The Dangers of Ice Dams & How to Prevent Them

A winter wonderland scene is not complete without some glittering icicles lining the roof of a house. But hiding underneath all that beauty could be an ice dam and with it the potential for significant damage. There are ways to stop them from happening.

What Causes An Ice Dam?

Ice dams form near the edge of the gutter when melted snow refreezes. This ridge of ice prevents melting snow from running off the roof, trapping the water and causing an obstruction. Ice accumulates when gutters, downspouts, and drains are clogged or covered, and if a home has poor attic insulation or ventilation. In poorly insulated attics, warm air rises causing snow on the roof to melt, even if outside temperatures are below freezing. The water runs down the roof but freezes again when it reaches a colder surface. This ridge continues to grow, trapping more water behind it and an ice dam is formed.

Why is An Ice Dam Bad?

Ice dams themselves are not necessarily a cause for concern. The damage comes from the water behind the dam when it has nowhere to go but under shingles and into your home. Leaking water can cause interior damage to building materials like walls, ceilings, and insulation. Even more concerning, moisture can lead to mold and mildew growth thereby leading to respiratory problems. Falling icicles from an ice dam pose a danger; they can break windows or cause injury to someone.

ice dam causes graphic

How Can I Prevent Ice Dams?

There are a few measures a homeowner can take to prevent an ice dam from forming. The best time of year to plan for ice dam prevention is in the fall.

1. Make sure gutters, downspouts, and drains are clean and free of debris to allow water to drain.
2. Keep the attic and roof cold. This process can be aided by sealing air leaks around light fixtures and pipes as well as any gaps in drywall.
3. Have sufficient attic insulation.
4. Maintain effective attic ventilation to regulate the temperature. Attic fans draw in cold outdoor air and push out warmer attic air.
5. Professionally install heating cables in a zigzag pattern along the edge of the roof. This equalizes the roof’s temperature by heating the outside instead of cooling the inside.

How Do I Remove An Ice Dam?

Once an ice dam forms, it’s important to safely remove any obstructions as soon as possible. One option is to hire a professional company to use pressurized steaming equipment to melt the ice dam. Another method is raking snow off the roof with a long-handle roof rake. Do not use a ladder on slippery ice or snow or climb on the roof. Be safe; the goal is to cautiously reduce the amount of snow and ice without damaging the shingles and speed up the melting process from winter sunlight. Chemical de-icing methods are also possible solutions.

ice dams damage

What If An Ice Dam Causes Water Leakage?

If you notice water seeping into your house and causing damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, or other areas, immediately call a licensed and insured water cleanup and restoration company like United Water Restoration Long Island. We’re no strangers to cold weather and winter storm property damage. We send IICRC certified technicians to the scene to inspect the damages, mitigate the situation, and offer repair options. United’s goal is to quickly and efficiently restore your property, not replace it. We’ll also handle the insurance claim process from start to finish.

If winter weather has caused damage to your property, call United 24/7 at (631) 494-4764.

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