They are beautiful to look at when the sun shines on them as they hang from the edge of the roof of the stately older homes that grace our neighborhoods, but the icicles that we see are a visual warning that all is not well. Although they have a distinct beauty, the ice forming on the edge of the roof may be destroying the shingles underneath, along with the roof sheathing, attic interior through melting and leaking. If it gets bad enough, it can even leak from the attic floor and onto the ceiling drywall below and into the living spaces of the house.
An ice dam forms on the roof when the snow melts on the upper/warmer part of the roof, where the warm air is escaping from the house. The water then runs down the roof towards the colder eaves, where it re-freezes and forms ice. As this cycle continues, the ice accumulates and can back up under the roof shingles. The snow/melt/re-freeze can continue to cause damage as it begins to deteriorate the surfaces that lie beneath the shingles, and eventually find its way into the attic.
Of course, the best time to take preventive measures is before it gets cold. But let’s face it, when the weather is nice, and the Packers are just starting a new and promising season, who is thinking about problems like ice and snow damage to the roof? Once we see the first snowfall thaw slightly and then re-freeze on our roofs is more likely the time we begin to think about it. Never fear. There are measures that you can take now that can minimize potential damage to your home.
The most important thing that you need to be aware of is personal safety. If there is any concern about slipping or falling, STOP and call a professional to do the work. Since your SAFE options may be limited, adjust as needed.
• Use a roof rake during and after a heavy snow. Try to remove the lower 3-4 feet of snow just above the eves. This should only be done on the ground. Never get onto the roof to remove snow.
• Salt (calcium chloride) will melt through the ice to create a channel for the melting ice water to flow into the gutter. Not a lot of salt will be needed, so do not worry about any of your plants below. Besides, replacing a couple of Hasta plants in the spring would be nothing compared to replacing rotted wood and drywall.
• If the job is too big, contact a professional who specializes in ice dam removal. They are insured, and have the proper equipment to specifically deal with this sort of issue.
• Remember, spending a few dollars now can minimize the potential for severe damage that will cost many times more than this “ounce of prevention” taken now.
Once winter is over you can begin to take the necessary preventive steps to ensure that there will not be issues in the winters going forward. The most important thing to remember is that the more evenly and consistent the temperature of the roof, the less likely it will be to have ice issues. For this reason, insulation and ventilation will be the most important things to consider. These will not only prevent the ice from forming, but they will have the added benefit of saving you money and energy by reducing heat loss through the roof.
After an insulation issue is taken care of, don’t forget to seal any possible air leaks in the soffit area. Simply check for air movement, and use a foam sealant to stop the leak. Also remember to seal around electrical cables and cover all air ducts with foil fiberglass to keep the air in the duct where it belongs. Those with questions about what is appropriate for their home situation, should ask area specialists at local home improvement stores.