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How To Remove Ice Dams From Your Roof

Anytime you have a major snowfall, you get a pretty good idea of just how energy efficient your home is. Warm air in the wrong place can cause the snow on your roof to melt, only to see it refreeze again along your roof line. This refreezing creates an “ice dam” which can, in turn, cause water to invade your ceilings and wall cavities. If you want to know how to prevent damage and remove ice dams from your roof, this article will share some helpful tips. What’s more, we’ll also give  you some advice on how to prevent them in the first place!

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What Causes Ice Dams?

Ice dams occur when snow on the roof is melted by heat that has leaked into the attic, warming the underside of the roof. The bottom layer of snow then melts and the water runs down the roof. When the water reaches the overhang and gutter, it then refreezes. After a while, this ice builds up until the melting water has nowhere left to go. The snow melt is held back by the ice dam, causing the water to flow under the shingles and into your wall cavity and ceilings.

How to Remove Ice Dams

Ice dams can cause roof leaks and thousands of dollars in damage to your home. This can include damage to your insulation, ceilings, walls, floors and gutters. That’s why it’s important to know how to remove ice dams when they occur. While some people climb a ladder and try to break the ice dam with a sharp or blunt object like an ax or a hammer, this is a terrible idea. Not only are you swinging a heavy object high on a ladder in freezing temperatures, you can also do serious damage to your roof, gutters, and more. Here are a few options for dealing with ice dams currently on your home:

Snow Rake

One main way to stop an ice dam is to clear the fuel for the ice dam – the snow itself. If you have a one-story home, you may want to consider removing the snow near the edge of your roofline with a roof rake. While you can keep an existing ice dam from getting worse this way, it’s best to catch it before the snow starts to melt. You can’t remove ice dams with a roof rake, so don’t try to pull them off. You may end up damaging your gutters or shingles.

Ice Dam Sock

An easy way to prevent damage from an ice dam without removing it entirely is to give the water a way to escape. One easy way to do this is to fill the leg of a pair of women’s stockings with calcium chloride or another non-corrosive ice melt. The stocking should then be tied closed and placed vertically on the ice dam, perpendicular to the direction of the dam. Slowly, the ice melt will cause a channel to form where the melting snow can escape. While this won’t melt the ice dam entirely, it can ensure that interior damage is limited or prevented.

You can also make multiple ice dam socks and place them strategically along your roofline for greater impact.

Liquid Calcium Chloride

You can use a pump sprayer to spray a mild de-icer like liquid calcium chloride onto your ice dam. Similar to the method above, you don’t need to melt the entire dam. Spray in strategic locations to create points for water to escape – perhaps a six-inch channel every ten feet. This may save your roof from unlikely, yet possible, staining from this product. It will also use less and save you money.

Heat Wire

Heat wire is another solution for removing ice dams. This product does exactly what it sounds like. A wire is installed on your roof and emits heat, melting the ice dam. This can be laid loosely to remove ice dams from your home, but is best installed with clips before cold weather arrives. This way the heat wire can be turned on at the onset of a storm, preventing an ice dam from occurring.

One thing to remember about heat wire is that you are using energy to compensate for the energy lost through your attic. While this can be a great tool, it’s only treating the symptom, not the problem, and costing you money.

Prevent Ice Dams the Right Way

All of these measures are really only compensating for the real problem. As we said earlier, ice dams are usually caused by heat loss through your attic. If your attic is properly insulated, your need to remove ice dams will be minimal. Ensuring that your attic stays cold and your home stays warm is the primary way to prevent the bottom layer of snow on your roof from melting. It’s not a guarantee, but proper insulation is the key to preventing this kind of damage.

Remove Ice Dams From Your Roof

If you currently have an ice dam and don’t feel confident handling it on your own, or you have damage from an ice dam, no problem! Just hail a ProMaster “Home Repair Hero” today! You can schedule online, use the “Reach Out” form at the bottom of this page, or call 513-322-2914.

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