Ice Dams: How to Resolve and Prevent

Ice dams are a large mound of ice that forms at the edge of the roof. Ice dams are very common with extreme and sudden temperature drops like we experience in the Kansas City area.  An ice dam can cause significant damage to your roof, attic, and even the interior of your home.  Gutters and downspouts are also at risk for significant damage.

How do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams form when the attic gets warm enough to melt the underside of the layer of snow on the roof. As the water settles between the layers of snow it becomes trapped and gets extremely cold and causes a large amount of ice to form. The flatter the pitch of the roof, the easier it is for an ice dam to form. Gutters at the eaves can also trap snow and ice. If snow and ice build up high enough in the gutter, it can provide a foundation for an ice dam.

How to Resolve Ice Dams

1. Break up ice with a blunt object to ensure no damage occurs to the shingles. Remove the ice by breaking free in small chunks. This process is very slow and can be dangerous. Even if you remove the ice carefully, you still run the risk that chunks of ice can take pieces of shingle with them. Therefore, this is not a recommended method.

2. Apply calcium chloride ice melter. Do NOT use rock salt! It will damage paint, metals, and plants beneath. Making a tube sack of the calcium chloride ice melter is a quick and inexpensive way to address the ice dam more slowly. To make a tub sack simply use a leg from an old pair of pantyhose and fill it with calcium chloride, tie off the top, and lay it vertically across the ice dam. It will slowly melt its way down through the dam, clearing a path for the underlying water to flow free.

3. The quickest and most effective method for resolving an ice dam is to apply a large amount of extremely hot water. This must be done very carefully to prevent personal injury.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

  1. You can scrape snow from the roof whenever it falls, using a snow rake.
  2. You can replace your shingle roof with a standing seam or a metal roof. If your roof is not very steep, an ice dam can still form on metal roofing and drip edges.
  3. The most effective and inexpensive solution is to add attic insulation so that heat from the home interior does not melt the snow on the roof. In addition, this method will also provide energy savings.

To discuss your ice dam problems or more information about attic insulation with one of our experienced technicians please call our office at 817-287-4107.