Now that winter is safely behind us, most homeowners will quickly forget the problems they experienced during the cold months. However, it’s best to take care of any problems you may have experienced now, because chances are you’ll forget about until it happens again. One of these problems, specifically in terms of your roof, is that of ice dams.

Ice dams will typically form on your roof during winter when melted snow refreezes at the edges of the roof. Although they have a picturesque element to them, it’s important to understand that ice dams can cause serious damage to your home. Additionally, they indicate that your home is not at its best.

roof icicles

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When ice dams form, they signify that the house is not properly insulated. With proper roof and attic insulation, the warm air cannot escape from the house. When insulation is insufficient or absent, the roof becomes too warm, causing the snow and ice to melt, then refreeze into ice dams.

Not only can ice dams cause damage to your roof and allow water to enter the home, but the icicles that form can become a hazard if they fall off the home suddenly. Furthermore, if icicles melt slowly and drip on the foundation below, water can soak in and cause foundation damage over time. Via Moonworks Home

While some ice dams are easily seen from within or outside your home, they may also form in areas other than the roof’s edge. This depends on your roof’s style, orientation and slope, so there might actually be ice dam on your roof that you’re not aware of.

For instance, icicles are usually an indication of possible ice dam formation since water can get trapped behind them. Additionally, look out for water stains or moisture that form in your attic or along your exterior walls during the winter months. These are usually a clue that there’s an ice dam that has formed, allowing water to penetrate the roof membrane.


Image Courtesy of Flickr

The best way to minimize the damage that could result from ice dams is to get rid of them when they form. You can choose to do this manually by removing icicles, though you must be careful not to stand directly beneath them.

My husband and I spent the summer with a parade of roofers and insulation contractors trying to figure out how to prevent our home from being ringed by icicles again.

We had icicles everywhere: the front, the side, the back. They stretched from 2 inches to two stories tall. One time I got so annoyed at one that I tried to knock it down with a snow shovel. I nearly got speared. Don’t ever try this at home. Via Boston Globe

Manual removal of the icedams from the rooftop is also possible, but using a ladder to access the roof during winter is generally not recommended for safety reasons. Additionally, you might easily cause damage to your roof by scraping and chopping away at the ice.

hanging icicles

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Still another option is the use of calcium chloride ice melt.

One way to remove an ice dam is to melt it using calcium chloride ice melt.

Step 1. Using a roof rake, remove snow 3-4 feet from the edge of your roof, being careful not to damage the roof covering or to allow snow to build up around walking paths or to block emergency exits.

Step 2. Use a calcium chloride ice melt product, which you can generally purchase from your local hardware store. Be sure not to use rock salt or sodium chloride, which can damage your roof.

Step 3. Fill a nylon stocking with the calcium chloride ice melt.

Step 4. Safely place and position the calcium chloride-filled nylon stocking vertically across the ice dam so that it can melt a channel through the ice.

Step 5. Cover and protect any shrubbery and plants with lightweight tarps near the gutters or downspouts for the duration that the calcium chloride stockings remain in place. This is important because the calcium chloride-saturated water dripping from the roof may damage the shrubbery and plants.

REMEMBER: Using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions may be dangerous. If you cannot safely reach the roof, consider hiring a contractor. Via Travelers

The best approach to dealing with ice dams is to prevent them. This should be done by fixing your insulation, since this will prevent warm air from melting the snow. Ideally, snow should melt from the sun’s heat, which will also ensure it all drains off as it should.

If you are looking for insulation advice or high-quality roof repair services in Burke, VA, or any area in Northern Virginia, please contact us today.

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