Dealing With and Preventing Ice Dams

Nov 24, 2020Winter Roofing

Like a children’s story, ice dams can be a beautiful and magical thing in the right context. In real life, though, behind their beauty hides serious danger. From damaging gutters, shingles, and the interior of your home, to causing scary injuries, ice dams are a force to be reckoned with. Luckily, there are a few ways you can remove ice dams or prevent them from building in the first place. 

This article will go through the best methods of protecting your home and family from every homeowner’s worst winter nightmare – ice dams.

THE COMMON CAUSES

The main reason why ice dams form is that the roof’s surface temperature isn’t the same throughout the entire roof. There are two causes for these temperature variations: the sun and heat sources from inside the house.

In homes without roof ventilation or with a poorly planned one, heated air from the attic exits only through one spot on the roof (usually the middle). Because of this, some of the snow on the roof will melt, and the rest of it won’t.

The melted snow from the middle will then travel downwards where the snow hasn’t melted yet (usually the roof’s edge). When the liquid from the melted snow melts with the snow that hasn’t melted, it will get stuck and refreeze, laying the foundation for an ice dam.

 

Woman cold inside her calgary home
Woman cold inside her calgary home

THE COMMON CAUSES

The main reason why ice dams form is that the roof’s surface temperature isn’t the same throughout the entire roof. There are two causes for these temperature variations: the sun and heat sources from inside the house.

In homes without roof ventilation or with a poorly planned one, heated air from the attic exits only through one spot on the roof (usually the middle). Because of this, some of the snow on the roof will melt, and the rest of it won’t.

The melted snow from the middle will then travel downwards where the snow hasn’t melted yet (usually the roof’s edge). When the liquid from the melted snow melts with the snow that hasn’t melted, it will get stuck and refreeze, laying the foundation for an ice dam.

Art depicting the damage that ioce damns can cause on your roof in calgary

THE DANGERS OF ICE DAMS

As we can see from the explanation above, ice dams usually form at the roof’s edge. So after the ice dam has been formed, it will continue to block the way of future melted snow, stopping it from draining. That new snow will either become a part of the ice dam, will start leaking on the inside through vents or poorly sealed shingles. 

The damage that an ice dam can cause is beyond measure. Some of the most dangerous and common side effects are:

  • The ice dam falling and hurting somebody.
  • The weight of the ice dam burdening the roof and causing it to crack and collapse. 
  • Trapped water leaking inside the house, causing mould growth and moisture. Mould and mildew can, later on, lead to numerous health issues, including allergies and asthma attacks.

 

PREPARING FOR THE WINTER

Removing ice dams can be time and energy-consuming. Lots of issues can arise which can ruin your week, even month. So to avoid winter roof repair or a large ice dam falling on your driveway, make sure to prepare your home before winter starts. 

First of all, upgrade your insulation. To avoid ice dams, you want a tight and secure attic to maintain temperature balance and reduce energy costs. Homes with low-quality insulation have moisture issues, which makes the vent’s job much harder. With tight insulation, you will prevent copious amounts of heated air from travelling to your attic in the first place.  

Preventing ice and snow buildups requires all systems to work together in perfect sync. So the second step is to schedule an inspection of your roof and roof vents. After all, what’s the point of having high-quality insulation if the roof vents are improperly placed/designed or working in conjunction with your soffits.

Last but not least is roof maintenance. Make sure to clean all parts of the roof, especially the gutters. If you don’t clean the gutters, they will most probably block the way of melted snow. The snow will get stuck inside the gutters, refreeze and form an ice dam. Whalley’s Four Seasons roofing offers the option of installing heat-trace wiring throughout your gutters or on the bottom edge of your roof. This ensures ice and snow to melt and rarely back up.

 

 

A Checklist to make sure you are prepared
A Checklist to make sure you are prepared

PREPARING FOR THE WINTER

Removing ice dams can be time and energy-consuming. Lots of issues can arise which can ruin your week, even month. So to avoid winter roof repair or a large ice dam falling on your driveway, make sure to prepare your home before winter starts. 

First of all, upgrade your insulation. To avoid ice dams, you want a tight and secure attic to maintain temperature balance and reduce energy costs. Homes with low-quality insulation have moisture issues, which makes the vent’s job much harder. With tight insulation, you will prevent copious amounts of heated air from travelling to your attic in the first place.  

Preventing ice and snow buildups requires all systems to work together in perfect sync. So the second step is to schedule an inspection of your roof and roof vents. After all, what’s the point of having high-quality insulation if the roof vents are improperly placed/designed or working in conjunction with your soffits.

Last but not least is roof maintenance. Make sure to clean all parts of the roof, especially the gutters. If you don’t clean the gutters, they will most probably block the way of melted snow. The snow will get stuck inside the gutters, refreeze and form an ice dam. Whalley’s Four Seasons roofing offers the option of installing heat-trace wiring throughout your gutters or on the bottom edge of your roof. This ensures ice and snow to melt and rarely back up.

 

A flat roof with snow being removed

THE BEST WAY TO REMOVE SNOW FROM YOUR ROOF

Calgary weather can be unpredictable, so some years you might not prepare your home in time for a snowstorm. Depending on the situation, you might have to remove part of the snow yourself until professional help arrives. If you are wondering how to remove snow from your roof safely, don’t worry! We’ve got the most comfortable and safest solution – use a roof rake!

  • Stand as far from the roof as possible so that the snow doesn’t fall over you. 
  • Brush the snow off with the rake gently so that it doesn’t damage the shingles. 
  • Unless you have the experience, don’t climb the roof on your own!

Keep in mind that there’s no shame in solely relying on a roof snow removal business. Snow might look harmless, but it’s hazardous when it’s in large quantities and trapped in hard-to-reach areas like the roof. 

 

HOW TO DEAL WITH AN ICE DAM?

If it’s already too late and you have a large piece of ice hanging from your roof, we recommend scheduling an appointment with roofing contractors. In cities with harsh winters like Calgary, get your ice dam removal from the professionals. 

However, there are some solutions for emergencies, like an ice dam causing a leak on the inside. To melt a part of the ice dam, try spraying tap water on it during the day. Do this until there is enough room for the trapped water to escape. Remember that this is a temporary solution. In this case, only part of the ice dam will melt, just enough to get rid of the excess water.

Couple looking online for a solution
Couple looking online for a solution

HOW TO DEAL WITH AN ICE DAM?

If it’s already too late and you have a large piece of ice hanging from your roof, we recommend scheduling an appointment with roofing contractors. In cities with harsh winters like Calgary, get your ice dam removal from the professionals. 

However, there are some solutions for emergencies, like an ice dam causing a leak on the inside. To melt a part of the ice dam, try spraying tap water on it during the day. Do this until there is enough room for the trapped water to escape. Remember that this is a temporary solution. In this case, only part of the ice dam will melt, just enough to get rid of the excess water.

Both snow and ice dam removal is not an easy task, and it requires the hands of professional roofers. The best way to deal with ice buildups is to make a plan and take the necessary precautions. If you have any concerns about your roof or are experiencing winter roofing issues, feel free to give us a call! Our team is here to help.

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