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Ice on a Cold Roof: What You Need to Know About Ice Dams

by Lily Carroll

Australia isn't known for being a country you visit to enjoy the snow, so when a cold snap bringing ice and snow strikes many homeowners are unprepared. Ice dams on the roof is a problem many don't know how to address, but these can lead to roof repairs being needed after the ice has gone. As a homeowner, these are the four main things you need to know about this gift from nature.

How Did the Ice Dam Happen?

When the first snow fell on the roof of your home, some of it melted due to the heat radiating up from the inside. This water moved down to the edge of the roof, refroze and became a dam. This ice dam is now blocking any melting ice from moving off the roof.

Can Ice Dams Be Prevented?

Ice dams can be prevented by keeping your roof cool. As mentioned, the ice dam is initially formed by rising heat from the home melting snow on the roof. Having ventilation in the roof will allow cold air to enter the cavity space beneath the roof and cool the hot air trapped there.

When the air beneath the roof is cool, the snow and ice will evaporate more naturally. This gives it a chance to fully move off the roof onto the ground below. A roofing specialist can advise you on the best method of roof ventilation based on the size and shape of your roof.

Additionally, if you plan to remodel your roof in the future, give extra thought to how new insulation can keep the roof cavity protected from the heat of the home below. Make sure new insulation still allows for air to flow through this area to prevent the buildup of condensation as you don't want to be dealing with a mould problem in the years ahead.

What Damage Can Ice Dams Do?

There are three main problems you are facing when ice dams begin to form on the edge of your roof:

  1. Ice dams can form in the gutters of your home. When the ice starts to layer on top of itself, the weight of this can be enough to cause the gutters to break away from your home, which leads to the expense of a whole new gutter system.
  2. When the water is in a liquid state, it can move beneath loose shingles on your roof. Once it freezes beneath the shingles, it can cause them to crack and require replacement.
  3. Once your roofing is damaged from the dam, you have water now entering the interior roof cavity. This leads to potential roof truss and ceiling water damage.

The only way to avoid these problems from happening is to get rid of the ice dams as soon as possible.

How Do You Get Rid Of Ice Dams?

There are a number of different ways you can tackle the removal of an ice dam. The way NOT to do it is to get on the roof and hit it with a hammer. Not only are your chances of damaging your roof good, so are your chances of sliding off the ice and hurting yourself. Instead, you could:

  • Head to your hardware store and purchase industrial salt. Place this in a piece of pantyhose to keep it contained and off your garden, and lie this across the ice dam. Salt makes ice melt, which will release the pressure of the dam build up.
  • Standing on the ground, use a garden rake to pull loose snow and ice onto the ground. This will release some of the weight on the roof.
  • Call a roof repair specialist and get them to come and remove the problem for you. This is the safest way to deal with the dam for both you and your roof.

Now you know how to deal with the ice dam up on your roof, you can get back to enjoying the unusual cold snap while it is here. It won't be long before summer rolls around once more and you'll be dealing with heat related problems instead.