Sparkling icicles hanging from bushes and tree branches may seem like pure winter wonder, but when those same icicles hang off the sides of your roof, that wonder should quickly turn to worry. Once formed, these large chunks of snow and ice – known as ice dams – can cause tremendous damage.
It's important to learn safe, effective methods for ice dam removal so you can avoid the most expensive repairs and keep your family and guests safe this season.
The Danger of Ice Dams on Your Roof
It’s important to highlight the potential dangers of leaving ice dams on your roof to ensure that you, your family and your home are prepared. Here are some of the most significant dangers to take note of.
Significant Damage to Your Property
The most immediate dangers of ice dams include significant damage to your shingles, gutters and downspouts. Shingles may begin to separate from the roof as the meltwater seeps underneath and freezes, giving ice and water easier access to your property. Gutters and downspouts have similar issues where the weight and expansion of the ice can cause them to be damaged or ripped off of your home. The longer ice dams remain in place, the greater threat they pose.
Melting Snow Could Leak Into Your Property
Snow will continue to accumulate on your roof all season, melting and refreezing along the edge of your roof and growing the ice dam in size. Moisture from the heavy block of snow and ice can slowly seep below your shingles, damaging both interior building materials and rooms, from your insulation to your attic and any belongings that might be stored there. Damage from this meltwater can also appear in your walls and ceilings in certain cases. Paint may begin to peel, and the structure of your home may become damp, leading to a variety of other long-term issues that can affect the health and value of your property.
This leaking water in your home will require water damage restoration services, to ensure that there’s no further damage to your home’s structure. Restoration experts will help address the damage to your property caused by these leaks, ensure no further damage occurs and restore your home back to normality.
Mold Growth In Your Home
Leakage and moisture don’t only lead to water damage but can also lead to mold growth. Water that seeps in from the ice dam may make your home’s building materials wet, which after some time could lead to mold damage in your home. Since mold is growing in an area of your home that you normally wouldn’t see, this could lead to you being unaware of the mold problem until it’s too late.
Some possible signs of mold damage you may not see include:
- A musty, mildew smell in your home
- Allergy symptoms such as runny nose or itchy eyes
- Signs of water damage on walls and ceilings
can help address this problem caused by ice dams while ensuring that your home is free from damaging mold that could impact the health of you and your family.
Risk of Injury or Death
Damage to your property is not the only thing you should worry about when dealing with ice dams. There is also the risk of injury and even death for anyone standing below a sharp icicle that breaks off and plummets to the ground. The dam may also have heavy chunks of ice or built-up snow fall, which can cause as much damage as sharp icicles as they fall. The type of home you have is also a factor in how dangerous ice dams can be. Homes that have more stories have the potential for more damage compared to a one-story home due to the height of the falling debris.
Ice Dam Removal Tips
Knowing how to properly remove ice dams from your roof is important to prevent harm to yourself or your family. Your first instinct may be to hack away at the ice dam with a chisel or something equally sharp. While this is a great approach to break up the ice in your cooler or ice bucket, it’s not the best idea when it comes to removing ice dams on your roof. You could end up hacking into and damaging your shingles or the roof itself, which is what you want to avoid.
Preventing ice dams from forming in the first place is important, but if an ice dam has already formed here are some recommendations on how to best get rid or clear them from your home’s roof.
Use a Rake or Broom To Clear Snow and Ice
Use a push broom or roof rake to clear as much of the snow and ice off your roof as possible – especially before the next round of heavy melting. Using a long-handled roof rake will allow you to remain at a safe distance from any falling debris while you remove the ice dam. You may even be able to sweep or rake the entire ice dam off the roof in a solid chunk.
If you’re unable to find a long-handled roof rake and need to use a broom, ensure that you have a friend or family member nearby to help you. Always take the proper safety precautions to avoid slipping, falling or otherwise hurting yourself.
Melt the Ice Using Calcium Chloride
One stopgap measure that can provide immediate relief is to break small channels into the dam and allow trapped water to drain off the roof rather than into the home. Calcium chloride, a type of salt that absorbs water and is commonly used to de-ice roads, can be used to melt the snow and create a channel for water to flow off your roof. You may be tempted to use rock salt instead, but rock salt can damage shingles and kill plants and bushes. Ensure the product you use contains only calcium chloride to avoid damage to your home.
To use it, fill long socks or legs of a pantyhose with calcium chloride granules and place it vertically over the ice dam, this will allow for the water to safely run off the roof after it melts. That said, this technique is only temporary since the channels will most likely freeze again quickly.
Leave Ice Dam Damage Repair to The Experts
When it comes to removing stubborn ice dams or stopping the structural damage, they cause from getting worse, it's often easiest and most effective to call for professional help. Working with professionals who are prepared with the right tools, training and experience protect both your personal safety and the integrity of your home.
ServiceMaster Restore® offers water damage restoration services to address damage caused by ice dams as the water leaks into ceilings, walls, and other parts of your home. The water that leaks through can also cause building materials to get wet, which can lead to long-term problems such as mold which may require mold remediation to address. By safely removing ice dams, you, your family, and your home can enjoy the winter weather without worry of long-term damage to your home.