It’s will be the snowy season very soon and the dusting of white will make many of our homes look like they came straight off from a Christmas card . While it makes for a pretty scene, the reality is that under all that snow could be a potential danger to your home in the form of an ice dam. The more you know about what an ice dam is, how to prevent them, and how to remove them, you can avoid the damage that ice dams can cause.
What is an Ice Dam?
Ice dams are just what you might guess them to be: a dam made of ice. They form on your roof when melted snow can’t freely escape the roof of your home and it freezes. It can get stuck in gutters, valleys, flat spots and other spots on the roof of your home. A repeating freeze/thaw cycle can make the ice dam even bigger. The process can repeat itself time and time again, as long as the homeowner doesn’t notice and take action. Eventually the water can find its way into your home, or the size and weight of the ice can cause your roof to collapse. While it may not be obvious, the damage caused by an ice dam can be significant.
Preventing Ice Dams
With some preparation and consistency, you can prevent ice dams from forming and avoiding the damage they can cause.
- Remove snow with a roof rake or a shovel any time 6 inches or more of snow accumulates on the roof.
- Install good insulation in your roof to prevent heat from escaping.
- Ensure that the attic has good ventilation.
- Remove debris from gutters to allow for the free flow of melted snow and ice.
Removing Ice Dams
It’s much easier to prevent ice dams, than it is to remove them once they’ve formed. But if one does appear, it should be removed as soon as possible to prevent any damage to your roof, ceiling, or walls. The following are a few steps that you might try to remove an ice dam:
- Remove any built-up snow with a roof rake or shovel.
- Removing the snow will allow for the roof to warm itself, and the ice to break-up.
- If the ice is built-up too deeply for the warmth of the sun to break it up, you may want to chip away at it lightly, being careful not to damage your roof.
- You may also want to try melting the ice dam by filling a nylon with “ice melt” and lying it across the ice dam.
- Finally, if all else fails or the job it bigger than you want to take on yourself, call a professional and they will be able to remove your ice dam quickly and safely.
Insurance Coverage for Ice Dams
Most homeowners insurance policies will cover damage caused by ice dams. You may want to check your coverage, but most will pay to repair water, structural and cosmetic damage. The policy may even help pay to remove the ice dam, but that is not always the case.
If there is an ice dam on the roof that hasn’t yet caused damage, you’ll have to remove it or pay to have it removed yourself, as that is considered standard maintenance and the responsibility of the homeowner.
When winter comes, we know the obvious household hazards are slips and the occasional falling icicle. Ice dams aren’t as obvious, and can even be hidden by snow cover. With some preventative maintenance, regular roof checks, and consistently removing snow before it builds up, you can prevent ice dams and the damage they cause.