It is safe to say that winter has its icy fingers firmly around the region, and it doesn’t look like it is ready to let go quite yet. Spring isn’t too far away, but the snow this winter has piled up in yards and on roofs all over the area. Snowy roofs combined with warming temperatures during the day quickly lead to one thing. Ice. Those pretty ice formations that many admire hanging from the eaves of each house you pass by might be an attractive addition to what can be an otherwise dreary time of the year, but they do not usually indicate anything good for the homeowner.
Melting snow on a roof travels down the shingles and eaves to form icicles. Yes, they are pretty, but as the sun and the heat from the building begin to melt them, the water not only drips to the ground, some may back up by the eaves to create ice dams. Then more snow fall and melts adding to the dam already forming. When it finally begins to thaw, the water from the dam will quickly find its way into the attic, sidewalls, and ceiling of the building below doing a huge amount of damage and most likely creating a lot of mold as well. This kind of damage can mean having to rip out and replace insulation, walls, flooring, and perhaps furniture and personal belongings. It also means having to call in a mold remediation company to remove any potentially dangerous mold that will quickly grow in a wet, heated environment.
The question becomes, what can we do about it? First, do not try to break up the dam. Trying to chip away at an ice dam can damage shingles and eaves though you can remove the icicles to prevent the weight from damaging siding or endangering passersby. You should also keep the attic or crawlspace cold. That will prevent any more melting snow from flowing back to the dam making the situation worse. Prevent more snow from adding to the problem by purchasing a roof rake to remove the snow from the roof to discourage more ice from forming. If your roof is too high for you to manage snow removal yourself, consider hiring a professional company to do so for you. It is a lot less expensive than repairing damage left by heavy snows, and they might be able to help remove the dam for you.
Homeowners can do their part in preventing dams from forming. The biggest job is making sure that the attic is not letting warm air out. Plug any air leaks around chimneys or stove pipes. Make sure that your attic floor is well insulated to keep the heat where you need it. Check your ventilation. Are the vents in the attic plugged? Making sure that the vents are in good condition will help keep any warm air from building up. Finally, each winter when there is a lot of heavy snow on your roof, have it removed a few times through the season if need be. Maybe you will not have the icicles that you thought were so pretty, but you will have peace of mind that your home will be safe come spring.