January 16, 2018

The Truth Behind Ice Dams

What causes ice dams?


Ice dams form when a warm roof, above 32 degrees F, allows snow to melt giving way to water running down your roof. Meanwhile the roof edge remains below 32 degrees F, ultimately freezing the water when it hits the cold roof edge or eave. Without proper roof snow removal, the ice develops an ice mass which prevents melting snow from properly draining off the roof. When the water is unable to drain from the roof, it may then back up underneath roof shingles and make its way into your home. Ice dams, because of their weight, can tear off gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to back up. Causing damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation.


What to do about ice dams?


Snow Rake – Resolve the problem before it starts. Remove the snow with a snow rake before ice dams form. Use a snow rake to remove snow from your roof. A snow rack can be purchased at your local hardware store. We recommend an Avalanche snow rake, https://avalanche-snow.com/.


Ice Pick Standing on a stabilized ladder, reach into the gutter and chip away at the ice buildup, starting at the gutter and working backward up the roof. We do not recommend this for three reasons. First, it can void the roof’s warranty. Second, you run the risk of compromising the integrity of the shingles or worse yet you can put a hole in the shingle. Lastly, if you don’t feel comfortable getting up on a ladder in the summer, don’t get up on a ladder with the slippery cold and/or ice.


Salt in SockFill the garment with salt and seal off the ends. Then lay them atop your ice-filled gutters and allow the contents to leak through the stockings and melt the ice. This may take some time and require repositioning of the garments. This is not ideal because the salt in the sock not only discolors the shingles but affects the integrity of the shingle and shortens its lifespan.


Heat Cables– Heat cables are a heating system that melts snow and ice before it can form into damaging ice mounds which weigh down on your roof, gutters, and downspouts. These are effective but the warranty only covers parts or pieces of the system. These are also not aesthetically pleasing.


How to make ice dams a thing of the past?


We have found that there is only one way to avoid ice dams, to prevent them in the first place. First, air seal all points where warm air escapes from the roof sheathing into the living space

  1. Soffit breathing properly.
  2. Chutes in place with wind wash
  3. Air seal
  4. Insulate

Next, insulate the attic to prevent loss of heat through the ceiling. Lastly, vent the space between the insulation and the roof sheathing, so that any heat that does leak through the sheathing is carried away.


If you are concerned about ice dams call Stinson Services at 952-933-4510.

Written By Tech