Rooftop Ice Dams | What You Need to Know

A snow-covered roof with icicles draped all along the edges looks charming in the dead of winter, but there is nothing charming about a rooftop ice dam and the extra problems these winter issues can bring. Take a look at what you need to know about ice damming and snow removal. 

A Closer Look at the Dreaded

What is an ice dam? In general terms, an ice dam is a ridge of frozen water that forms close to the edge of the roof. Two things have to happen for an ice dam to form; snow must build up on the roof and the temperature of the roof’s surface must rise above freezing. Most often, the ice-dam formation happens as follows:

1. Snow will accumulate on the roof

2. Heat transfer from the attic will cause the underside of the snow to melt

3. The melted run-off will collect lower on the roof slope and refreeze

The layers of ice can repeatedly accumulate as more snow is melted, and this repeated process can lead to a massive and heavy ridge of ice all along the edge of the roof. 

Reasons Ice Dam Removal Is Important 

If an ice dam is not removed, your roof is under an astounding amount of stress. Even though roofs can handle a lot of stress, it is not designed to handle substantial amounts of weight. Several problems can arise if an ice dam is not removed, such as: 

  • Leaks around the perimeter of the roof 
  • Roof collapse or damage to the edges of the roof 
  • Damage to your gutter system 

How to Avoid Problems with Ice Damming 

Even though ice damming and snow accumulation up on the rooftop can seem like no big deal, it’s obvious these issues can lead to big problems. There are a few steps you can take to avoid problems with ice damming when winter sets in and the snow starts to fall, including: 

  • Opting to have the snow removed by professionals periodically 
  • Having electric heating cables installed on certain areas of the roof so there will be no freezing  
  • Making sure your attic is properly insulated so heat transfer is not causing the underside of fallen snow to melt and refreeze

Steps to Proper Ice Dam and Snow Removal 

Removing an ice dam or a large amount of snow is a precarious, and somewhat dangerous, thing. Trying to chop large ridges of ice with something like a shovel or an ax can lead to roof damage or you getting hurt if a large chunk of ice comes down at one time. One thing you can do is create a small channel in the ice for added water to drain off and into the gutters by pouring hot water over the roof so it streams through the ice dam. The best remedy is to entrust ice dam and snow removal to professionals, however.