After last winter’s heavy snowfall and subsequent thaw, ice dams were a popular topic among homeowners. But what exactly are ice dams and how do they affect your home?

Essentially, ice dams are the frozen remains of melting snow forming at the edge of your roof. As the temperatures fluctuate throughout winter and your attic collects heat, the snow on your roof begins to melt while your eaves are still cold. An ice ridge then builds up and cause a large blockage for the snow that continues to melt and can’t move off the roof. With nowhere to go, the dammed water then goes into your home, and it causes water damage in your attic, insulation, and other parts of your home depending on the ice dam’s location. Plus, the ice ridges can cause damage on your gutters, shingles, and siding if they get too out of hand. See the figure below showing how an ice dam works.

As we move into this year’s snowy season, how do you check for ice dams so this doesn’t happen to your home? First, look for icicles hanging from your roof. As that snow slowly melts and moves down to your cooled eaves, they will start to drip and build up, which will cause a visual warning of thick icicles, icy gutters, and a pile of snow gathering at the edge of your roof.

To prevent this, use a snow rake or other tool to scrape snow from the edge of your roof when possible. If there’s already an ice dam building, try to break up the ice in small chunks so that you avoid damaging your roof. Chopping away at it with a hammer, chisel, or shovel will only damage your shingles, so you have to be careful. You should also never use rock salt because it will damage the paint, metals, and landscape of your home. Unfortunately, it’s easy to damage your shingles while trying to remove a stubborn ice dam, so there’s always the option of calling in specialists who can take care of it for you.

Watch your roof this winter for the sign of ice dams, and do your best to ventilate your attic to prevent that warm air from encouraging melting. In the spring, the experts at Robinson Construction Inc can come out to your home and evaluate how much damage your roof sustained and if it needs repairs.