Ice Dam- Is it an emergency?

Ice dams can cause expensive repairs and extensive damage to your home. Many homeowners don’t call roofers to have them removed until they feel it’s an emergency.

Signs of ice dam emergencies and how roofers handle them

What Are Ice Dams

Ice dams are a ridge of ice that form along the edge of a roof, preventing melting snow from running off.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams and icicles form when the snow on your roof melts, runs down, and then refreezes by the edge. This is caused by part of your roof being warm above 32 degrees. This is the result of a warm attic. In the majority of homes, the heat escapes through your ceilings into the attic warming the wood and shingles above it. Despite the outdoor temperature being below freezing, the snow melts on the warmed section of the roof. When this melted water runs down your roof and hits the cold edge it freezes. This frozen edge will grow and continue to trap more water, creating an ice dam.

Signs of an Ice Dam Emergency

These are the most common signs you have an ice dam emergency. In this case you should call a roofer for professional ice dam removal.

  1. Leaking. If your house is already leaking, you have an emergency on your hands. Any water in your home is not a good sign. You aren’t just looking for that trickle of what that’s visible. You also need to look for wet spots on your carpet near your walls, or if you see moisture on the edges of your windowsill. Periodically checking for subtle signs allows you to catch it in time, before it becomes a major catastrophe.
  2. Ice on your siding. Keep a look out for ice on your home’s siding. Ice on your siding is a sign that you will start to see leaks in your home. Usually within 12 to 36 hours. Your home may already by leaking, but the insulation is still soaking up water like a sponge.
  3. Thick ice blocks on your roof. This may or may not look like an ice dam. The block of ice doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an emergency, but you should still be on the lookout for leaks.
  4. Ice under your soffits. If you see ice hanging on the underside of your overhang that’s a for sure sign of an ice dam.

Dangers of Ice Dams

Ice dams force leaking water from the roof into the ceilings and walls. This can lead to:

  • Rotting of your roof decking, rafters, and exterior and interior of the wall framing and sheathing.
  • Mold growth, which can cause or exacerbate respiratory illnesses (asthma, allergies, etc.)
  • Large sized icicles. These large icicles can break off and cause damage to your roof, gutter, and siding. There is also risk of serious injury or even death if one of these icicles comes down when you’re under the roof.
  • Reduced effectiveness of insulation. When insulation is wet it doesn’t work well, and chronically wet insulation won’t decompress even when it dries. Without functional insulation it will lead to more ice dams.
  • Peeling paint. Water from the leak will get into the cavities of your wall causing paint to peel and blister.

How Do Roofers Remove Ice Dams?

Steaming away ice dams is a professional-only task because it requires the use of commercial steaming equipment that heats water and dispenses it under pressure. The roofing professional will first remove excess snow from the roof by shoveling and then steam channels through the ice dam to help it melt. They may chip away parts of the dam as they go until the roof is clear of ice.