The Dreaded Ice Dam

Posted by Ben Thompson on 03.22.11

In the last month I have spoken with a handful of clients about ice dams and it felt like every other call to the Home Improvement Show on Newsradio WOOD 1300 has been on the same subject. West MI Morning News even had me on last week for an interview regarding Ice Dams.  Click here to listen to the podcast of that interview. In brief written-form here are the essentials you need to know about Ice Dams:

What Happens:

Heat melts snow that travels down to the edge of your roof where cold air refreezes it. The ice piles up and water pools behind the dam. Over time the water works its way under the shingles, through the attic, and into your house. It’s nasty and it’s very common.  If you see icicles, an ice dam may be forming.

Causes (In Order of Offense):

  1. Air leaks in the attic
  2. Improper insulation
  3. Improper attic ventilation
  4. Big things that radiate heat – i.e. Your chimney is both in the house and in attic and it radiates heat.
  5. Sun melted snow on South facing roofs

The Cure:

  1. Professional diagnosis of the 5 causes above…Call me. 616-942-1866

Manage the Symptoms:

  1. Buy a roof rake and remove the 6′ of snow closest to the lowest edge [eaves] of the roof.  The snow is pulled off the roof from the ground and they cost $35-75 dollars **Plus $10 per time to your neighbor’s kid!
  2. Electric heat tape can be installed along the eaves and up the valleys where two roof planes come together. Make sure to run 1 or 2 loops into the eave troughs [gutters] and down the down spouts so the melted snow has somewhere to go other than under your shingles and into your dining room ceiling.
  3. In an emergency you can put Ice Melt into a sacrificial tube sock, tie the end, and throw it/place it on the ice dam to create a way for water to get out.NOTE: Please don’t use ice melt on the roof as preventative maintenance. I shutter picturing you shoveling your front walk, putting down Ice Melt on the walk, and then heaving a big shovelful up over your shoulder on to your roof. Over time that will rot & deteriorate the wood support structure of your roof. That fix could be even more expensive than damage caused by an ice dam.

Topics: Thompson Times, Care & Maintenance, ice dam, winter, maintenance, roof