January Home Maintenance To-Do List
By: Danny Lipford
To-Do #4: Check Roof and Gutters for Ice Dams
Icicles hanging from your roof may be pretty, but ice in and around your eaves can damage your roof and cause leaks.
Ice dams form when the roof is covered with snow, and the attic is warmer than the outside air. The ice over the warm attic melts and refreezes when it reaches the cold overhang of the eaves.
As the ice builds up, it can prevent water from draining off your roof. This results in icicles, but it also can cause the water to back up underneath your shingles and leak into your attic.
To Prevent Ice Dams:
It’s much easier and safer to prevent ice dams than to try to remove them. Follow these steps:
- Seal air leaks that could be allowing heated air to rise into your attic.
- Add more attic insulation to keep warm air downstairs where it belongs.
- Make sure your attic has adequate ventilation so the air in the attic is a similar temperature as the air outside.
- Whenever there’s a fresh snowfall, use a roof rake to remove as much snow as you can safely reach without climbing on the slippery roof.
- Make sure gutters and downspouts are clear and flowing freely.
To Remove Ice Dams:
Ice dams can be very dangerous to remove; steer clear of any method that could cause chunks of ice or sharp icicles to fall on or near anyone standing below. Avoid climbing on an icy roof, or using a pressure washer or heat cables that could damage your shingles.
If you have severe ice dams, bring in a contractor to remove them safely. For smaller issues, you can fill nylon pantyhose with calcium chloride (not rock salt), and lay them vertically across the ice dam. The salt will slowly melt a channel through the ice, allowing melting water to drain off the roof.