Sunday afternoon, sitting in your living room, on a bright sunny, late January Day in your flannels with a cup of coffee and The New York Times. Suddenly out of the corner of your eye, you notice a wet spot on the corner of the ceiling. Your first thought is that you busted a water-pipe because of the winter weather thaw and freeze, but then you remember no plumbing runs through that section of the house.

Put on your coat, hat and boots and walk outside to inspect. And suddenly you spot it, at least 6 inches high and as solid as the Hoover Dam …. Your own personal ice dam looming above the door.

Ice dams are a damaging winter roof problem. They occur when ice melts and refreezes on the edge roof of your home or business, the continuous cycle causes a “damming” effect. A warm roof surface from interior heating, a warm attic or even an increase in daytime temperatures can lead to damming. Optimally the underside of the roof deck must be close to the exterior side of the roof.

With no place to go, the water can seep under the roof shingles into the interior of your home.  As the ice melts and drips into the wall or attic, insulation can be become wet and no longer serve its function. In some cases, mold may begin to grow in the attic. Months after the ice dam has melted as moisture from the leak in the wall or ceiling cavities tries to leave and pushes outward, staining walls, paint, floor and seeping into carpeting.

THE KEY TO AVOIDING ICE DAMMING IS THE WINTER IS TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS IN AUTUMN: 

  1. Clean Your Gutters – The key to maintaining a good roof and a solid foundation on your home is moving water away from the house. Creating a clear pathway for water to disperse begins with cleaning gutters and downspouts regularly and especially late fall when leaves and twigs clog.
  2. Check and Seal your Roof Vents - Maintaining a leak-proof roof requires periodic checks to assure sealants such as caulk have not chipped, cracked or pulled away from places they seal. These areas include roof vents. They require occasional reapplication of caulk around the base where the vent contacts the surrounding roof. 
  3. Check and Seal your Attic Floor - Seal around electrical cables and vent pipes with a fire-stop sealant. Also, look for any spots where light shines up from below or the insulation is stained black by the dirt from passing air. Make sure you have an adequate amount of insulation on the floor of the attic and that the vents are clear so that the attic is well ventilated.
  4. Install a Snow or Ice Slide Above the Gutters.
  5. Install a Heating Cable Along the Roofs Edge to Keep Ice from Forming - Run electric heating cables inside the gutters and downspouts. Turn the cable on during snowy, freezing weather so the water drains away. Be sure to use cables with thermostatic controls so they don't overheat or run up your electric bill.
  6. Fix Last Winter's Problems NOW - If you had a problem with ice damming last winter, now is the time to fix it. One quick way, is  to install a self-adhesive ice and water barrier over the plywood and under your shingles for 3 to 6 feet from the edge of your roof and then reinstall new roofing shingle over the barrier. 

ONCE SNOW FALLS:

  • 1.   Use a Roof Rake – To keep snow from building on the lower portion of your roof.
  • 2.   Fill a Nylon Stocking with Calcium Chloride Ice Melt. -  Place the stocking vertically along the ice dam so that it melts a channel through the ice and the water can flow free. Make sure that you DO NOT use rock salt, as it can damage your roof. 

Does insurance cover the damage done by ice dams? Answer: Yes. The caveat being that some insurance companies cover more than others. You will want to weigh filing a claim vs. your insurance policy deductible. They key is to check with your insurance company now, to make sure what your Homeowners Policy covers in relation to any destruction that occurs on your home.

Below are some further links. Remember NOW is the time to "prevent" any issues from occurring in the next few months.


Tips from Dr. Energy Saver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwnMifJL2Tg


From: Home Repair: http://homerepair.about.com/od/exteriorhomerepair/ss/Ice-Dam.htm