Many homeowners in Northeast Ohio, particularly in suburbs like Brecksville and Broadview Hts, are feeling the wrath of water damage caused by ice dams on their roof. Here’s some information on what causes ice dams and a few tips for removing them.
If your roof or attic is not properly insulated, ice dams can (and often do) wreak havoc on both the exterior and interior of your home. While many cities throughout the country have traditionally been free of worry when it comes to ice dams and water damage, the dramatic temperature swings that we have witnessed this winter has many homeowners concerned. The problem is only worsened in areas like Cleveland and it’s surrounding suburbs (Brecksville, Broadview Heights, Richfield, Independence, etc.) where there is frequent snowfall and fluctuating temperatures.
How Ice Dams Form
Essentially, as snow accumulates on the roof of your home, a cycle of melting and freezing commences. As heat from the attic on the other side of the roof melts the snow, the pitch of the roof will cause the water to trickle down until it is met with resistance. If the roof provides too much resistance, the water will stop running down the roof and, if cold enough, will refreeze and form the wretched “ice dam,” typically right at the edge of the roof. If your roof or attic is adequately insulated, the ice dam that forms should be mild. However, even fairly-well insulated homes are no match for harsh winter here in northeast Ohio. In fact when the temperature drops low enough, the edge of your roof can get so cold that it will cause the water to refreeze almost immediately after reaching it. This sets up a vicious cycle: snow melts –> drais to the edge of the roof –> refreezes –> creates an ice barrier or ice dam
If this cycle keeps up long enough, the ice dam will eventually grow high enough to reach a warmer section of the rood, causing a pool of water that doesn’t refreeze. This is where the damage can occur, because the water has no place to go except where it finds the least amount of resistance–usually underneath the shingles and, therefore, eventually ends up somewhere inside your house. Eventually the ice dam will build itself high enough up to a section of the roof that is warmer causing a pool of water that doesn’t refreeze. With no place to go except where it finds least resistance the water often times ends up seeping under the shingles and into the house.
Ice Dam Removal Tips
Proper planning and the right course of action can reduce the chance of an ice dam occurring and can save you a lot of frustration–not to mention money–from potential water damages. However, chances are that at this point in the winter you already have an ice dam and are wondering what you can do to remove the ice and minimize the potential for damages. Below are a few ideas that we have gathered for you that might help. As always we recommend conslting with a professional for additional questions or concerns.
1. Grab A Shovel
While it may seem lile common sense to shovel access snow off of your roof, it is a process that requires careful planning and execution. While it wouldn’t hurt to remove all of the snow from your roof, it probably won’t help a whole lot either. Removing just a few feet of snow from the edge of the roof is generally sufficient enough to give the snow a chance to trickle down and drip off of the roof. The most important thing to remember, besides safety, is to avoid shoveling the shingles off along with the snow. Focus on getting a good majority of the snow off of the roof and you should notice a difference. If your home has a high roof and/or steep pitches you should probably trash this idea and call a professional.
2. Pick At It
Now that you have cleared off snow a couple of feet past the edge you can start thinking about actually getting rid of the ice dam, which will continue to catch the water from the melted snow draining off of the roof. It is critical to clear a path for the water to run down, particularly if the forecast calls for snow, sleet or rain. Using the claw of a carpentry hammer, begin picking and chipping away at the ice dam at a point where you think the water will most likely trickle down from (typically where the largest icicles are hanging from). This will give your roof the best chance for draining the excess water that the ice dam catches.
3. Put A Sock In It
It may sound silly, but an old pair of panty hose can do wonders when it comes to temporary ice dam fixes. Using a calcium chloride ice melter, such as Morton’s Safe-T-Power®, fill the leg of a discarded pair of panty hose. Then, simply lay the hose onto the roof horizontally so that it crosses the ice dam and overhangs the gutter. Eventually, the calcium chloride will melt through the ice dam while creating a cavity for the excess water to flow through and down into the gutters or off of the roof.
4. Rake It Out
If you plan on facing a number of winters in the future, especially in areas like ours (Brecksville – Broadview Heights), purchasing a roof rake might not be a bad investment. Garelick’s Snow Trap Roof Rake, for instance, is relatively light in weight yet extends 16 feet and has oversized poly wheels with a snow curring axle. This can eliminate a lot of the lifting, climbing and stretching associated with ice and snow removal.
At the end of the day, a more permanent fix for ice dams, usually requiring you to increase the insulation, sealing, and ventilation of your roof or attic, is probably your best bet for preventing water damage in your home. However, as we’re finding out here in Cleveland this winter, no one can say for sure how a home will react to harsh climates. In the meantime, we hope you will find some of these tips successful.
If you have any other tips for removing ice dams please post them below!