the weather is better.
However, if you choose to remove snow using a rake, you need to be consistent with the task. Forgetting to remove the snow will cause ice dams to form again or contribute to the existing ones in your gutters and shingles. You may also not be able to reach every part of your roof, causing ice dams to still form in some sections.
Use Heated Cables
Heated cables do wonders when it comes to ice dam removal and prevention. They are placed in a zigzag pattern vertically on the roof before the winter. This equipment melts snow even before it has the opportunity to freeze and form ice dams. Experts can easily attach them to your roof with clips but you need to have them installed before snowfall.
At Barry Best Seamless Gutters, aside from retractable awnings, we also install the Helmet Heat® System. It is a cable that increases and decreases in temperature depending on your roof’s temperature. The cable heats up when the temperatures drop, and ice starts to form. Once the water melts, it will flow effortlessly from the roof into the gutters. When you invest in Helmet Heat, there will be no more icicles hanging in your gutters.
Cool Down Your Attic
Ice dams are caused by the warm air in your home that rises through your roof. It is the heat that is causing the snow on the roof to melt and slide down until it reaches a colder surface. One of the best ways to mitigate ice dams is to direct fans at your roof where the issue originates. When your attic is cold enough, snow won’t melt and form ice dams.
Let a Professional Fix the Problem
You can contact a professional if you are not sure how to deal with ice dams. Removing ice dams usually requires a lot of effort and time. Know that you can always call the pros if you want ice dams to be gone quickly and efficiently. Let our team at Barry Best Seamless Gutters help you get rid of and prevent ice dams in your home. We are a leading provider of Helmet Heat and retractable awning installation services.
How Can You Prevent Ice Dams?
Improve Your Attic Ventilation
You will not experience ice dams in your home if you have good attic ventilation. When cool outside air circulates in your attic, the roof stays in below-freezing temperatures, meaning it cannot melt the snow. There are various ways to improve attic ventilation. You can have a soffit-and-ridge vent system installed in your attic. However, if you don’t prefer this option, you can go for gable vents for intake air and get several standard roof vents for exhaust air. Sufficient ventilation of the rafter spaces against the deck or the attic will keep your roof deck cool enough that it will not cause the snow on the surface to melt, stopping ice dams from forming.
Insulate the Ceiling in Your Living Spaces
Another effective way to reduce the temperature against your roof deck is to insulate the ceiling in the rooms below your attic or against the inner surface of the roof. It means that you have to insulate the floor of the attic if you have an open one. However, if you have a finished second-story with a finished ceiling that is directly against the roof, you must insulate the rafter spaces. These are just some ways insulation will keep heat from rising to the roof deck. Keep in mind that it is not enough to simply insulate your attic to prevent ice dams, you also need to improve its ventilation.
Address Heat In Your Attic
Your attic may have heat sources that you do not know exist. Older recessed lights are installed on the floor of the attic. These lights can generate a significant amount of heat into the space, enough to bring the temperatures above freezing, especially if there is not enough ventilation. Uninsulated HVAC ductwork, poorly vented kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans, and vents from clothes dryers can also create heat in your attic.