formation of an ice dam
Ice dams form easily when snow accumulates near gutters.


What are ice dams and how do ice dams form?

Usually, heat escapes through ceilings into the attic of your home and warms the wood and shingles directly above it. When the outdoor temperature dips below freezing, the snow melts over the warmed section of the roof. Then meltwater runs down your roof, hitting a cold edge not warmed by the attic, and there it freezes. This creates an ice edge or a rim of ice. That edge of ice can grow, trap more water behind it, and then you have a full-fledged ice dam. These can grow quite large throughout winter.  See the photo above. Note: it can be dangerous to climb on a roof, instead, call an expert, and if you’ve experienced any water damage from ice dams, call ServiceMaster.

You can prevent ice dams and thereby prevent water damage to your home by closing off your attic bypass and measuring your attic insulation level.  Also, you might consider adding soffit vents to your home if ice dams return year after year. You can also run a special ice dam prevention product and adhesive ice and water barrier from 3 to 6 feet up the roof from the edge the next time that you re-roof. The easiest way to prevent ice dams is to rake the snow off your roof.

Purchase a roof rake at any Home Depot and then after heavy snowfalls, pull the snow down 3 feet from the edge of your roof.

If you have treacherous ice dams that cannot be stopped using any of the above methods, there is always the option of installing heat cables, which is no fun, but they work.

Heat cables are high resistance wires that you mount on the roof edge in a zigzag pattern and plug into an outdoor GFCI receptacle.

Ice dams are dangerous.

Ice Dams are dangerous for a couple of reasons. The first is when they melt, refreeze can create slip and fall hazards on walkways. The second is they can damage the roof, gutters, and possibly the foundation of your home. Ice dams can block gutters, preventing ideal drainage for water which could penetrate the foundation and eventually penetrate the inside of your home creating interior water damage. There may be mold growth by the time the season is over.

If you find yourself with mold damage and you need mitigation services, you can call ServiceMaster.  We are water damage and disaster restoration specialists.

Keeping ice dams at bay.

Again, the easiest way to make sure that you do not have interior damage to your home from ice dams is to rake your roof.  You can purchase roof rakes at any Home Depot or hardware store.  A rake with telescoping poles is ideal to reach far up your roof to remove the snow that has fallen.  Preventing Ice Dams will prevent water damage to your home.