Ice dams and what to do about them!

By | February 16, 2015

If you live anywhere in the northeast these days chances are, when you look-up at your gutters, all that you see is a block of ice hanging off of it!

For those reading this who may have been looking for a name to put with the visual, these are ice dams and most of the houses that you drive by, particularly now in the northeast, will have them!

What is an ice dam and what does it come from?

Ice dam definedAn ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.

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From Travelers Insurance, these are some important ice dam tips!

How to Help Prevent an Ice Dam from Forming:

  • Remove snow from your roof after every storm. To begin with, use a roof rake to clear snow from the edge of your roof upwards of three to four feet immediately after each storm. In addition to helping prevent an ice dam from forming, this will lessen the stress on your home’s roof. The amount of snow and ice your roof can support will depend on a number of factors, including the roof type and the age and condition of the structure. But a good rule to keep in mind is if more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice has accumulated on your roof, you should have it removed.
  • Clear downspouts. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This can help prevent standing water from collecting near the gutter downspout.

How Do You Know if You Have an Ice Dam?

  • Look carefully at the icicles around the exterior of your house. If they are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, then an ice dam has likely not formed. Nonetheless, icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off, so try to safely knock them down while standing on the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them. If you cannot safely reach them from the ground, consider hiring a contractor to help.
  • Check for water stains or moisture in the attic or around the tops of exterior walls on the top floor of your house. Stains and moisture may indicate that an ice dam has formed and water has penetrated the roof membrane.

How to Remove an Ice Dam:

  • Melt the ice dam. Fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt, and place it vertically across the ice dam so that it melts a channel through the dam. If you try this, make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof, and make sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt. Rock salt will damage your roof. Also, be aware that shrubbery and plants near the gutters or downspouts may be damaged.
  • Get professional help. If you cannot safely reach the roof, avoid using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions. Consider hiring a contractor to remove the ice dam.

Long-term Tips for Preventing Ice Dams:

  • Insulate your attic. Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting-and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.
  • Install a water-repellent membrane. When replacing a roof, make sure to install a water repellent membrane underneath the shingles. This acts as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside the building.

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Written by Michael Haltman, President of Hallmark Abstract Service, New York.

HAS is a provider of title insurance in New York State for residential and commercial real estate transactions.

And, for anyone either buying a property or refinancing, remember that although your attorney will likely recommend a title insurance provider you always have the right to choose your own (click here to learn more)!

If you have any questions you can reach Michael by email at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com.

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